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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hangover Square (1941) by Patrick Hamilton

Brighton was a popular in-England tourist destination in the period prior to World War II.

Book Review
Hangover Square (1941)
by Patrick Hamilton

  The fascination of literature with the criminal classes was not invented by the writers of hard boiled detective fiction in the 1930s.  A market for "true crime" precedes the novel itself, and early novelists like Daniel Defoe were directly inspired by the market for written descriptions of condemned criminals, executed criminals and criminal trials.  In the 19th century, "penny dreadfuls" existed as quasi-literary popular periodicals and successful authors in countries like England, France and Russia published dozens of novels with characters about the lower classes.

  Hangover Square has aspects of both 19th century "novels of sensation" and the more recent hard boiled fiction of American authors. The blunt of portrayal of life among a group of quasi bohemian theater folk and small time East London criminals in the East London neighborhood of Earl's Court.  George Bone is an alcoholic loner with a "split personality."  He alternates between his fruitless pursuit of Netta, a sluttish local would-be actress, who strings him along for the purpose of securing money to pay her bills; and his "dead periods" where he plots to kill Netta and various rivals for her affections.

 It is dark subject matter, and the milieu anticipates the down in the dumps world of Charles Bukowski while maintaining a resolutely English feeling.  Like seemingly all nourish English fiction of the 1930s and 40s, the characters end up spending a holiday in Brighton.  Hangover Square is a very English novel and it is one of the titles in the 1001 Books Project where the Englishness of the project is most apparent.   Not that I'm complaining.  To love English literature is to love English literature itself, focusing on "American literature" or "World literature" like English literature doesn't exist is ridiculous.

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