Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy (3/5)

First published: 1964
Page count: 248

The back says: There’s love, and there’s revenge. Betsy Lou Saegressor is bent on revenge. Her father is dead and, to top it off, the vast fortune that should have been hers has somehow ended up in the bank account of the legendary and elusive Englishman, C.D. McKee.

So Betsy sets out from New York to seduce and betray him. C.D. is fat and ugly – but boy is he sexy. Betsy follows him through the night clubs of London, grooving to jazz, smoking hash – and plotting murder.

I say: Well, colour me disappointed and lock me in the cupboard (no, I have no idea what that means). I was duped into believing told that this was going to be a funny novel that would keep me entertained for a while, but once I started reading I kept looking out for the fun and found none.


It would be easy to say that it was merely not my cup of tea, but there really wasn’t anything even remotely funny in there. Oh yes, I will admit to recognising a few witticism throughout, but nothing that made me laugh – or even smirk. The main problem I had was that the storyline wasn’t convincing enough to be good, and not absurd enough to be funny. It was just kind of meh.

Betsy moves to London to seduce and kill the man who married her father’s widow, C.D. McKee, who also inherited all of the money that should have been hers. After a few weeks she stumbles upon a club where she hears his name, and decides to spend her nights there in hopes of meeting him. After a week she meets people who claim to know him and soon enough Betsy meets and starts dating McKee.

Oh, and she uses a fake name Honey Flood and pretends she’s a socialite whose had a breakdown in America and is in London for some therapy.

Plausible, I suppose.

Anyhoo, McKee is an upper class Brit who loathes anything not belonging to that sphere – and yet he insists on dating Betsy, criticising everything American about her. I suppose their banter and little quips about the other’s nationality were meant to be endearing and cute, but I merely found it either obnoxious or just plain offensive. Dundy did paint a rather accurate portrayal of the British upper class - as far as my experience goes (which isnt very far, I admit) – and that’s where some of the witticism lay; in Betsy’s analysis of them.

“The shabbier they look, the richer they are.”
It’s quite amazing (or is that amusing) that this is still true today.

All in all it was an ok read – not my cup of tea (to stay British), but I’m sure a lot of people enjoy it well enough for it to be considered a modern classic.


  1. I hate that. You are in the mood for some laughs, pick up a book based on that and then it doesn't deliver.

    Can't think of any off hand but I am sure that's popular in classics. Reading from the point of view of the upper class Brit and being American is seen as something lesser. In some cases the characters pity their American cousins. Gets a bit boring after a while but good for Betsy getting her oar in.

    This is one of those classics I haven't heard of I'm afraid.

    1. I had never heard of it either, but found it on some obscure list online - and if it's one thing I can't resist, it's an obscure list of books. Or should that be a list of obscure books...?