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Old 1st Oct 2008, 11:26   #1
ono no komachi
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Default Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

I enjoyed this a great deal. Despite the obvious differences, I found myself drawing parallels with Ishiguro's The Unconsoled - a man keeps finding himself in situations where he expects/hopes that events will transpire according to his plans, but is continually thwarted. Still, I can't help thinking that George Harvey Bone's hopes were probably the more forlorn in the first place, and yet to my mind he is the more sympathetic protagonist. Clever of Hamilton to make what would seem to be a potential murderer with psychotic episodes into a sympathetic character. I confess that being a cat-owner probably helped my image of George because of his affection for the hotel cat.

There is a fair amount of darkish humour throughout, most of it in the form of wry observation of how George comes across to casual observers, like the man he interrogates in the road after coming out of one of his 'dead moods', or the man he chats volubly with in the pub after discovering a mutual interest.

But the main feeling (I think Beth touched on this in a throwaway comment on another thread) is one of tension - will he or won't he finally have such a psychotic episode that he actually commits murder? That major tension is underlined by lots of minor tensions - will George's well-intentioned friend Johnnie drop him because of his undesirable circle? Will Netta show any spark of generosity in return for George's constant efforts to please? How far will his circle of acquaintances go in taking advantage of and humiliating him?

The end provides three stages of relief from the tension - first the awful much-anticipated event that George has planned in his dead moods, next the coda where he finally makes it to Maidenhead (Maidenhead!) and then George's final 'escape' neatly appended by that final laugh-out-loud release of the headline. In fact I thought that humour neatly topped-and-tailed the book, with the subtitle A Tale of Darkest Earl's Court and that bathetic headline.
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Old 1st Oct 2008, 12:24   #2
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

The wordplay on Netta's name in the very beginning kept me from abandoning Hangover Square. What a bleak world, except for that ending, like jim commented in the Hamilton thread, something I too kept hoping would happen and laughed way too heartily at. I also thought about London Fields when I was reading this. George's world reminded me of the Amis' bar culture, and I'm thinking one of the bar names was even similar, something like Black Bart. Maybe I just have reader's psychosis. But the damp, dark weather, the constant drinking and pub crawling, the triangle with Netta at the center (though she can't hold a candle to Nicola Six), all reinforced a certain mental image of London as it may be for many.

The definition for schizophrenia that was given on one of the frontspages made me nervous as I didn't want to go that bleak. But the way it was written allowed me to, erp, enjoy George's snaps without trying to figure out why he had them.
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Old 1st Oct 2008, 12:43   #3
John Self
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

Oh dear. I haven't read this one yet - or at least not for the Book Group discussion. Given that I had a triple Hamilton a couple of months ago, I think it's unlikely I'll read Hangover Square in the near future.

My memory of it, from first reading it years ago, is that it was very bleak and actually quite 'suffocating' in its atmosphere. I think elsewhere I likened it to Darren Aronofsky's film Pi, in the sequences where the 'hero' has his migraines or states-of-altered-consciousness or whatever they are. I found the periods where George (I'm relying on you folk for the name, I would never have remembered it) had his 'dead moods' equally unsettling.

Also I don't remember it as particularly funny, which Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky and The Slaves of Solitude certainly are (particularly the latter). All that could be because it was my first Hamilton, and I might well find it much more of a breeze now. Though judging by Beth's and ono's thoughts, perhaps that's not the word.
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Old 1st Oct 2008, 12:57   #4
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

The word 'suffocating' is a perfect description for this, JS. I haven't seen Pi, nor read anything quite like the Hamilton, but you are right that it is very unsettling in subject. Bleak is good, but this goes into a cycle of repetition and drunkeness that is hard to shake off, or sleep off. I didn't find any humor at all in the narrative, just at the very last when the long-awaited-for arrived, on cat's feet.

For some reason the whole area of mental illness is more disturbing to venture into as a reader than, say, murder. I suppose it's such a dark area that to imagine an author ''going there'' and taking me with him is deeply horrific. I kept hoping that George's psychosis was alcohol induced.
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Old 5th Oct 2008, 7:45   #5
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

I could have sworn I owned this book but it seems I do not. While I wait for it to be transfered to my local library (only a couple days), I will read Book 55!
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Old 17th Oct 2008, 16:57   #6
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beth View Post
I kept hoping that George's psychosis was alcohol induced.
I'm only on page 100 or so but I don't think it was... he had been having his "dead" moods since school days.

So far I find George more interesting when he's in a "dead" mood. John Littlejohn just came into the book and interest picked up for me in just those few pages.
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Old 20th Oct 2008, 8:11   #7
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

The blurb uses the words "darkly comic". I found nothing comic about this book, save as others have pointed out, perhaps the newspaper headline.

It's kind of difficult to use the word "enjoy" of so bleak a book, but I did enjoy most of it. I was especially taken with the second trip to Brighton where George discovers he does have at least one real friend. And then, of course, the CLICK! How I hoped that would not come.

There is an odd bit of narration at the end of part ten, where Eddie is advising George about women:
Quote:
They all three laughed at this, because, among other things, he did not use those exact words, but more vulgar, vivid and racy ones.
What? Weren't authors allowed to use vulgar, vivid, and racy words in 1939? I find this sudden appearance of a hitherto unseen narrator unsettling.
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Old 20th Oct 2008, 9:20   #8
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

Quote:
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What? Weren't authors allowed to use vulgar, vivid, and racy words in 1939?
Probably not. It was as recently as 1960 when Penguin was prosecuted for publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover - though the failure of that prosecution meant that since then, vulgar, vivid and racy words have been freely available for authors to use in the UK.
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Old 20th Oct 2008, 9:57   #9
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

Ah, then I will forgive him.

The introduction in the copy I have is by JB Priestley, 1972, and ends with:
Quote:
He is no great major novelist, taking all society in his grasp, and he never pretended to be. But among the uniquely individual minor novelists of our age, he is a master.
Would you agree?
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Old 20th Oct 2008, 11:26   #10
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Default Re: Book 56: HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton

Yes. I say that based on The Slaves of Solitude and Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, as I haven't read Hangover Square recently enough to comment usefully on it. He has, to paraphrase Jane Austen, his two inches of ivory and he works it brilliantly. My measure for agreeing with Priestly is that I now find myself using Hamilton as a benchmark to compare other writers to - such as Jean Rhys or Julian Maclaren-Ross. I suppose that must mean that to my mind he is the apotheosis of a certain type of writer. Similar to Richard Yates, in that I often use Yates as a benchmark for a particular literary type, and with him too I would consider that "among the uniquely individual minor novelists of our age, he is a master."
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