‘The Old Romantic’ a dark comedy with dry humor

Life, romantic or not, as it is seen from a decidedly English point of view can be found in Louise Dean’s “The Old Romantic.”

In a story that can only be called a dark comedy, Dean introduces her readers to Nick and his rather upside-down family.

Nick is an attorney, a professional man who has kept his distance from his family only to find himself pulled back in when he’s bullied into attending a dinner with his cantankerous father Ken, his kindhearted brother Dave, and all the assorted family members who come along with the deal.

The book opens with Nick and his girlfriend, Astrid, picking up his father and somewhat ditsy stepmother, June, to attend the dinner at brother Dave’s.

Grouchy old Ken has become obsessed with death and has summoned Nick to draft his will, in which his son Dave is to inherit everything the old man has to hold in trust for his teenage grandson, who Ken feels is the only redeeming person left in the family.

It turns out that Ken is actually the "old romantic," a breed of man that is probably dying out — an old crank, a member of that “greatest generation” who you can’t help loving because he’s just larger than life. He’s cheap, critical, querulous, unmannered and unschooled but sharp as a tack and usually right on the money in his opinions.

Ken was a terrible father and husband, and now he’s obsessed with dying. Although he has an awkward, strange way of demanding it, what he really wants is to reunite his family. Though he can’t come right out and say it, it’s clear he wants to make things right with his ex-wife and the sons he has neglected and harangued.

Ken’s attempts to reinsert himself confuse his family. Personalities clash, and the reader is allowed to be the proverbial “fly on the wall” as Dean takes her characters along for a merry ride of arguments, reconciliations, and lots of wonky, English-style dry humor.

This is a very lively story, a little busy at times, but worth staying with to the satisfying end.

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