Rules for Old Men Waiting

  • by Peter Pouncey
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 6 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A brief, lyrical novel with a powerful emotional charge, Rules for Old Men Waiting is about three wars of the 20th 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."

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What the Critics Say

"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." (Booklist)
"Begun in 1981, this slender, unpretentious, lyrical, and deeply moving novel by the president emeritus of Amherst College was more than two decades in the making....Pouncey's first book is proof that sometimes greatness comes slowly and in small packages." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Really enjoyable

My husband and I listened to this on a road trip. We weren't sure at first whether it was our kind of book, but it grabbed us and took hold with a story within a story. We didn't want it to end.
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- Pat

A very different listen

This is a difficult book for me to review, and I waffled back and forth between three and four stars. It is really three and a half stars.

As another review I read stated, it was quite a "masculine" type of book--I agree. It could be called a character study of a sick and grieving old man, waiting to die. He lives alone after the death of his beloved wife and realizes he needs to make up some rules for the remainder of his life to prevent himself from wallowing in self-pity. He decides to write a fictional story of a group of soldiers in World War 1, all the while reminiscing of his own past life.

This is not a happy, uplifting story at any point. Yet is fascinated me and kept my interest all the way through. It is beautifully written. I even had a tear or two in my eyes at the end. It is not a story for everyone and you must choose for yourself whether you want to experience it.
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- Kathy "Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-15-2005
  • Publisher: Random House Audio