From the Publisher:
It’s been a couple of decades since Nick cast off his impossible, contentious, embarrassingly working-class parents: gruff, stingy, explosive Ken and June, who seemed to revert to a primal state of nature after a divorce that both of them managed to blame on Nick. Enjoying the life of the country gentleman that he’s made for himself with impeccably turned-out Astrid and her teenage daughter, Laura, Nick has kept only the slenderest family connection to his brother, Dave, who’s stuck with the role of ambassador in a family that’s long settled into cold war.
But then Ken decides that the year of his death has arrived, and thus kicks off an ill-conceived quest to reunite his family before he meets his fate. Bringing to this tinderbox just the spark it needs, Louise Dean sends up the whole clan, each of them fatally flawed yet saved by hidden grace, and illuminates with her incomparable acuity their clashes of generation, gender, class, and temperament, in a riotous and compassionate conflagration.
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. The book opens with Nick and his girlfriend Astrid picking up his father Ken and stepmother June in, of all places, Hastings. The reader will learn Nick has deep seeded issues with class and considers Hastings to be beneath him. Ken has become obsessed with death and has summoned his estranged son Nick to Hastings to draft his will in which his oldest son Dave is to inherit everything. It would be an understatement to simply say this is one dysfunctional family. None of them appear to get on and most have not seen or spoken in years. Dean brings together a rich array of extremely flawed and yet perfectly formed characters into a delightful family saga. I truly enjoyed The Old Romantic; I may have identified a bit too much with several of the various members of the family. From the inner family and extending outwards to old girlfriends and ex-wives, everyone is included as the multigenerational family drama unfolds. Dean has crafted a brilliant narrative that unfolds at a rather delightful pace as the reader is introduced to all the family members and their families and how each relates with one another. Many characters are quite unpleasant which makes The Old Romantic all the more realistic. I had little difficulty visualising Nick, Astrid, Dave, Marina, Morwen, Audrey, Laura, June, Pearl, or Ken as this is a family I can relate to, not necessarily enjoy, but one I understand all too well. As I mentioned previously, Dean’s use of dark humour is ever present as she explores family relationships, dynamics, past hurt and injustices, real and imagined, allowing the reader an in-depth look into the complexities of familial relationships regardless of age. I would recommend The Old Romantic to every reader, yet do caution there is some profanity used throughout the book. The Old Romantic would make for an extremely wonderful, if not lively book discussion group pick.
Louise Dean is the author of three previous novels: Becoming Strangers, which was awarded the Betty Trask Prize in 2004 and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, This Human Season and The Idea of Love. She lives in Kent, England with her three children.
I received a complimentary copy of The Old Romantic by Louise Dean from Riverhead Books to offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.