The Old Romantic

The Old Romantic

by Louise Dean

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An Oprah Book Club Choice. A dark comedy hailed by reviewers as 'extremely funny'  with 'a clever plot and plenty of surprises.'  

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.

'Louise Dean's fearless, frank and darkly comic novels have brought a fresh colour and character to English fiction.' 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 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 

'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

'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

Louise Dean is founder of the online school The Novelry (at offering creative writing courses to novelists.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940154905104
Publisher: Pomeranian Books
Publication date: 09/25/2019
Sold by: Draft2Digital
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 490 KB

About the Author

Louise Dean is the founder of the online creative writing school The Novelry. She is the author of four novels and has been published globally by Penguin and Simon & Schuster amongst others. Louise Dean has won the Society of Authors Betty Trask Prize and Le Prince Maurice Prize, and been nominated for The Guardian First Book Prize, and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award. She is the author of novels ranging from literary fiction to historical and her books have been reviewed worldwide and featured on Oprah’s Book Club. From high-brow to low brow, Louise is known for her ‘dark and fearless’ comedic prose style and her warm encouragement of her writers as a teacher. She was formerly a tutor at the Arvon Foundation, was winner of 2016 IDPE best newcomer for independent development professionals in education.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A highly entertaining, vivid evocation of love and marriage… Dean’s characters have the rough edges and surprising grace of real people, and her fierce humanism animates every page.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Remarkably astute… Dean has perfect pitch [and] she sneaks in just enough grace to give her characters a chance to prove Thomas Wolfe wrong: As long as you don’t expect anyone to get out the good china, you can go home again.” –The Washington Post

“Glorious hell breaks loose in the devilish, dauntingly talented hands of this award-winning writer.” –Elle 

“Razor-sharp.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Brilliant… [Dean’s] insights are dazzling… Characters rake themselves through self-revelations, and the prose leaps with a fervor for the present moment.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Vividly imagined and surprisingly funny… Call it sentimental if you like, but it’s also sweet and genuine and universally true.” –Associated Press

Reading Group Guide


A long-estranged family discovers that blood is thicker than water in this domestic comedy.

It's been a couple of decades since Nick cast off his impossible, contentious, embarrassingly working-class parents: gruff, stingy, explosive Ken and Pearl, 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 Nick's father decides that the year of his death has arrived, kicking off an ill-conceived quest to reunite his family…


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.


  • Ken earns the title of “old romantic” because he’s enthralled with ideals about the way life, particularly relationships, should work. How does this play out in his love life, in family life, and in the way he interacts with the world? Does the conflict prove more constructive or destructive to his overall happiness?
  • Were there parts of the novel that made you squirm? Which moments and conflicts provoked the strongest reaction while you were reading? Which have stayed with you?
  • How do class issues play a role in the narrative and in the characters’ lives? Compare Nick and Dave’s struggle with class and give examples of how their respective social standings dictate their daily interactions-particularly with their family.
  • During his reunion with Nick, Ken insists that “family is always with you.” How does this statement bear out by the end of the novel? Is it proven or disproven?
  • The drive to Wales provides entry into the characters’ inner monologues and gives readers a taste of their volatile family life. What does this trip represent for each person in the car? Does it call to mind family vacations that you’ve had?
  • Reconciliation is a recurring theme in the novel. What forms does it take and how do the various characters achieve (or fail to achieve) it?
  • To what extent did this story make you reconsider your own relatives and family dynamics? Do you see any members of your family in the Goodyews?
  • Many works of contemporary literature showcase dysfunctional families. Which other novels does The Old Romanticcall to mind?
  • With which character did you most identify? Who earned the most sympathy?
  • Where do you think the members of the family will find themselves in 10 years? 20? How might these particular legacies of divorce, anger, and infidelity play out in the next generation?
  • How does death drive the story? What does mortality mean to various characters in the novel? Is there a pronounced difference in the way the male and female characters address it?
  • Customer Reviews

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    The Old Romantic: A Novel 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
    eenerd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    A really enjoyable read about a family coming together after many years estranged from each other. The father is a crusty curmudgeon who calls his sons at all hours to yell at them for no reason. The older son is a successful lawyer who threw of his workingclass background (and family) when he went to Cambridge and never looked back0--until now. The mother is an independent, butch lady who hangs doll carcases from the trees above her driveway. The younger son is an easygoing mop of a man who desperately wants his family to all get along again. Great writing, lots of humor as well as poignant moments.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    rhebaatl More than 1 year ago
    I think the title says it all