Rules for Old Men Waiting
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Rules for Old Men Waiting

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  454 ratings  ·  111 reviews
"In a house on the Cape "older than the Republic," Robert MacIver, a historian who long ago played rugby for Scotland, creates a list of rules by which to live out his last days. The most important rule, to "tell a story to its end," spurs the old Scot to invent a strange and gripping tale of men in the trenches of the First World War. From a depth of knowledge and imagina...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by Random House (first published 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Rules for Old Men Waiting, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Rules for Old Men Waiting

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 765)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Natalie
A story within a story that shows how love can define a life, how decency can happen even between men who are not equals, how anger and ego can be tempered by friendship, how loyalty can overcome striving, how the burden and gift of mortality can bring a man to his knees or lift his thoughts beyond himself . . . All that pebbled with scenes that come alive through a nostalgic nod at art, music, humor, sex, travel, domestic life , academic life, and sport makes this a big little book !
Ruth
This is the story of an old man who is suffering the loss of his beloved wife, and finding himself failing in health, is facing a world without familiar rules to live by. In acknowledging his own mortality he determines that he will live the time he has left with dignity and sets a goal to accomplish something good and sets the goal of one small thing each day. He chose to write a book which encompassed three wars, creating characters from his own memories when he served in the military. Each da...more
Cheryl in CC NV
How can a book about an old man dying be exhilarating? How can a book that seemingly has every character Pouncey's ever thought of crammed into just over 200 pp. be quiet & lovely? How can those few pages cover at least four separate stories and still be subtle? Pouncey distills the essence of every person, event, time, place, and mood, and serves it to the careful reader beautifully.

"If you are going to go under, it shouldn't be from the weight of self-pity alone."
Bill Keefe
Intrigued by the title I ventured in. The first chapter, the setting of the rules, kept me reading. Change, sadness and a self-prescribed regime for productive survival...productive winding down.

Given the title and the intro, I had expected, and hoped, that the prescription itself would play a large part in the story, perhaps following through a complex ending of life. As it turns out, the prescription serves as little more than a structure to keep the main character alive so that two stories ca...more
Jesse Hanson
A Brilliant Portrayal of a Man in Reflection~Of a Man with a Purpose.

I found this book in the little corner library (I could scarcely use the term more loosely) of an assisted living facility. I liked the cover. I read it and I now I have to return it but I don't want to--that means I'll have buy my own copy. About the only part of me that didn't like it was my ego. I'm also a writer and I am jealous of the author's accomplishment... There, I said it.

Rules for Old Men Waiting is Peter Pouncey's...more
Rebecca
I love this writer. I like the way he writes about an old guy who at first seems to be waiting to die. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that he ends up living his life.

I would have guessed that I would want to read a book about an old guy examining his life, a book about a young man who thinks about the world, a book about a marriage relationship, a book about facing oneself, a book about discovering the effect one has had on others. I would not think that I would want to read a book about pa...more
Kaarin
Apparently this is the one and only work of fiction that Peter Pouncey has ever written, and what an absolute gem it is. A must read for anyone who admires beautifully crafted, intelligent and souful writing. This may even make my top 10 list, but then again, there are so many great books out there in the world....!
Sara Woodbury
A story within a story. A dying man writes the story that has been on his mind, and the story tells so much in so few words. A keeper.
zespri
I loved the title of this book, and wondered what it could be about, so decided to give it a try.

It was a lovely, gentle, sad read.

Robert MacIver is a retired history professor struggling to come to terms with the death of his beloved wife. Having also lost his only son in the Vietnam war his loss causes him to slide into a deep depression which totally engulfs him. He stops eating and taking proper care of himself until a sudden fall seems to jerk him back to reality and a decision to try to "t...more
Linda
I read this "Rules for Old Men" on my Kindle for one of my book club selections and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Although these was sadness reading this story, is was very well done.

An old man, Robert MacIver, having lost his wife falls into a deep depression when thinking about his future life. He lives in a run down house in the countryside. The house needs much care taking. The front porch needs repairing and numerous daily tasks have to be done for him to successfully live in the house and...more
Jayne Charles
This book follows an elderly military historian who holes up in his holiday home and pretty much waits to die. His wife and son are both dead, and being alone, he sets himself various rules which govern how he will spend his remaining days, in terms of cooking, doing a bit of writing each day, and so on, in an entirely believable old-military-blokeish short of way.

Sombre in tone, the novel takes the form of a series of reminiscences - how he met his wife, his early career as a rugby player, but...more
Zach
The author clearly has strong talent and does create some moving images/events (the story of the protagonist's son's experience in Vietnam, elements of the WWI story the protagonist is writing throughout the novel) as well as his description of the protagonist's experience in WWII are also well written. However, the focus of the novel is suppose (I thought) to be an older man dealing with the death of his wife...but we never really get into his thoughts, we do not see his thoughts and how they e...more
Scott
I'd like to talk about the sheer technique of this book while praising its heart. Pouncey takes his old, old protagonist, telling it all in 3rd person, and immediately puts him under great distress by the death of his wife, then traps him in two types of life threatening danger -- the reader is bonded to this book immediately by the inevitability of tragedy. Then, as the hero faces an unpleasant death in a cold, cold house, he makes up his own rules for a graceful leave-taking. Pouncey immediate...more
David
Peter Pouncey is a retired historian. Robert MacIver, the central character of his book, is also a retired historian. There are not too many other similarities between them, thank goodness. When the characters in a first novel are too close to the author, we have cause to worry.

However, when the novel is the first fiction of an award-winning historian, a man who turned to fiction in his maturity, we can take some assurance. And in this particular case, we can just leap in and wallow in a marvelo...more
Susan Vreeland
When I was casting around for a new story to tell, my editor at Random House, Jane von Mehren, gave me a copy of Rules for Old Men Waiting. I'm so glad she did. In the twilight of his life, the protagonist, Robert McIver, writes a list, the most important item on it is to "tell as story to its end." This sets up the story within the story, unfolding as Robert invents scenes from World War I which allow him to tell his sensibilities. Introspective, quiet, yet with one shocking scene. An unusual l...more
Alethea Bothwell
I think it was supposed to be profound - a meditation on violence and dying, the place (if any) of the Warrior in society today (or any day). And I could get into that.

But there was so much death and sadness. There is only so much joy to be gotten from The Good Fight when the end is always - the end. No happily ever after, only rage against the dying of the light.

The characters were good, though. And not all the stories were sad
Bookmarks Magazine

We'd like to think a better-late-than-never literary debut hasn't garnered this much attention since Ants on the Melon, Virginia Hamilton Adair's first collection of poetry published at age 87. Pouncey, a classics professor at Columbia University and the retired President of Amherst College, began work on Rules in 1981; at a slim 210 pages, it's obvious he chose his words carefully. Reviewers generously praise Pouncey's controlled prose and ripened wisdom. Those who enjoy the book embrace it as

...more
Linda Robinson
"Margaret and he had watched the pond over the years at every hour in every season." With this line, we are allowed into the lives of the MacIvers, Robert and Margaret. 3 wars spin out through the storytelling. Robert's father took to the air in WWI because he didn't want to die in the mud, and caused Robert to make history his career choice, and WWI his specialty. WWII put Robert on a ship targeting a hilltop gun bunker through binoculars. And Vietnam put another MacIver in a helicopter, flying...more
Annie Guion
This is a truly beautiful book, in both writing and tales told. I haven't read anything this good in a while. His writing he beautiful, characters interesting, story within a story is fascinating. You can tell the author is very smart, very educated and very well read. One of those great novels that leaves you feeling you have learned more about people and history. I highly recommend this book
Roger
I wouldn't hazard to compare the author with Salinger or equate this book with Salinger's classic, but insofar as this is his only published novel, it is his "Catcher in the Rye." A great performance for a debut novel that has yet (as far as I know) to be followed by a second.

And, one thing that made it so good is the fact that I picked it up for 50 cents at a hospital thrift shop.
Joanna
This is a quiet, introspective book. The protagonist is an old man, a retired historian and former rugby star, who is writing his final book and waiting to die. He is dying alone and comes to terms with his death through his writing and through his "rules" for how to spend his time during the final days--cook real food, write every day, no scotch until the end of the day, etc. I found the voice of the narrator entirely believable as he reflected on his own less than perfect character and his bel...more
Cathy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neil Crossan
Nov 16, 2011 Neil Crossan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Neil by: Amy Carberg
The title alone is enough to depress you and Pouncey follows through with enough death in this 208 page book to make Stephen King proud. A true water boarding of depressing literary events. But then you have to remember that this is his first book and you need to be forgiving if he tends to over do it. To me it’s two short stories ideas fused together to make one book. The WWI aspects were more engaging than the old man in an old house looking back on his life. The writing is strong most of the...more
J.R.
This is a novel about a man coming to terms with his own mortality, though he does not go gently to his end.

Robert MacIver is a historian and former rugby star spending his final days alone in a Cape Cod house filled with memories. It is those memories—of his wife, son and friends, good and bad experiences, the little joys and tragedies that make up life—which sustain him and encourage him to devise a set of rules that are “…a plan to take back his life, until he could give it away on an accepta...more
Adam Cherson
I rate this book a 3.69 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. This is a sweet book about a man reviewing his life at the very end. There is a book within a book, being the war story he writes while waiting… I would call this a love and war story (aren’t they always somehow united?) written in a sparkling and taught prose. A heartwarming and honest account of what may happen before the piper’s pipes make the final call.
Pete
A wonderful end of life story about relationships and love. It is very readable and Pouncey does a great job of weaving several stories into the book. It is a little too neat and tidy at times but still well worth the read.
Charlotte
Another book that has been sitting waiting on the shelf for years. I think this has the wrong title--it suggests a level of depression that the book largely manages to avoid, although it is very sad. The story of a Scottish historian who has lost his beloved wife and is alone in his Wellfleet cape house getting through (or not) the winter. The long, meditative passages are interesting and forced me to read at a slower pace. It was good to spend a couple of hundred pages with MacIver, the protago...more
Dianne
The two different narrative strands--Pouncey writing about MacIver, and MacIver writing about his own novel--were oddly variant. The secondary story line felt like a draft, and I couldn't remember or tell if I was reading something meant to be understood as draft, or if I was supposed to be reading a narrator less talented than the primary narrator (Pouncey). Plot moves along at a fairly rapid pace. All of the stuff about old people and loss felt simultaneously too sentimental and all too real....more
Diane
A lovely little book. Robert MacIver’s wife has died and he recognizes that he is also going to die soon. He sets down his rules for living each day – the rules and his amendments made me laugh. He is a feisty academic and he pretty much sticks to his rules, especially his rule about working (i.e. writing) each day. He writes an incredible story about World War II (his specialty). In the evening he drinks single malt whiskey and reflects on his life. It is nearly a perfect book, except for the l...more
Jeanne
my sister suggested i read this book over spring break, and it turned out to be just what i was looking for -- a quick escape, intriguing enough to capture my attention and fill idle hours lounging in the sun.

extremely well written. pouncey plays with language and creates sophisticated sentence structures. multi-layered stories within a story -- as you experience the final days of maciver's full life, you come to know aspects of his back story as well as experience him weave his final story. eng...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 25 26 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Saints and Villains
  • The Soldier's Return
  • Cloud Chamber
  • The Night Following
  • A Blessed Event: A Novel
  • Triangle
  • Last Friends (Old Filth, #3)
  • The Magician's Wife
  • Little Infamies: Stories
  • Leeway Cottage
  • Starting out in the evening
  • Five Skies
  • The Air Between Us
  • The Sea House
  • Sights Unseen
  • Miss Understanding
  • Life Class
  • One Sunday Morning
Peter R. Pouncey (born 1937) is an author, classicist, and university administrator. The son of a British father and a French-British mother, he was born in Tsingtao (now Qingdao), China. At the end of World War II, after several dislocations and separations, his family reassembled in England, and Pouncey was educated there in boarding schools and at Oxford. For a time, he studied for the Jesuit p...more
More about Peter R. Pouncey...
Pravila za poslednje dane The Necessities Of War: A Study Of Thucydides' Pessimism

Share This Book

“Nije stvar samo u tome što taj momak u krvi ima sivog mora, pomislila je; ima ga sav jedan ledeni, bezličan ocean, i on mora pronaći način da ga iz sebe ispusti.” 1 likes
“-Cijeli sam dan o tome razmišljala - rekla je. - I po glavi mi se neprestano vrti izraz slobodan pad, mislim da se gotovo radi o oksimoronu. Jedini slobodni pad koji sam ikad vidjela bio je pad umjetnika na trapezu kad se, nakon krajnje napetih i napornih majstorija na zanjihanoj prečki i hvatanja u posljednji trenutak pod svjetlima reflektora, može odjednom otpustiti i pasti opušten i slobodan u sigurnost pod njim razapete mreže, vraćajući se na zemlju. Ali većina padova nije slobodna. Čini mi se da uvijek postoji napetost između onoga otkud i kamo padaš.” 1 likes
More quotes…