Review: Ending Up by Kingsley Amis

I received an advanced review copy from The New York Review of books. Please visit their website for the full collection of their classics series:

My Review:
Ending UpIn this comedy about old age, Amis provides us with a geriatric cast of characters living under the same roof who are basically trying to stay as comfortable and happy as possible before they die.  There are five septuagenarians in total, three men and two women.  Although they want nothing put peace in their final years, they manage to annoy each other and bicker to the point where peace is the last thing that any one of them is going find.

Adela is the one who holds the whole operation together by paying the bills, doing all of the cooking and shopping and generally trying to make peace among her roommates.  She is not the most attractive woman and she has never been married but she is the caretaker to everyone in the house to the point that she ignores her own health issues.

Adela’s brother Bernand, the most cantankerous one of the bunch, is also the most amusing.  He has a bad leg which seems to be better or worse, depending on whether or not he is asked to do physical labor.  He provokes the others into arguments during conversation for his own amusement and he is very fond of attempting practical jokes.  His favorite weapons are stink bombs, feces, a squirt gun and urine.

A happy drunk named Shorty is also one of the residents of the cottage.  Shorty loves alcohol and he thinks he is fooling everyone about his habit by hiding bottles all over the house.  He is also the servant of the group and is always cleaning up and serving tea.  Shorty and Bernard are actually ex-lovers, which fact produces a few bawdy jokes throughout the book.

The other woman in the group is a flighty woman named Marigold.  Marigold loves to write letters, spend time with her grandchildren and do everything she can to avoid Bernard.  When Marigold starts losing her memory, she is desperate to keep this secret from Bernard whom she is sure will use this information against her.

The last member of the household is George, a former brother-in-law of Bernard.  George is a kindly old professor who has had a stroke and cannot get around on his own.  The group has taken him in because he has no where else to go and Bernard is not happy about this situation.

ENDING UP is a funny novel about the inevitability of growing old and dealing with the vast array of issues that come along with this mortal condition.  It is ironic and funny that each of these septuagenarians are responsible for his or her own demise at the end of the book.  Thanks again to the New York Review of Books for reviving another great classics.

About The Author:
AmisSir Kingsley William Amis, CBE was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than twenty novels, three collections of poetry, short stories, radio and television scripts, and books of social and literary criticism. He fathered the English novelist Martin Amis.

Kingsley Amis was born in Clapham, Wandsworth, Couty of London (now South London), England, the son of William Robert Amis, a mustard manufacturer’s clerk. He began his education at the City of London School, and went up to St. John’s College, Oxford April 1941 to read English; it was there that he met Philip Larkin, with whom he formed the most important friendship of his life. After only a year, he was called up for Army service in July 1942. After serving in the Royal Corps of Signals in the Second World War, Amis returned to Oxford in October 1945 to complete his degree. Although he worked hard and got a first in English in 1947, he had by then decided to give much of his time to writing.


Filed under Classics, Humor, Literary Fiction, New York Review of Books

7 responses to “Review: Ending Up by Kingsley Amis

  1. Jonathan

    Maybe I should have read this one instead of The Old Devils, which I read recently and didn’t really enjoy. Ending Up does sound good though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lucky Jim is certainly a classic of academic humor, but I actually liked The Old Devils more. This book, Ending Up, sounds very good too, and it makes me think The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel depends very much on the Amis sensibility, the humor, ironies, and deep friendships in spite of it all.


  3. First I read and loved ‘Lucky Jim’ After that, I tried several other Kingsley Amis novels, and never could overcome my disappointment that they weren’t even close to being as brilliant as ‘Lucky Jim’. My own opinion still is that he wrote only one great novel, ‘Lucky Jim’. Martin Amis’ career seems to be following the same trajectory.

    Liked by 1 person

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