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Extended Audio Sample Rules for Old Men Waiting: A Novel, by Peter Pouncey Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (378 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Peter Pouncey Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2005 ISBN: 9780739321096
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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.”

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Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Deborah | 2/20/2014

    " This was a beautiful book - so many stories are inside and they are all told at exactly the right pace. I may have teared up a time or two... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Valerie | 2/15/2014

    " I will be thinking about this book for a long time - I think it has something valuable to say about selective memory and those things in our natures that we would rather forget but need to confront in order to understand ourselves. The MALIRAB discussion was full of disagreement - a good discussion. I'm not sure how well the author succeeded and maybe he "cheated" - certainly it felt contrived at times but I loved the the feisty independence of this dying man and could identify with him. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathey | 2/6/2014

    " I'm sure it was a good book, but I just couldn't get into the whole army thing. A terribly sexist comment, but this was too "guy" for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara Woodbury | 2/6/2014

    " A story within a story. A dying man writes the story that has been on his mind, and the story tells so much in so few words. A keeper. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy Rhodes | 1/29/2014

    " I read this book over two years ago and still remember it in detail. I think it will always be in my top ten favorites of all time; gorgeously written with such insight and warmth. This is a wonderful book--I just hope you can find it...might be one of those that got lost along the way. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bonnie Jeanne | 1/21/2014

    " A beautiful story with an ending you know is coming, but still takes you by surprise. Pouncey weaves three wars into a story of remembrance, honor (though not patriotic as much as honoring our own humanity when humanity seems impossible), and dignity. There are wonderful references to classical music that spurred me to seek out specific recordings. The ending is perhaps a little too "ghost in the machine," but it doesn't diminish the book's charm. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Betty | 1/19/2014

    " The Rules are for Old Men Waiting to Die. Be forewarned - it's no Bucket List, but it is absorbing from the first through the last page. And I like that someone in his late sixties had his first novel published. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melanie | 1/19/2014

    " Fabulous. Yet another demonstration(s) of how stories allow us to make sense of our lives--and of the ways in which we can reorganize our own apparent chaos into a coherent narrative. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joe Davis | 1/2/2014

    " Enjoyed the story, but the writing is a bit too straight forward for my tastes. The characters seem more one dimensional the farther the get in the story. The story starts strong from an interesting perspective, but isn't quite able to sustain that level of story telling. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 11/2/2013

    " I was hoping the book would expound on waiting for death, the rules you have to make so you can get through each day. But it turned into a WWI story, which was interesting - but not what I signed up for. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 10/31/2013

    " For me the poetry was strongest at the beginning. As I got toward the end it became more dissolute with long passages on war battles and rugby scrimmages. If you ever want to teach another course putting every story into an Appolonian-Dionysian construct, this should be added to the list! ;-) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim O'shaughnessy | 10/14/2013

    " A wonderful first novel in every respect. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennie | 9/5/2013

    " An excellent book in which the main character deals with the approaching end of his life in ways that are strikingly original, both inwardly and outwardly. A book I'm not in a hurry to finish, because I want to make it last as long as possible. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erica | 5/20/2013

    " Amazingly vivid. Very good writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 3/1/2013

    " Eloquent, poignant. I was moved to tears-- "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marj | 10/19/2012

    " A 3.75 book. The first novel by a retired scholar. 30 years in the writing. A novel of war and love and dying. It deals with World War I, World War II and Viet Nam. It describes a wonderful marriage. It delves into the process of dying. Not a quick read even though it isn't quite 300 pages. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan Myers | 10/13/2012

    " Writing is gorgeous and vivid. The weaving of the three story lines is very nice, my only complaint was that he didn't really seem to know what to do with everything at the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alan | 5/17/2012

    " First novel by an older academic. Reminds me a little of Norman MacClean with the clarity of language and the evocation of emotion and conflict. It is about an old man, waiting to die as he loses his control over life, and memories of his wife, his son, the war. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Martha Johnson | 1/14/2012

    " Lovely lovely book. A friend gave it to me and it took me away to a specific world and its all too human situation. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 11/26/2011

    " A story within a story. Dying man remembers his life while writing a story of WWI. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 10/14/2011

    " I felt like I should have liked this book more than I did. Pouncey's prose is lucid and beautiful; I really felt as though I were right there - and yet the story just did not hook me. My mom loved this book and perhaps the age difference says something. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 6/19/2011

    " Almost poetic. Worth reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julia | 5/12/2011

    " wonderful writing. MacIver(elderly military historian) nurses his dying wife. In the months that follow her death he writes a novel from his memories of war and his interviews of gas victims from WW1. Through his writing he makes sense of his grief and his life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 dead letter office | 4/21/2011

    " kind of like watching someone die of old age in real time, so maybe a little slow in parts. i read it because peter pouncey seemed to be the type of person who would write a great book. this is his first book, and it's very good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennie | 2/7/2011

    "
    An excellent book in which the main character deals with the approaching end of his life in ways that are strikingly original, both inwardly and outwardly. A book I'm not in a hurry to finish, because I want to make it last as long as possible.
    "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marge | 2/7/2011

    " I found this book very depressing but I read it all. It did not seem to have any real happy moments in it. What a sad life and a sad outlook on life. Not much to celebrate "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julia | 9/8/2010

    " wonderful writing. MacIver(elderly military historian) nurses his dying wife. In the months that follow her death he writes a novel from his memories of war and his interviews of gas victims from WW1. Through his writing he makes sense of his grief and his life.
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 12/14/2009

    " A story within a story. Dying man remembers his life while writing a story of WWI. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joe | 12/4/2009

    " Enjoyed the story, but the writing is a bit too straight forward for my tastes. The characters seem more one dimensional the farther the get in the story. The story starts strong from an interesting perspective, but isn't quite able to sustain that level of story telling. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judy | 8/24/2009

    " AT first I didn't think I'd like this book but it was a powerful story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathey | 7/30/2009

    " I'm sure it was a good book, but I just couldn't get into the whole army thing. A terribly sexist comment, but this was too "guy" for me. "

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