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The Old Romantic

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  326 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews

Obsessed with death and planning his own funeral, Ken is determined to die in the bosom of his family. But it isn't that easy; his family don't want to know him.

His oldest son Nick left home over twenty years ago and reinvented himself. At forty, he has returned home to Kent, and found happiness with his girlfriend Astrid and her twelve-year-old daughter Laura, and he doe

292 pages
Published August 2010 by Penguin Fig Tree
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
BBC needs to make this book into a film starring Hugh Grant as Nicholas and Jim Broadbent as Ken and Gemma Jones as Pearl. It's a very amusing and touching story about a family that has been estranged for over 20 years and decides to get together again to heal old wounds (and create new ones.) The writing is excellent and moved along at a brisk pace.
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So here’s The Old Romantic by Louise Dean. The New York Times said that it has ‘great comic touches’ and Publisher’s Weekly described it as “grimly hilarious” and I liked it. Did I laugh? No. Was I meant to? No, I don’t think so. Was I amused? No. There are numerous humorous situations but in the hands of this gifted writer they are mixed with a little too much realism, a little too much truth to be comic. They are more emotionally squirm worthy than laugh out loud.

The Old Romantic is set in Eng
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Funny and wise. I enjoyed this send up of mangled family relationships. The family consists of, Nick, who has been running from his lower class, battle prone family, Dave the second son in every respect who keeps trying to appease, Ken, the foul mouthed father, who really is the romantic one, Pearl, the mother,and the most off the wall example of 70's feminism, I've yet to encounter. These characters ring true. A lovely read.
Jul 22, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
These people certainly deserved each other, but I deserved better.

What a boring lot.
May 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a very dry, uninviting book, very hard to follow these slow going plot. And the plot seems to go nowhere, it could of been summed up in 2 chapters.
Jul 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, relations

All sorts of betrayals, he'd thought sadly, remembering his brother's face, all sorts of betrayals to get ahead. An elder brother is always on the make.

He looks so sweet, her one-man storm in a teacup.

She lived in terror of someone breaking in and messing up her cushions.

In bed with her or talking to her, he felt two things he'd never felt before: exposed and grateful. / There were all sorts of things about love he didn't know before her: the emergency of wanting to be honest which, it se
Rebecca Burke
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
My husband and I both enjoyed this book tremendously. The writer, who is British, is compared favorably to John Updike, a comparison she earns. Like him, she's a stylist--she simply can't write a bad sentence. And also like him, she is a great appreciator of the world around her, which she describes in language that is usually wry, sometimes poetic, and often downright ribald. It is a pleasure to read a writer who employs the language so beautifully. She is perceptive, but also "knows when to qu ...more
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 5stars, favorites
I'd never heard of Louise Dean but decided to give The Old Romantic a try after reading a decent blurb in Entertainment Weekly. I've been going through a huge Anglophile phase lately (thank you Downton Abbey!!), so this was a perfect fit for me right now. This book is "about" all kinds of things but mostly about family, re-configuring our relationship with our parents as they (and we) grow older, marriage, relationship with siblings. In other words, it's a very "domestic" novel but it's also inc ...more
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
This book had some good points - I generally liked the writing style and rather dry humor... err, humour. I got off to a bad start when I realized, while trying to work through the character relationships, that the book jacket synopsis confuses the mother and stepmother.

The plot is about a long-estranged British family overcoming their differences. I set the book aside a couple of times, and when I was about halfway through I was mercifully saved by the library due date. I was never quite clear
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I started out not liking this book much, but loving it by the end- so much that I didn't want it to end! It is very heavy on the English brogue, and I think that made it hard for me to get into. Lots of the slang went over my head and I had a hard time figuring out who was related to who and what was going on........but after I figured everything out, the story was very enjoyable. I actually went back and read it again to enjoy the parts I had been confused about the first time around.

Ken is a c
Bookmarks Magazine
Dean asks the big questions about love, commitment, and the changing boundaries among family members in this exploration of marriage and family. While critics generally agreed that The Old Romantic is light on plot, they nonetheless described it as a barbed social satire on class, love, and marriage in its various forms. Dean also offers many revelatory moments, though the Minneapolis Star Tribune thought that her insights, many as they are, lacked an emotional core. Despite that criticism, revi ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very funny story about a divorce attorney, estranged from both his divorced parents until the father comes re-enters seeking the son's help in getting him a divorce. The father becomes interested in a local woman who runs a funeral parlor at the same time he meets his first wife again. The father is a boor, the oldest son holds himself to be better than all his family and the younger brothers tries his hardest to reunite everyone. As the older son comes to grips with his life, his girlfriend a ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 100-2011, austenesque
I did not like any of these people but I couldn't stop reading the book- how's that for weird. The story shared certain elements with A Visit from the Goon Squad, namely fluidity of time, small, carefully put together pictures of separate moments, and multiple points of view, but unlike Egan's book these guys were family and couldn't/didn't want to escape each other, not really.
Sandy Irwin
I enjoyed this book, but only 3 stars worth. The book just jumped right into the midst of the characters' lives, so the characters were pretty much already developed. Although the author showed us more as the story developed. But isn't that how it is in real life? As an older adult, when people meet us, we have essentially become who are are, without too many changes going on.
But I digress. It did take me awhile to get into the story. I felt that some loose ends were left at the end. I enjoyed t
Feb 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeanne by: NYT
Nick Goodyew has not been in contact with his parents for 20 years or so. The family is reunited when Nick’s father, Ken, becomes obsessed with death. So begins the craziness. . .

After meeting with his angry father, Nick is forced to examine his past and present. Who is he? How can he be related to Ken? What does he need to do in order to not end up like his father?

Though it’s mostly quiet and kind of depressing, Nick’s journey leads readers to a happy and warm place and leaves us with hope and
Kristine Morris
I've been eyeing this novel since it was first published in 2010. I often pick a book based on it's cover, and this cover did attract me, but I couldn't tell you why. This is one of those books that by the time you reach page 80 or 90 you realize that not much is going to happen. So then, you can slow down and start looking for what's happening between the lines or in the spaces between words. This is definitely one of those books. It kept my interest the whole way. The end is refreshing in that ...more
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Actually 3 1/2 stars. The writing was fabulous, very local British, which was fun. The story was the family dynamics, which was interesting. But it left me wanting more of an ending, even though it had an ending. It just didn't seem like it was finished yet. Kudos on delving into how complicated family dynamics are, and being able to get enough "history" to explain why everyone was the way they were. Too bad it didn't seem finished though. But then again, families are never finished. Reality is ...more
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
Really boring book. One of those interior monologues about middle class life, this book presents the stories from different characters points of view and really, really detailed observations of colurs and objects and figures around the landscape. It can either be really beautiful, as some of these are, but this time the work falls flat. The author is highly praised on the book jacket but I don't think this is her best work at all. Don't spend too much time on it. Similar to Saraswati Park and Em ...more
What begins as “same old, same old,” quickly morphed into something quite unexpected as the back story unfolded, revealing painful loneliness and setting the stage for life-changing epiphanies. This is a novel where staid characters find new understanding of themselves, where forgiveness is borne from understanding. How do you learn to love, to be kind, to be compassionate, selfless? That is the road the motley collection of characters travels. Estranged family members, old and new friends, each ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it liked it
When I started this book, I wasn't sure I would finish it. I didn't like the characters, nor their relationships with each other. It took me almost 2/3rds of the way through this book before I began to like it. That is why it got three stars instead of two. It is set in England, and the accents really don't get in the way. Some of their "slang" phrases I didn't get, but it didn't hamper the story.

Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I finished this novel some time ago. It ended up on my favorites list for the year. The protagonists are not always endearing but oh so human. The action is low key and somewhat humdrum. The author has an astringent eye for the foibles but also the virtues of her characters. The evocation of the forces that bind them together as a family are surprisingly touching. Highly recommend to those who like offbeat British novels.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually 4.5/5

From my book review blog Rundpinne...."An extraordinarily dark and witty look at family dynamics and drama, The Old Romantic by Louise Dean tells the most delightful dysfunctional family story I have read in quite some time.".....My full review may be read here.
Melissa Acuna
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
A very British, wry and sometimes laugh out loudly funny book. The cast of characters is memorable and eccentric without being cartoonish. Ken is a wicked old man; miserly, mean and unhappy with his lot in life. His two sons survive by becoming highly successful in one case and an appeaser in another case. This smart novel examines family relationships and the toll those relationships can take on the members.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this story of a fairly dysfunctional family as they find their way back to family and love. Nick has been estranged from his parents for the past 20 years until his brother, Dave, insists on getting him together once more with their father, Ken. Nick, and Ken, discover the ties of family that really bind us together and the history that is a comfortable love, too. Lots of fun to read, Dean is a wonderful writer with rough but honest characters.
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-ladies
It took me a couple of tries to get into this one. I'd start, then stop and move on to something else. I think I wasn't ready for the unconfortable and angry place this group of people was inhabiting. But the other day, I picked it up and it suddenly took off for me --- and I loved it. So much so I sat in the coffee shop for 2 hours today finishing it. Dean writes so well -- her characters are vivid and varied and wonderfully flawed. It's really special.
Lorri Steinbacher
Quite funny, the characters are all, well, characters. Makes you think about perspective and the past, and how when you are ging through something your perspective is so skewed by the immediacy of the emotion and how the further past an event (or a life) you get the more you can reflect on it, probably gild it up a bit, but ultimately get something valuable from something that felt so horrible, or unbearable, in the moment.
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dourly British, with working class language and slang which I had to look up the meanings of (loved that)...Funny with dramatic undertones about family life with focus on the elderly father's preoccupation with his "coming" death and a review of his life and relationships with his wives and grown sons.Could have been depressing, but it has some very clever'll feel hopeful!
Dec 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melody by: Craig Izard
Shelves: fiction
Family squabbles are painful. When already flawed family members decide that everyone just can not get along, deep hurts are created and eventually roil with infection. Here is a fractured family trying to mend the wounds and hold hands again at least once more before the dad dies. All the very visible human flaws are flaunted, but the endearing qualities can't help but trickle out.
Debra Rose
Oct 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
This will be last book I will read that I hated from beginning to end. I kept putting it down but picked it back up because I always finish a book. Not any more. I didn't find it funny, like it was suppose to be. I didn't like one character -- which maybe was the way you were suppose to feel. It's just a waste of time.
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