the Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (1947)

“London, the crouching monster, like every other monster has to breathe, and breathe it does in its own obscure, malignant way. Its vital oxygen is composed of suburban working men and women of all kinds, who every morning are sucked up through an infinitely complicated respiratory apparatus of trains and termini into the mighty congested lungs, held there for a number of hours, and then, in the evening, exhaled violently through the same channels.
The men and women imagine they are going into London and coming out again more or less of their own free will, but the crouching monster sees all and knows better.
The area affected by this filthy inhalation actually extends beyond what we ordinarily think of as the suburbs – to towns, villages, and districts as far as, or further than, twenty-five miles from the capital. Amongst these was Thames Lockdon, which lay on the river some miles beyond Maidenhead on the Maidenhead line.
The conditions were those of intense war, intense winter, and the intensest black-out in the month of December.”
Miss Roach, a woman around forty, had to flee from London during the Blitz. She seeks escape in a boarding house, the Rosamund Tea Rooms, which is occupied by a bunch of lonely souls. All meals are either eaten in silence or follow a strict, polite pattern led by Mr Thwaites. Miss Roach loathes Mr Thwaites, they often quarrel about everything and anything. He has a way of speaking in his own language which sounds like something out of Shakespeare, and it takes a while for the people around him to understand what he is actually saying. Miss Roach has an American lieutenant who takes her out to drinks and kisses in the park now and then. Miss Roach is also friends with a German girl, Vicki, but when she moves to the Rosamund Tea Rooms, Miss Roach is filled with hatred for her.

I have said it before, but I will say it again; Patrick Hamilton writes bloody well. The dark streets of Thames Lockdon and the dark mind of Miss Roach are enchanting and the terror of the war is ever present. Yet I didn’t quite enjoy the book, I think it was too detailed for my liking. Yet I loved the detailed writing, the way the sentences are structured. I love the last sentence in the book. And Miss Roach didn’t get my sympathy at all. I also really liked Doris Lessing’s introduction to the book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s