Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Old Devils” as Want to Read:
The Old Devils
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Old Devils

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,706 ratings  ·  123 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, 384 pages
Published January 15th 2004 by Random House (first published 1986)
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 The Old Devils, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Old Devils

Life of Pi by Yann MartelThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroThe Blind Assassin by Margaret AtwoodMidnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Booker Prize Winners
46th out of 49 books — 1,430 voters
Here be Dragons by Sharon Kay PenmanAfter Forever Ends by Melodie RamoneFalls the Shadow by Sharon Kay PenmanThe Reckoning by Sharon Kay PenmanThe Mabinogion by Unknown
Books Set in Wales
19th out of 131 books — 109 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
William1
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
...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
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.
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.
Alex
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
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.
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.
Jonathan
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
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
Ka
Jan 28, 2013 Ka rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
Elizabeth Bradley
Nov 28, 2012 Elizabeth Bradley 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
Tony
THE OLD DEVILS. (1986). Kingsley Amis. ***.
Although it won the Booker Prize for Amis in 1986, it was not, in my opinion, his best book. For all intents and purposes, it is the retelling of the myth of the Prodigal Son – though in this case, the Son’s wife plays a big role. About thirty years after a local Welshman left the region and set off for London, the locals learn that he is returning to live there again, along with his beautiful wife. Our returnee has made his fortune in the big city in t
...more
Tom Cöle
This is the second of Amis's novels of decrepitude I've read, the other being his impotence-lament Jake's Thing, and I found this one much heavier going. The Old Devils is the very definition of a slow-burn novel, with very little of note actually taking place. Indeed, it takes about 300 pages before anything even remotely approaching action happens at all.

Though maybe that's the point. This is as much a rumination on ageing and regret as it is a novel, and as such it works well. One can't help
...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
Roger
Mar 28, 2015 Roger added it
I could relate to this book because I am like the protagonist(s): old, and male. Looking over the reviews, the further one is from that group, the less one likes the book; meaning if one is young and female this book will not appeal. If you fit the profile, it is a humorous take on aging. I note in the reviews people complain that there is a runniNg theme of being Welsh and what it means to be welsh. Not being welsh, some people feel they are missing out on some overriding joke or not getting so ...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.
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.
Richard Thomas
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.
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....
Sarah Tipper
This was basically about a Welsh bloke called Alun who is shagging all of his friend’s wives and making a living from being Welsh and writing poems. Most of his friends and their wives drink too much booze. I’m sure I didn’t understand bits of it. It was set in the nineteen eighties but Madonna wasn’t mentioned once.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Replacement book cover 3 70 Aug 01, 2014 08:42AM  
NYRB Classics: The Old Devils, by Kingsley Amis 1 5 Oct 29, 2013 11:12AM  
  • Saville
  • Something to Answer For
  • Holiday
  • The Elected Member
  • The Conservationist
  • Offshore
  • G.
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • In a Free State
  • How Late It Was, How Late
  • Staying On
  • The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2)
  • Moon Tiger
  • Heat and Dust
  • Sacred Hunger
  • Last Orders
  • Hotel du Lac
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)
13078
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
More about Kingsley Amis...
Lucky Jim The Green Man Everyday Drinking Take a Girl Like You The Alteration

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“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.” 0 likes
“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
More quotes…