Skip to main content

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.
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.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…