Ending Up is a grotesque and memorable dance of death, full of bickering, bitching, backstabbing, drinking (of course), and idiocy of all sorts. It is a book about dying people and about a dying England, clinging to its memories of greatness as it succumbs to terminal decay.
Everyone wants a comfortable place to die, and Kingsley Amis’s characters have found it in Happeny Tuppeny Cottage, out in the country, where assorted septuagenarians have come together to see one another out the door of life. There’s grotesque Adela, whose sole passion is her cheapness; her cursing and scoffing brother Brigadier Bernard Bastable, always strategizing a new retreat to the bathroom before sallying forth to play some especially nasty practical joke; Shorty, the servant, who years ago had a fling with the brigadier in the barracks and now organizes his daily rounds from woodpile to wardrobe around a trail of hidden bottles; George Zeyer, the distinguished professor of history, bedridden and helpless to articulate his still- coherent thoughts; and Marigold, who slowly but surely is forgetting it all.
And now it is Christmas. Children and grandchildren are coming to visit their ailing elders. They don’t know what lies in store before the story ends. None of us do.
I finished Kingsley Amis’s Ending Up with an undiminished sense of Amis’s power, and a conviction, confirmed in work after work, that he is one of the few living novelists totally incapable of boring me. Ending Up is a sardonic little masterpiece which, with incredible economy and stylistic restraint, shows what old age is really like, and also—far, far better than any other writer I know—what contemporary England is like.
[A] savage study of old age.
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The writer who began to write in the spirit of humanist common sense in a postwar time took on rage and spleen, sometimes invested against the human condition itself, as in the very good Ending Up (1974), one of his deepest novels, and sometimes in a latter-day social ire arrayed against the entire modernity of the modern world.
—The New York Times
Mr. Amis has never done better…a very funny but also a very serious book.
Extraordinarily good, compulsively readable and beautifully constructed…wildly and cruelly funny.
With seeming effortlessness, our most spectacular all-rounder hits another boundary. Amis stretches himself to the full limit of his formidable powers.
—The Sunday Times