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The Old Men at the Zoo

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  106 ratings  ·  8 reviews
Set in a near future (the novel was first published in 1961 and is set in the period 1970–73), this is Angus Wilson's most allegorical novel, about a doomed attempt to set up a reserve for wild animals. Simon Carter, secretary of the London Zoo, has accepted responsibility and power to the prejudice of his gifts as a naturalist. But power is more than just the complicated ...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published 1979 by Academy Chicago Publishers (first published 1961)
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Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
It's not a very successful novel. The fundamental problem is that the future Wilson predicts is grounded in his 1940s experiences of the British Library and at Bletchley Park. In fact, that's being too kind to Angus. Women were doing crucial work at Bletchley ... why are they only making the teas in his imagined 1970s?

He's gives us London Zoo ran by various old men and administered by an outsider, Simon Carter, as an allegory of sorts for life, political life, in post-war Britain. Dr Leacock,
Feb 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you like animals, you're going to find this unevenly brilliant dystopian novel pretty rough going, particularly toward the end (Remember DISGRACE? Almost like that). Don't let that dissuade you from reading it, though. Published in 1961, it's set in the early 1970s but exhibits some interesting parallels with today's Britain--e.g., the pugnacious "England-versus-Europe-and-everybody-else" mindset--as well as unsettling intimations of J.G. Ballard, who was publishing his first book right ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Fluent and disappointing. A novel about office politics shading into political shenanigans. As a novel about the not-so-distant future, Wilson fails to register the 20th century's most basic change, that is, the change of status in women from housewives to full members of society. The weirdest thing about the book is the portrayal of a world in which men have entire extended families fully dependent on them for survival. These families stay at home, neurasthenic and unhappy, while the ...more
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, apocalyptic
This novel took me a long time to read as I never really got into it. It falls into the genre of dystopian-future-of-the-past, having been published in 1961 and set in the 70s. The pacing is bafflingly inconsistent. For the first four fifths or so, the plot is purely bureaucratic machinations and office politics within London Zoo. The pacing is slow, sometimes tortuously so. Our protagonist, Simon Carter, comes off as something of a self-important jerk, but all his colleagues seem equally if not ...more
Dec 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia
A slow paced novel describing a future (the 1970s) in which Europe is again on the brink of war. This book is, primarily, set in London Zoo which is run by a group of old men (except for the secretary) each with their own foibles. Narrated in the first person by the secretary, the story describes the slow descent into a fascist state, and how events at the zoo mirror those unfolding outside, of which many of the zoo's employees are unaware.

Ralph Jones
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 20th-century
The Old Men at the Zoo by Angus Wilson is nothing like the 2011 movie, We Bought A Zoo. However, the struggle to keep and maintain a zoo afloat is similar.

This book tells a story about a secretary named Simon Carter who assumes the responsibility to take care of a failing zoo. The full story itself doesn’t involve any war except some kind of political fight, but the television adaption has wars. When the zoo animals escaped from their keepers as they were being transported because the
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
It was okay. Sort of took awhile to read. Worth a read still. May grow on me.
Teri Cooper
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Sir Angus Frank Johnstone Wilson, KBE (11 August 1913 – 31 May 1991) was an English novelist and short story writer. He was awarded the 1958 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot and later received a knighthood for his services to literature.

Wilson was born in Bexhill, Sussex, England, to an English father and South African mother. He was educated at Westminster School