THE OLD BOYS by William Trevor


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Whether it is significant or not, or perhaps a portent, this is the third time that a young writer has tested his talent with a difficult theme, old age, in a manner which is a partial tour de force (i.e. Muriel Spark's Memento Mori; Updike's Poorhouse Farm). Here, in the estrangement which the years bring, a number of septuagenarians are gathered together to elect the new President of their Old Boys Association. They share, in the past, their attendance at an English boy's school, and now, a time of life which finds them brittle, disengaged, and to an extent disembodied. Mr. Jaraby covets the post and Nox, once his fag, who remembers him well but not kindly, hopes to defeat him. Mrs. Jaraby too collaborates against her husband; she is expecting the return of her son, Basil, after 15 years; Basil is a bird fancier and to facilitate his home-coming with his budgerigars, she disposes of Mr. Jaraby's monstrous cat. Then there's Mr. Turtle, an old, old ghost who slips away in the second act of a performance of The Hikado; and the others, General Sanctuary, Mr. Sole, Sir George Ponders, etc., who ign themselves with Jaraby before his son causes his defeat. And the book ends with Mrs. Jaraby's taunting invitation to her husband-- "Come now, how shall we prove we are not dead?". It will never be accepted- and Mr. Trevor's novel may also go by default, acute as it may be. This is a view of life which is closer to death and puckered with eccentricity.
Pub Date: March 19th, 1964
ISBN: 014002428X
Page count: 188pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1964


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