A brief, lyrical novel with a powerful emotional charge, Rules for Old Men Waiting
is about three wars of the twentieth century and an ever-deepening marriage. In
a house on the Cape "older than the Republic," Robert MacIver, a historian who
long ago played rugby for Scotland, creates a list of rules by which to live out
his last days. The most important rule, to "tell a story to its end," spurs the
old Scot on to invent a strange and gripping tale of men in the trenches of the
First World War.
Drawn from a depth of knowledge and imagination, MacIver conjures the
implacable, clear-sighted artist Private Callum; the private's nemesis Sergeant
Braddis, with his pincerlike nails; Lieutenant Simon Dodds, who takes on Braddis;
and Private Charlie Alston, who is ensnared in this story of inhumanity and
betrayal but brings it to a close.
This invented tale of the Great War prompts MacIver's own memories of his role
in World War II and of Vietnam, where his son, David served. Both the stories
and the memories alike are lit by the vivid presence of Margaret, his wife. As
Hearts and Minds director Peter Davis writes, "Pouncey has wrought an
almost inconceivable amount of beauty from pain, loss, and war, and I think he
has been able to do this because every page is imbued with the love story at the
heart of his astonishing novel."
On the whole the reviewers praise Rules For Old Men Waiting for its depth and lyricism, but some felt that Pouncey over reached himself at times, pushing his points too hard, and that the story lacked drama (essentially it is the story of an old man in an old house with his memories). If you enjoy spare, elegantly written stories that take time to tell then this might well be one for you. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Booklist - Joanne Wilkinson
Although mortality is its central theme, this gracefully written novel is never depressing. With its expansive scope--war, work, love, loss--it is instead a beautiful testament to one man's resilient spirit.
Despite minor flaws this has a power and piquant unexpectedness that raise it far above the general run of first novels.
Starred Review. Pouncey's first book is proof that sometimes greatness comes slowly and in small packages.
A deeply sensual, moving, thrilling novel that calls for a second and third reading, it is that rich.
This is a wonderful novel of a man's experience, and it touches every chord: a wholeness to which each incident crucially contributes so that wars and loves and losses, and mortality itself, are lived by the reader. The book is charged with the excitement of intelligent existence, and distinguished, above all, by its great humanity.
A stunning piece of work, beautifully composed and finished. It's very much its own thing, but in its reach, intelligence, and power it recalls Lampedusa's The Leopard and Marai's Embers, along with something of Norman MacLean. Old Men belongs on that same shelf.
A tender, beautifully expressed rumination on love and loss by a highly intelligent and marvelously brave old man.
Mr. Pouncey writes with enough style and elegance to bring envy into the heart of many a good novelist.
This spare, distilled first novel is an immediate classic, whose multiple facets and perspectives reflect an entire compass of human experience. It is imbued with the recognition of evanescence, and with a startling beauty.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by San Antonio Reader Rules for Old Men Waiting This book is for the discriminating reader who enjoys exquisitely written, softly beautiful prose, and who does not require an action-packed plot to appreciate a book. The subject is not upbeat, and yet the reader has a sense of sober satisfaction... Read More
Peter Pouncey was
born in Tsingtao, China of
English parents. At the end of
World War II, after several
dislocations and separations,
the family reassembled in
England, where he completed his
classical education at boarding
school and at Oxford University.
In 1964 he was offered a job for
one year as a classicist,
filling in for a professor on
sabbatical leave at Fordham
University, and has been in
America ever since - first at
Fordham and then at Columbia
University from 1967-1984 (he
was dean of the college during
much of the 70s)
specializing in classical
historiography; after which he spent a decade as
President of Amherst College.
now lives with his wife in New
York City and northern...
Suffused with Hindu mythology, this story of one apartment building becomes a metaphor for the social and religious divisions of contemporary India. "Vibrantly alive, beautifully written, full of wonderfully rich and deeply human characters
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