15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Inventive, well-written and down-right funny,
This review is from: The Old Romantic (Paperback)
If ever there was a candidate for next year's Booker Prize, then this should be it.
As the book opens we meet Nick and his partner Astrid who are driving to Hastings to pick up Nick's father Ken, a miserly, cantankerous old man, living in Hastings on the South Coast with his unfortunate wife June. They are all going to have lunch with Dave, Nick's brother and his wife, Marina. The lunch will be dominated by Ken's announcement that he wants to leave all his money to son number two, Dave, and expects Nick, a lawyer, to draw up the will which will so determinedly favour his brother. Astrid can't help herself from exclaiming, "What about Nick?", only to hear the irascible old man reply, "Thank you young lady, but you're new to this family. You're not even in the this family, matter of fact, so I'll ask you to keep your nose out".
Ken's appalling behaviour suffuses this book. He really is a wicked old man, blind to his own failings and judgemental about everyone else's. When people treat him as he deserves he is puffily hurt and fails to see how he his own provocations are at the root of his troubles.
We meet a fine cast of characters, most notably Ken's ex-wife Pearl, who is equally outspoken, and lives off the charity of kind-hearted Dave while proclaiming a bogus pride in her own self-reliance. I enjoyed the way that Louise Dean doesn't just concentrate on Ken his family but lets her readers into the lives of all her characters, even the minor ones like Nick's ex-girlfriend Morwen, or the creepy divorced Dad who tries to make a girl-friend of his twelve-year old daughter. I enjoyed reading about Astrid's delightfully-drawn, oh-so middle-class parents who meet Ken for a lunch encounter which for readers has much akin to watching a car-crash.
The relationship between the two brothers is surprisingly endurable despite heavy squalls along the way. Dave, the conciliator, trying to be at peace with everyone else, eventually loses his rag and blurts out some home truths. Upwardly-mobile Nick can't help but revert to his father's type when the chips are down, despite loathing what the old man stands for.
We go into some peculiar places in this book. Ken fills up his spare time by volunteering with at a funeral directors business in St Leonards, owned by the woman he idolises, the plump and business-like Audrey, who Ken admires, turning a lustful eye not only on her appearance but also the money she turns over.
Louise Dean obviously enjoys locating her books in the real-world of streets and pubs and it is easy to follow the routes taken by the characters as they go to the shops of visit relatives. If you know anything of the area within the triangle of Hastings, Rye and Tenterden you could enjoy tracking this story on Google Earth Street View.
I am pleased to say that The Old Romantic will be one of my "best reads" for 2010 and I wish Louise Dean every success with this, her latest novel.