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The Old Romantic

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Overview

"A highly entertaining, vivid evocation of love and marriage." –The New York Times Book Review

It’s been decades since Nick cast off his impossible, contentious, embarrassingly working-class parents: gruff, stingy, explosive Ken, and Pearl, who seemed to revert to a primal state of nature after a divorce that both of them managed to blame on Nick. Enjoying the life of the country gentleman that he’s made for himself with impeccably turned-out Astrid and her daughter, Laura, Nick...

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The Old Romantic

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Overview

"A highly entertaining, vivid evocation of love and marriage." –The New York Times Book Review

It’s been decades since Nick cast off his impossible, contentious, embarrassingly working-class parents: gruff, stingy, explosive Ken, and Pearl, who seemed to revert to a primal state of nature after a divorce that both of them managed to blame on Nick. Enjoying the life of the country gentleman that he’s made for himself with impeccably turned-out Astrid and her daughter, Laura, Nick has kept only the slenderest connection to his brother, Dave, who’s stuck with the role of ambassador in a family that’s long settled into cold war.
            Then Ken decides that the year of his death has arrived, and kicks off an ill-conceived quest to reunite his family before he meets his fate. Bringing to this tinderbox the park it needs, Louise Dean, award-winning author of Becoming Strangers and several more acclaimed novels, sends up the whole clan, each of them fatally flawed, yet saved by hidden grace, and illuminates their clashes of generation, gender, class, and temperament, in a riotous, compassionate, and truly memorable family saga.

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Editorial Reviews

Yvonne Zipp
…[a] remarkably astute comic novel…Dean has perfect pitch when it comes to sending up the British working class, but she sneaks in just enough grace to give her characters a chance to prove Thomas Wolfe wrong…
—The Washington Post
Sylvia Brownrigg
Although class markers are a recurrent theme, The Old Romantic is essentially a highly entertaining, vivid evocation of love and marriage in its various forms. Dean laces the novel with wonderfully acute descriptions of the couples' habits and expectations, from the jovial…to the contentious…Dean's characters have the rough edges and surprising grace of real people, and her fierce humanism animates every page.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Dean's very British fourth novel (after The Idea of Love) is a grimly hilarious family saga in which an old curmudgeon faces his mortality. Ken Goodyew, a working-class bloke who believes he is at the end of his life, sets out to settle his affairs. Spewing vitriol in every direction, he calls upon his social-climbing son, Gary--now known as Nick, a dapper country gentleman--and Nick's hapless little brother, Dave, first to help him spurn his second wife, the unnervingly thrifty June, and then to find the boys' mother, Pearl. Ken also spends a good chunk of time shadowing undertaker Audrey as she fetches, dresses, and embalms bodies, in order to come to some conclusion about the right way to die. But after June's out of the picture and Pearl is found--hospitalized--Ken's desire to make sense of things profoundly affects his sons, leading to a denouement that perfectly balances humor and poignancy. Dean, with her superb ear for language and class nuance, gives readers the essence of contemporary British life in this touching and funny family portrait. (Feb.)
Booklist
"Dean mercilessly sends up the working class to hilarious effect even as she compassionately reveals, in fresh and vivid language, the primal desire to return home."
People
“Dean’s dialect will keep you entertained as these distinctly English characters, like ensemble actors, explore the light and dark sides of relationships, memory, death and the deep pull of family love.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Dean’s razor-sharp observations, coupled with her very real affection for her characters, makes the pages fly.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“It's compelling territory, to be sure. Fans of Jonathan Franzen know that families are crucibles for big questions, namely: What does it mean for the self to love and commit to another? And how do the boundaries get drawn, and redrawn?” . . . "dazzling. . . Characters rake themselves through self-revelations, and the prose leaps with a fervor for the present moment.”
Associated Press
"The particulars of southeastern England may be foreign to American readers, but the leap away from home and its lingering regrets are not." . . . "We're all sentimental about our own families and maybe have the right to be. They are the first people we love deeply, before the complications of the rest of our lives. . . Call it sentimental if you like, but it's also sweet and genuine and universally true."--(Chad Roedemeier)
The New York Times
"It may be true that you can never go home, but as Ms. Dean observes in this poignant and funny novel, you can never really run away, either. . . Ms. Dean writes sentences that are muscular in their support of the larger story and beautiful in their own right."--(Sussanah Meadows)
Library Journal
After a long estrangement from his family, Nick, a Hastings solicitor, is invited by his brother to a dinner reunion with their eightysomething father, Ken. Growing up the favored son, whose charm and good grades helped get him into Cambridge, Nick left home at 18 and turned his back on the family. For his part, Ken, a gruff old codger, long divorced from his first wife, Pearl, and recently abandoned by his second wife, is lonely and increasingly preoccupied with his impending death. Their reunion and subsequent encounters with old friends and old wives is a wake-up call to both men that life is short and family matters. Their first meeting is all it takes for Ken to insinuate himself back into Nick's life, with frequent phone calls and requests for help. A surprise meeting between Ken and Pearl and a holiday to Sicily for Nick and his longtime girlfriend also lead them both to ever-closer family connections. VERDICT This novel's pitch perfect dialog, sparkling wit, and sharp observations of life, love and mortality make it a winner. Warmly recommended for fans of Mark Haddon and Nick Hornby. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews

A dark yet sometimes rocking comedy from British social satirist Dean (The Idea of Love, 2009, etc.) about a posh British lawyer who has spent most of his life running away from his crude, working-class family.

His parents divorced after teenager Nick, already an intellectual golden boy embarrassed by his parents, ratted out his father Ken for adultery. Nick's sweet-natured, less favored younger brother Dave went to live with Ken, while Nick stayed with their eccentric, angry mom Pearl before he escaped to university. More than 20 years later, Dave, who has remained the family mediator, talks Nick into a reunion with Ken. At 80, Ken has decided he will be dying soon and wants Nick's help in divorcing his second wife June. By turns nasty and maudlin, Ken still infuriates Nick, but Nick is also feeling delayed guilt about his past behavior. On vacation with his live-in girlfriend, spa owner Astrid, Nick runs into a girlfriend he treated badly in his youth and faces what a snob he was even then. Mistakenly jealous and misreading Nick's feelings, Astrid is afraid that Nick will decamp if her looks and youth continue to fade. He worries that he is not up to playing stepfather to Astrid's troubled daughter Laura, to whom he has unexpectedly become devoted. Meanwhile, Ken's infatuation with a kindly middle-aged funeral-home director leads him to an unexpected meeting with Pearl and the rekindling of passion, no less intense for being geriatric. Some scenes—like Ken's trip with his sons to Wales in search of June, whom Ken (mistakenly) suspects has stolen his money—have a madcap energy reminiscent of Joyce Cary novels, while Nick and Astrid's complicated duet shows how difficult it can be to achieve intimacy. The rural working-class British dialect may be difficult for American readers to comprehend, but the tartly sweet rewards are worth the challenge.

Dean's acerbic affection for her characters and her social commentary are both spot-on and surprisingly poignant.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594485633
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/7/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Louise Dean is the author of three previous novels: Becoming Strangers, which was awarded the Betty Trask Prize in 2004 and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, This Human Season and The Idea of Love. She lives in Kent, England with her three children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 18, 2011

    Completely unreadable

    I think the title says it all

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 1, 2012

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    Posted March 5, 2011

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    Posted February 25, 2012

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