The Old Romantic, By Louise Dean

Bereft admirers of Beryl Bainbridge should seek out Louise Dean. In her hilarious but often poignant novels, classes, generations, ways of life, all collide with a disarming comic thump.

Ken, the bluff and stroppy patriarch, part-Pop Larkin and part-King Lear, is the lion at bay who rules this tale of prodigal children and changing times set in the Weald and on the Sussex coast.

Ken's terror of mortality, allayed by his tendresse for Hastings mortician Audrey, and the return of his upwardly-mobile lawyer son Nick, trigger a reconciliation with earth-goddess first wife, Pearl.

Dean softens her knife-sharp social comedy with a lyrical delight in plain lives that find "beauty in dirty places and commonplaces, everywhere". Her star should rise much further.