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Hamilton, Patrick

sad novels boarding

(British, 1904–62)

Fame came early to Hamilton, with the success of his stage play Rope, later filmed by Hitchcock. His real and lasting achievements, however, are his novels, which are wonderfully comic, sad, touching, and very readable. Hangover Square (1941) is his masterpiece. Set in the squalid bedsitland of Earls Court prior to the outbreak of war, it charts the hero's vain infatuation with beautiful Netta—one of the most excoriating portraits in modern fiction of a heartless bitch. His three novels The Midnight Bell (1929), The Siege of Pleasure (1932) and The Plains of Cement (1934), collectively known as Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky, are about small, desperate lives lived out in gloomy pub parlours and seedy boarding-houses. At his creative peak, aged 28, Hamilton was badly injured when a car ran him down; this turned him into a moody depressive and self-destructive drinker. His later work duly suffered, though The Slaves of Solitude (1947), an achingly sad portrait of a lonely spinster in a wartime boarding-house, is Hamilton back at his best.

Christopher Isherwood, Kingsley Amis, Paul Theroux, Brian Moore  TH

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