‘The Old Man and Me’ by Elaine Dundy – Young Lady Honey Flood in London and England

 

‘The Old Man and Me’ by Elaine Dundy   (1964)  – 231 pages

Just as Elaine Dundy’s first novel ‘The Dud Avocado’ was about a young American woman visiting Paris and France, her second novel is about a young American woman visiting London and England.

Twenty-two year old Honey Flood is on the hunt for C. D. McKee, a fifty-six year old man whom she has never met before but who has wound up with the large amount of money that she was supposed to inherit. He is in London, and the year is 1962. London is just on the verge of becoming the Swinging London of the Beatles and Twiggy. She meets up with him in a trendy avant-garde Soho bar called The Crypt.

This is Honey’s first time in London, and we get a running commentary from her on how the English speak:

C. D. smiled. “You’ve been listening at any rate. What else have you heard?”

Lots and lots. Oh, such masses and masses, dear boy. The elative d, for instance – dazzling, delicious, devastating, divine – and the deflative b – beastly, bloody, boring, the bottom.”

Some of the nicer touches in ‘The Old Man and Me’ are Honey’s reactions to the people and places she encounters in England. C. D. McKee takes her to museums, an Antique Fair, a Rolls Royce dealer, and for a stay at an old English boarding house. She reacts to all things British, and the British react to her:

Well, you’re an American, they can see that all right and they know what to make of that. On the other hand you are calm and reposed and they don’t quite know what to make of that.”

What do they expect?”

Arms like windmills. Gushing about how quaint everything is. Drunkish. Loud. That sort of thing.”

How charming.”

For me, the lamest characterization in the novel is of this older man C. D. McKee. Perhaps part of the problem is the formal name that Dundy gives this character. He comes across as bland and not at all vivid throughout the novel, not at all as colorful as some of the minor characters. People that Honey meets in passing have a sharper impact on her than this guy that she is supposedly intimate with.

Later ‘The Old Man and Me’ transforms itself from a light travel diary into a black comedy, and Honey Flood becomes an anti-heroine.

‘The Old Man and Me’ did not quite have the refreshing impact of ‘The Dud Avocado’ for me. While some of Honey’s reactions to all things British were quite spot on and enjoyable, I found my attention and interest wavering, especially toward the end.

 

Grade:   B-

 

 

6 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve always wished to like Dundy’s books more than I do. I must be missing something, since both NYRB and Virago have published her books. She is comical, but something was REALLY missing from this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Kat,
      Yes, NYRB probably would be better off reprinting early novels of Joyce Carol Oates such as ‘them’ or ‘Wonderland’. Also ‘Desperate Characters’ by Paula Fox.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. *sigh* The idea of travel is just a fantasy at the moment, but Dundy’s books make me realise that I have wasted opportunities for tax-deductible travel. I should have churned a series, each one set in the different countries I visited…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. I too found this a less successful novel than Avocado – and I thought that was pretty slight. Fun, though, intermittently

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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