This is about a group of friends, older middle age/younger older age Welshers who have things more or less figured out and plan to spend the rest of their days drinking themselves slowly into oblivion. Their plans are upended when a famous writer from their town (who writes about the Welsh Condition without really living it) and his alluring wife return to town and add drama and desire into their lives. So their days of drinking cheap and bad Italian wine get turned around.
This book won the Booker Prize in 1986 and I can’t tell why. First off, several much better and more impressive novels were also nominated — The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Insular Possession by Timothy Mo, An Artist in the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro, and the second part of a Robertson Davies trilogy. This book is an empty shell by an aging (and slowly dying of alcoholism) writer who chased after his first, greatest success some thirty years later for the rest of his career. This book is not particularly good, even unpleasant at times, but worst still, boring. I hate when prizes become career consolation prizes, and I am sure Kingsley Amis wrote better novels in his life that could have won in different years, or even this year, but this feels like they were awarding his last best effort. I want prizes to mean something (and I KNOW they don’t) but this one feels cheap in ways other years where a novel I didn’t like as much as the winner somehow don’t.