Monday, August 17, 2009

Review: The Slaves of Solitude, by Patrick Hamilton

The Slaves of Solitude has been sitting on my TBR shelf since April 2008. The other day, when nothing else really appealed at the moment, I picked this one up. I enjoyed it immensely.

Written in 1947, The Slaves of Solitude is set at the height of WWII, in a suburb of London. Miss Roach is an imaginative, nearly-forty-year-old spinster, living in the Rosamund Tea Rooms (though they’re no longer “tea rooms”). The book is told from her point of consciousness, but the novel is also about the other residents of the boarding house. There’s Mrs. Payne, the landlady; tyrannical Mr. Thwaites; and Miss Steele and Mrs. Barratt. Later, a German woman moves in to the room next to Miss Roach’s, and monopolizes the attentions of a young American lieutenant.

It’s a short novel; only about 240 pages, and a quick read. But it’s not an inconsequential one. Hamilton’s writing style is sparse; he tended not to waste words on needless description. He depicts the deprivations of the War perfectly. It’s ironic that Miss Roach, a former Londoner who survived the Blitz, is so unaware about what’s going on around her. But maybe that’s how she chooses to cope. The Slaves of Solitude is what’s called black humor; there are funny moment mixed in with the serious businesses of blackout and rationing (Mr. Thwaites, in his boorishness, is especially entertaining). In all, this is a wonderful novel of people trying to shift in the dead of winter in a horrible war.

Also reviewed by: Bookeywookey


Ted said...

This is on its way to me from The Book Depository. After your post, I can't wait.

The Hardest Walk said...

Patrick Hamilton's books always put me in mind of songs by The Smiths; although on a moment to moment basis they're witty, very funny, and sometimes farcical, there is often a sense of tragedy growing underneath it all.


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