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The Old Devils

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  2,376 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews
Malcolm, Peter and Charlie and their Soave-sodden wives have one ambition left in life: to drink Wales dry. But their routine is both shaken and stirred when professional Welshman, Alun Weaver (CBE) and his wife, Rhiannon, join them.
Paperback, Vintage Classics, 400 pages
Published January 15th 2004 by Random House (first published 1986)
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Oct 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
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
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.
James Barker
This is such a wasted opportunity. Amis showed in 'Ending Up' how capable he was of writing dark humour into the vagaries of old age, making that alleged time of non-existence interesting and compulsive reading... perhaps twelve years later, when 'The Old Devils' saw the light of day, he was sufficiently aged himself to be consumed by his lifetime of excesses. Certainly 'The Old Devils' lacks polish and precision. What it does confirm is that (shock, horror) older people still have sex, can be u ...more
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
Hugo Emanuel
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Ouvira dizer que este romance apresentava um olhar satírico e imensamente cómico sobre o envelhecimento, ao qual não faltava sentimentalismo e beleza. Não encontrei nada do género. As piadas eram ora demasiado insulares, ora repetidas e prolongadas até à exaustão. E andavam à volta de essencialmente o mesmo: as particularidades do País de Gales; as pessoas não crescem ou mudam por aí além; a velhice não traz sabedoria; as pessoas de idade continuam a ter relações sexuais e a cometer adultério; n ...more
Courtney H.
Feb 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bookers
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
Aug 18, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
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.
Florence Penrice
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Daniel Polansky
I've been on an Amis kick lately but this probably broke me of the habit. Not because it's not good—it's very good. It is written with the same style and excellence which everything that I've read by Amis at this point has been, and the subject matter—which is simply put, the social, romantic, and national friction caused by the return of an aging 2nd rate intellectual to his hometown in rural Wales—is admirable in putting a serious focus on a period of life which receives short shrift in litera ...more
Rick Patterson
Jan 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis was first published in 1986 and it won the Booker Prize that year. Alun and Rhiannon Weaver are returning to Wales from London; Alun is an ageing minor TV presenter who has become famous for presenting programmmes about Wales on TV, especially about the famous Welsh poet Brydan (think Dylan Thomas). Alun also likes sex and drinking, well, all the characters in the book like drinking, in fact that's what they spend most of their time doing. Alun & Rhiannon are ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I often struggle to catch the humor of written satire. I seem to need the tone of voice to clue me in that what is coming is intended humorously. That was true with this book. I think I would have caught far more of the humor had I seen it performed as a play which it could easily be adapted to. We spend this novel in the company of several Welsh couples who have been socially linked for decades. Their predictable retirement routine is shaken up when a couple from their past moves back to the ar ...more
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Richard Thomas
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed the book partly because Amis was an acute observer with an unkind eye who wrote with understanding and insight but mainly because it was and is an accurate portrayal of both the Welsh (and English for that matter) middle class. It is funny for those who know the breed and yet he conveys the desperation lying underneath some of his characters with a measure of sympathy.
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.
Ray Johns
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
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
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
An odd experience, returning to a book that I've held on a pedestal for two decades without ever having re-read until now. What did I find? A gripping, breathtaking technical achievement; a comic writer using every ounce of the skill that he's built up over the years to make this tale of nothing-particular-in-the-big-scheme-of-things work. But also the frustration from those irritating flaws in something so almost-perfect: the who-is-who confusion that mars the early chapters; the under-explored ...more
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Some books don't seem to age well and I'm sure this was much funnier in the mid-80's when it won the Booker Prize than it is now. The problem for me was that the first half was unspeakably dull, the story of an incestuous group of late middle-aged Welshman and Welshwomen drowning in alcohol and remembering who slept with whom among them, the consequences of this sex and wondering where it all went wrong for each of them. Maybe this largely described the social circles of the Booker judges, I don ...more
Elizabeth Bradley
Nov 18, 2012 is currently reading it
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
Apr 05, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alex Sarll
For the first hundred pages or so, this (my first Kingsley Amis novel) was all perfectly competent and moderately amusing, but I couldn't exactly see the point of it - par for the course with Booker winners. Then suddenly (and yet I couldn't pinpoint exactly where) I realised how wise and sad and true it was about time, and people, and the stupid bloody things we do to each other and can sometimes make right.
May 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
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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 A
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“They went outside and stood where a sign used to say Taxi and now said Taxi/Tacsi for the benefit of Welsh people who had never seen a letter X before.” 3 likes
“Everybody had been in their twenties then; well, round about thirty. Now, from round about seventy, all those years of maturity or the prime of life or whatever you called it looked like an interval between two bouts of vomiting.” 1 likes
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