“The Old Romantic” by Louise Dean (2011) – 338 pages
- “You never imagine your husband will get a thing for an embalmer and an outsize one at that – that’s one thing you don’t imagine.”
As you can tell from the above quote, “The Old Romantic” is darkly comic in attitude. It is the story of the Goodyew family which consists of grandpa Ken, his girlfriend June, his son Nick who has a girl friend named Astrid, his other son Dave, and Ken’s ex-wife Pearl.
Reading “The Old Romantic” is a wicked joy. There may be one or two novels this year as good as “The Old Romantic”, but I can’t imagine one that will be better. Here is a chance for the Booker to honor Louise Dean while she is at her best.
Every sentence of “The Old Romantic” expresses an attitude, and that attitude is sustained for the entire novel, I am going to quote several lines from this novel, because I admire the way Louise Dean writes, and the more I quote, the more likely you will read and enjoy this novel. At the beginning the Goodyew family individuals, especially grandpa Ken, are portrayed as outlandish and ridiculous. As the novel progresses, you begin to see the strong resemblance between the members of Ken’s family and the members of your own family. Could it be that when you look at the individuals in your own family with open eyes, they are quite ridiculous too? As it turns out, these Goodyews have their surprising winning sides too.
- ’I can see now that I could be accused of being rather callow.’ He looked at her. “Do you know what I mean?’
‘Yes she said through gritted teeth. I know what fucking callow means. I wish you would stop using your words like you get a triple-letter score every time.’
Did I mention that Louise Dean writes about the meanest and sharpest dialogue of anyone around? Any writer would give their first born to have her ear for dialogue.
The following sentence in the novel struck me as brilliant, but I’m not sure how you will react to it.
- “She dispensed with the cleaning lady and thereby scuppered that woman’s plan for a breast enlargement.”
For me, that sentence says a lot about our times. Also Louise Dean should get the award for best use of the word ‘scuppered’ in a work of fiction along with the many other prizes she should receive for “The Old Romantic”.
It’s always a pleasure to discover a major talent. Louise Dean is one of those writers that someone will read many years from now, and will wonder why she didn’t get even more recognition while she was still writing. She is tremendously talented, and the writing in “The Old Romantic” is so sparkling, I would guess she had as much fun writing this book as we have reading it. “The Old Romantic” is a novel you read with a perpetual grin.