Meet Ken. He's obsessed with death, planning his own funeral and desperate to die in the bosom of his family. Unfortunately for Ken, that's the last place his family wants 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 doesn't want the old man to spoil things. He's come a long way; he's a professional, a country gent, a family man. But the past is coming back for Nick and it won't let him be.
Reviewers hailed the book as 'extremely funny' with 'a clever plot and plenty of surprises.'
‘Louise Dean's fearless, frank and darkly comic novels have brought a fresh colour and character to English fiction.' Boyd Tonkin, The Independent.
An Oprah Book of The Week.
'Like its predecessors, it channels the rough music of everyday life for non-Bloomsbury folk with a tragicomic subtlety, a pin-sharp ear for dialogue and a flair for every nuance of character and class. Beneath the mordant delights of observation lies a sharp awareness of the grander themes – love, selfhood, family, freedom and above all death – that haunt minds and shape lives in Kentish cottages, and executive-style new-build homes, as much as Kentish castles. Admirers of Beryl Bainbridge still grieving her loss should find solace here.' Boyd Tonkin The Independent
'Dark, scurrilous and richly comic. There is so much to treasure in this terrific book, but its deepest joy is the sharp, perceptive writing.' Financial Times
'Very appealing...so vivid are the quintessentially British characters and the snappy, well-observed dialogue. Delightful, eccentric...' The Observer
'Dean's observations have a lyrical intensity few can match.' The Guardian
'A warm-hearted comedy of bad manners.' Daily Mail
‘Dean writes with beautifully controlled clarity about family ties, social class, the generation gap and the vanished England of the past. She's extremely funny, but also humane and moving.’ The Times.
'Dean is able to demonstrate her unobtrusive skill as the creator of comic set-pieces...painfully funny. A clever plot and plenty of surprises.'The Sunday Times
'The more books an author writes the better she becomes at being herself. Louise Dean’s early acclaimed novels explored life in the Caribbean (Becoming Strangers), the Irish Troubles (This Human Season) and Africa’s pharmaceutical industry (The Idea of Love). With The Old Romantic, Dean is on more familiar turf. Set in Hastings, close to where she was brought up, she avoids big issues in favour of the quotidian – to moving effect. Convinced he is about to die, 80-year-old Ken summons his estranged son, Nick, to help him write his will (from which Nick is excluded). They seem poles apart. Ken’s humble turf is Hastings: “Perchance is the name painted on to a cross-section of a log varnished and tacked to the guttering over the front door of the bungalow. The front garden is concreted.' The Telegraph
'‘This is a book that begins in one way - keen and sharp - and evolves into something else; funny, but moving too. Louise Dean is acute on the subject of class and of family entanglements (of which there are plenty here....Dean is particularly good on the ceaseless business of growing up...Journeys, literal and metaphorical are undertaken and a good end - although not the anticipated one - made. Comic, clear-eyed and humane, this is the work of a gifted author.’ The Lady
'Compassionate and amusing.' Times Literary Supplement