Ending Up is a grimly hilarious 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 Tuppeny-happeny Cottage, 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 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 day 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.
About the Author
Kingsley Amis (1922–1995) was a popular and prolific British novelist, poet, and critic, widely regarded as one of the greatest satirical writers of the twentieth century. Born in suburban South London, the only child of a clerk in the office of the mustard-maker Colman’s, he went to the City of London School on the Thames before winning an English scholarship to St. John’s College, Oxford, where he began a lifelong friendship with fellow student Philip Larkin. Following service in the British Army’s Royal Corps of Signals during World War II, he completed his degree and joined the faculty at the University College of Swansea in Wales. Lucky Jim, his first novel, appeared in 1954 to great acclaim and won a Somerset Maugham Award. Amis spent a year as a visiting fellow in the creative writing department of Princeton University and in 1961 became a fellow at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, but resigned the position two years later, lamenting the incompatibility of writing and teaching (“I found myself fit for nothing much more exacting than playing the gramophone after three supervisions a day”). Ultimately he published twenty-four novels, including science fiction and a James Bond sequel; more than a dozen collections of poetry, short stories, and literary criticism; restaurant reviews and three books about drinking; political pamphlets and a memoir; and more. Amis received the Booker Prize for his novel The Old Devils in 1986 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990. He had three children, among them the novelist Martin Amis, with his first wife, Hilary Anne Bardwell, from whom he was divorced in 1965. After his second, eighteen-year marriage to the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard ended in 1983, he lived in a London house with his first wife and her third husband.
Craig Brown is the author of Hello Goodbye Hello, The Lost Diaries, and The Marsh-Marlowe Letters. He writes a weekly book review for The Mail on Sunday, a twice-weekly column for The Daily Mail, and for the past twenty-five years has written a parodic diary for Private Eye magazine.