Fiction: The Old Devils, by Kingsley Amis

Our November challenge book (although I finished it in January. Heh). A re-read for Dad, new to me.

This book is such a study in the group dynamic: the circle is so much more entertwined than any of them even know. All the males are in love with Rhiannon; all the females have at one time or another slept with Alan; the level of alcohol necessary to keep this group functioning is mind-blowing (they bring three CASES of scotch on a weekend trip!); most of the group is joined by their hatred of Alan and his return to Wales throws everyone off kilter. It’s got the Jane Austen socialness without the social class stuff. Also lots of old-fart commentary: “They’re selling what there now?!?”

So well-written. Amis never overexplains where people are or what they’re doing, he just puts you in the scene and lets you go. The way he dramatizes things is so well-done as well, all the affair stuff happens in such a subtle way, you’re never in the middle of a sex scene, you just realize it’s happened when the chapter starts with, say, someone tucking their blouse in

These marriages / friendships have just kept going on and on; when the one wife leaves, it’s done in such an understated way, and you find yourself wondering why they don’t ALL leave when so many of these relationships have gone sour. There’s that focus on being stuck in the working class = how can you get out of your life? You have all these bonds to other things–not just this person. Kind of like a rocket leaving earth, you need a lot of acceleration to get beyond that pull of inertia, gravity. Either you start to hate it so much that you don’t care where you go, or you meet someone / see something that’s enough to draw you out.

Thumbs up from both of us, so many different things to enjoy / explore here. (How Malcolm really is the Welsh poet Alan pretends to be; how Charlie can’t stand to be alone, several drinks in by 10 a.m., etc.)

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