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review 2013-11-01 12:58
Hangover Square
Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court (Penguin Modern Classics) - Patrick Hamilton

I was skimming through the books I have read so far this year and saw that I’d been a little harsh with my rating for this one. I think perhaps because it’s quite a dark, depressing tale. When comparing it to most of the gubbins I’ve read in 2013, it certainly ranks highly. So I’ve amended my rating.

Hangover Square follows the pathetic George Bone and a contemptible collection of his fellow alcoholics around Earls Court in late 1930’s London. Within this group is Netta, with whom George becomes obsessed. What becomes clear early on is that Netta is a detestable human being who, along with her accomplice Peter, is quite happy to string people along to get what she wants.

And that, I suppose, is the main thread of the book. A cycle of the same things happening again and again due to a man who is trapped by both drink and his unrequited obsession with a woman. George seems to be the only character with a slim chance of escaping to a better life, particularly as the novel reaches its conclusion. But there is Netta, always dragging him back.

This isn’t an easy read by any means, but within that grimness there is humour and Hamilton creates a vivid picture of Britain (London particularly) on the brink of war. What most interested me about his writing was quite how contemporary it felt. Of course the 1930s weren’t Victorian England, but there seemed to be something quite open about the book, particularly the subjects examined. I enjoyed this ‘street-level’ view of things, where subjects aren’t skirted around due to manners.

Without offering any plot spoilers, I’m not sure the story required the split personality idea – in my opinion it would have played out just as similarly without – but overall a very dark (but enjoyable) read that is worth the effort.

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