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Room at the Top

a novel by John Braine, published in 1957. Hardened by war service and the loss of his parents, Joe Lampton arrives in the Yorkshire town of Warley convinced of the supremacy of materialistic values, and intent on making his way into the upper echelons of bourgeois society. Braine's self-assured, iconoclastic hero serves as a sardonic observer of the personalities and politics of a provincial town as he makes his way in this world, aided by his respectable, middle-class landlady, his prowess in amateur dramatics, and his professional pursuit of Susan Brown, daughter of the richest man in Warley. Braine's rather schematic plot, which sets Lampton's social success against his genuine love affair with a married woman named Alice Aisgill, and demands that he choose between the two, is saved by the knowing humour of his style and occasional passages of genuine power, particularly the scene of hopeless low life in the working-class quarter of Warley where Joe seeks woeful comfort after his rejection of Alice and her subsequent suicide. Achieving his goal of marriage to Susan Brown and acceptance by the plutocrats of Warley, Lampton finally realizes the emptiness of his achievement and the terrible sacrifice of his integrity.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: John Rhode to Jack [Morris] Rosenthal Biography