The Old Devils
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The Old Devils

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,481 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Winner of the 1986 Booker Prize. Malcolm, Peter and Charlie and their Soave-sodden wives have one main ambition left in life: to drink Wales dry. But their routine is both shaken and stirred when they are joined by professional Welshman Alun Weaver (CBE) and his wife, Rhiannon.
Hardcover, First Edition, First Printing, 294 pages
Published March 1st 1987 by New York: Summit Books (first published 1986)
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William
This novel is a story of old friends, married couples in southwestern Wales, and how their lives change when Alun and Rhiannon Weaver return to the country after Alun's long career in London. Alun has for some time been an ambitious media personality whose career resulted in the "popularization" of Wales. He is vaguely blamed for the onslaught of developers and bad architecture in the country, though this seems to me baseless. He's also known for championing the Welsh poet, Brydan, whom I suspec...more
Palmyrah
Readers of John Updike's Couples will find the setup of this novel glancingly familiar: the circle of ingrown, septic-turning friendships among well-off married couples in a small town by the sea, the arrival of the 'new couple' that puts the cat among the pigeons. But where Updike's novel (much the superior of the two) is all about sex and love, Amis's themes are booze and adultery. His couples, unlike Updike's, are all well on the wrong side of middle age; his setting, unlike Updike's pictures...more
Florence Penrice
What’s not to enjoy in a book that contains the sentence ‘She was said to have been found once telling the man who was laying the carpets about eohippus’ (referring to an unstoppably talkative character)? If that doesn’t make you smile, don’t bother with this book. If it does, find a copy and enjoy.

Kingsley Amis’ writing (at this, later, stage) combined humour and an acute sensibility to the joys and disappointments of life. He is unequalled in his ability to deliniate bores (the unstoppable Dor...more
Janis
Having never read Kingsley or Martin Amis, I had been curious. Late last year PB mentioned that she had read a Kingsley, and so when I saw the mint condition hardback of The Old Devils at the Brattle, and noticed it had been a Booker Prize winner in 1986, I did not resist.

Kingsley is a fine and fluid writer. The book is almost entirely made up of dialogue, clever and complicated dialogue. The story takes place in Wales, is a commentary on the landscape of Wales, how the Welsh view themselves, vi...more
Courtney H.
This is the most boring Booker I've read so far. It may, in fact, be one of the most boring books I've ever read. I can't even bother to put it on my list of most hated because at least with, say, Atonement, McEwan had the decency to write a thoroughly despicable, self-absorbed horrorshow of a human being to act as narrator for that otherwise dull book. Amis didn't even give us that. I couldn't even get too upset with him for writing two-dimensional female characters because his male characters...more
Alan
Dec 15, 2012 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone intrigued by the underlying savagery of British comedy
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
Kingsley Amis was rather an old devil himself when he wrote this novel, and every bitter, precise word shows how accustomed he'd already become to the aches and indignities of senescence:
Standing quite motionless he gazed before him with a faraway look that a passer-by, especially a Welsh passer-by, might have taken for one of moral if not spiritual insight, such that he might instantly renounce whatever course of action he had laid down for himself. After a moment, something like a harsh bark b
...more
F.R.
I met a lady recently who told me her intention to read every Booker Prize winner. My response was that it’s an admirable ambition, but I’m not sure they’re actually of a uniformly standard. At that point I hadn’t read this book, by a writer I generally like, but if I had then I could have used it as an example. “So-so” is the description I’d go for.

‘The Old Devils’ follows some Welsh couples of a certain age as they drink, copulate and ruminate on the nature of being Welsh. There are some good...more
Thing Two
Quite funny in a subtle way, this is the story of three old men who meet daily at the Bible - a pub in their small Welsh community - who have their lives rocked when a former student of one of the men returns to the town with her "shit" of a husband, who proceeds to seduce each of the old men's wives, then meet them at the Bible the next day. There's some lovely scenery depicted, and Faulkner-like long sentences, but it's mostly humorous watching three drunk old men discover what's going on.
Kathy
Does anyone really want to read a book about a lot of boring old farts getting drunk and shagging each others' wives?
No wonder people were saying the British novel was dead at the time when this won the Booker prize.
Ka
Kingsley Amis writes of a loose group of elderly Welsh couples who socialize frequently and have known each other throughout their lives. Their days are lubricated with astonishing amounts of drinking, so much it hardly seems possible, but Amis was himself known to hold prodigious quantities. The chapters rotate among several of the old devils, with a darky satiric accounting of their relations, marital, extra-marital, familial, and frenemy. They frequently gather at the Bible, which turns out t...more
Patrick McCoy
The Old Devils (1986) by Kingsley Amis was a Booker Prize winner for that year. I had previously only read the brilliant Lucky Jim, but always wanted to read more since I was big fan of his son Martin Amis' writing. Martin wrote appealing about his father's novels in his autobiography Experience, and The Old Devils was one of the novels he singled out as being a good read. I feel as though I am missing out on some of the fun since I am not British and I can't see what all the fuss about being We...more
Robin
Remind me not to grow old while simultaneously being Welsh and fixated on my regrets.

This is no Lucky Jim. It is just as excruciatingly vivid, just as memorable, and just as viciously honest in its portrait of far from perfect humanity. But it cuts another way and goes much darker, or much sadder, and that sadness is less frequently relieved with hilarity. The hilarity I know and love from Lucky Jim is also tempered by the harsh realities of age. Take, for instance, the five-page description of...more
Todd
One of the greatest novels I've ever read. Hilarious, honest, joyous, so truthful about humanity, both the best and the worst of us, and so very sad at times. I found myself laughing at the beginning of certain paragraphs, or even just sentences, and then crying by the end of them. I've read pretty much everything by Kingsley Amis before, fiction and non-fiction, but upon reading "The Old Devils" for a second time, I was just astounded at how utterly brilliant it is. I couldn't sleep all night a...more
Elizabeth Bradley
I bought this to reward myself for a deadline, but dug into it over Thanksgiving with the deadline still VERY much un-met. It felt deliciously meanspirited and Amisesque at first (especially when read with a giant mug of tea in a very drafty house) but has recently soured - more like gone off - a bit like a g&t made with the "slimline tonic" one of the protagonists favors as a diet aid. Even with Amis's misogyny as a given, the women are absolute cardboard - and the men unlovable. I haven't...more
McNatty
I do enjoy reading Kingsley Amis, he has a magnificent way with words. His favourite subjects are drinking and women which are mine also. I wonder whether I was too young for this book, being 38 I felt I did lack patience for his characters. The old boys in the story seemed to me to be just a little too retired for my liking. I know the story is subtle and at times, when I was too felt minutes from falling asleep I felt this book was like a day with friends. At other times though I yearned for s...more
Lesley
Had this book on my bookshelf for many years. Finally got round to reading it and what a disappointment. It was so tedious reading about a load of boring men and women who just get together and drink lots of alcohol and talk about their various physical ailments. Very rare for me not to finish a book but I got through about one third of this book and just couldn't continue with it. Too dreary, too dull.

I can't beleive this was on the short list for the man booker prize.
Bette
I tend to be sympathetic to characters who are aging, fat, and unlovely, since I'm sure this is my destiny as well, but this bunch is so tedious that I couldn't muster any interest. I kept waiting for the humor to begin, but it never did. They're all just moldering away in Wales, pickling their livers and feeling sorry for themselves. I feel like David Lodge has written these characters, and written them far better. I'm astounded this won the Booker.
Ray Johns
This is one of my first times reading Kingsley Amis. "The Old Devils " is a acute and hilarious romp through the adventure of growing old in a rapidly changing world . I'll place Kingsley Amis on my top shelf of favorite satirists with Jonathan Swift, Rabelais, Evelyn Waugh, and Andy Borowitz.
Shannon
I read Lucky Jim because somebody recommended it. I didn't like it. But Kingsley Amis is sort of lauded in modern British literature, so I thought I'd try another one of his books. I didn't like this one either. I'm not sure if I just don't like his style or if he's overrated, but I don't find his characters interesting or likable, which makes it difficult for me to get interested in his books.
Lawrence
The hangover, marathon drinking descriptions are so horrifying they made me never want to drink again...in so many ways depressing, but then I found myself being strangely envious of the characters with all that time to spend....it even starting being funny at some point...I've found myself thinking about this book long after I finished....
Serjeant Wildgoose
1986 must have been a lean year if this won the Booker!

It takes some doing to bore me in the first half-dozen pages, but this book did it. It is poorly written and revolves around a cast of utterly feckless and uninteresting soaks.
Mikela
I really had to struggle to finish this book and resented most of the time spent reading it. The book had some merit but it really wasn't for me at this time. It was a huge disappointment as I so enjoyed Amis' Lucky Jim.
Kristina
Lots of sad old people drinking a lot
Bob
This 1986 Amis title, set in South Wales at about the time of its publication, follows half a dozen generally well-to-do retirees in their 60s. Their principal occupation is drinking which they undertake with the same self-punishing élan as the author himself.
Into this settled community comes a couple who left 30 years earlier for London and modest media notoriety. Their return brings not so much the whiff of stardom as the revival of long-buried broken hearts and infidelities.

Amis is generally...more
Asa
The only other book I've read by Amis is Lucky Jim, which I found mean-spirited and with a main character that behaved like a complete idiot most of the time, leading to some very embarrassing scenes. Given that, I didn't start this book with high expectations, and the first few chapters seemed like more of the same, the only difference being that the characters were nearing the end of their lives instead of starting out. It didn't help that the time and place, Wales in the 80s, was very much pa...more
Calvertjones
As a major fan of "Lucky Jim," I was very eager to read another novel by Kingsley Amis. I am sad to report, however, that this is a very far cry away from the unrelenting brilliance and wit of that famous parody of academia, though it apparently won a Booker Prize. First, the plot is dull; you certainly don't have the mounting stakes from "Lucky Jim," when you were constantly wondering when the main character, the bitter, hilariously inebriated professor, would be found out. It concerns some old...more
John
The Russian Girl was highly impressive and induced me to read more by Amis. This one won an award, so it seemed to be a good choice. Of course the problem may lie with me instead of the book. There were too many main characters, and it was difficult to keep them separate in my mind while reading. With so many main characters, the development was a bit lacking. This might have been better as two or three novels, each concentrating on one couple. Another problem was the English slang and expressio...more
Nicholas During
I found it hard to make a judgement on this book. On one hand it's so misanthropic that it can be very difficult to read. On the other, what's wrong with a book were all the characters are horrible? One might say there are plenty of books out there were awful people as the protagonists, but not many of them are as bad as these old devils. And not many of them have Amis's wit in ripping them to shreds in front of your eyes. Which is basically what happens here, were everyone turns out to be eithe...more
Rick Patterson
I looked up the symptoms of cirrhosis and discovered that they can include fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea. By the time I was done this novel, I was pretty sure that I had somehow acquired cirrhosis from it. It is not a likable book, mainly because there are so few characters to like in it, supposing you can manage to distinguish one from the other by the time you get through it. Is Peter the enormously fat one? Which one is Garth and why do I care? Does Malcolm have any real talent or is...more
Sam Pryce
If I were at the age of which these characters are, this would be a five-star review. Sadly, as much as I prefer Newsnight and a wagon wheel to a night on the town, alas, I am too young to understand the attritions of old age. I can, thankfully, appreciate this book for its polished wit and humane warmth though. It's one I shall return to when in my winter years, as I think that's what's required to extract the full potential from this novel.
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Goodreads Librari...: Replacement book cover 3 70 Aug 01, 2014 08:42AM  
NYRB Classics: The Old Devils, by Kingsley Amis 1 4 Oct 29, 2013 11:12AM  
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Sir Kingsley William Amis, CBE was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than twenty novels, three collections of poetry, short stories, radio and television scripts, and books of social and literary criticism. He fathered the English novelist Martin Amis.

Kingsley Amis was born in Clapham, Wandsworth, Couty of London (now South London), England, the son of William Robert Am...more
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“In it {a film Peter saw} a sadistic sergeant broke the spirit of soldier in a military prison by beating him up at systematically random intervals, from more than a day down to a quarter of an hour, so that the victim never knew when the next attack was coming, never felt safe. Life with Muriel, it seemed to Peter, had over the last seven or eight years turned into a decreasingly bearable version of that.” 0 likes
“{Victor} was no exception to a rule of Alun's that men over fifty who took care of themselves were not to be trusted.” 0 likes
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