The Slaves of Solitude

I have just finished my second Patrick Hamilton novel, Slaves of Solitude, first published in 1947. I enjoyed it as much as Hangover Square, but did not find it quite as compelling. I love Hamilton’s style of writing and the intimate, sympathetic way he rattles around inside the muddled, vulnerable heads and hearts of his main characters. In this story, we see the world through the eyes of Miss Roach, the ‘plain’, middle-aged spinster who lives in a boarding house in a small village outside London in 1943. Hamilton’s characters live and breathe and I loved his vivid portrayal of war-time England.

Some excerpts:

“Dawn, slowly filling Church Street with grey light, disclosed another day of war. Because it did this, this dawn bore no more resemblance to a peace-time dawn than the aspect of nature on a Sunday bears a resemblance to nature on a weekday. Thus it seemed that dawn itself had been grimly harnessed, made to alter its normal mode of existence, had been Bevin-conscripted.” p.100

“The war, in its character of petty pilferer, had been as busy in this little town as in London, and, for a woman’s personal needs, the shops had little save frustration, irritation, or delay to offer in almost every department. There were no stockings, there was no shampoo, there was no scent, there were no hairpins, no nail-varnish, no nail- varnish-remover, no ribbon, no watch-glasses, no watches to lend you while you waited for watch-glasses which might or might not come, no glycerine, n0 batteries for your torch, no scissors, no darning wool, no olive oil… The pilferer, who for some reason had no taste for cocoa (which you could buy and bathe in if you had the money), had been here, there and everywhere.”  p. 161.

And, one of my favourite’s:

“Miss Roach’s soul smiled to itself.” p.224

A very good read.


~ by Garry on June 5, 2010.

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