I came to this book having read Paul Willetts’s biography of Soho legend, Julian Maclaren-Ross, “Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia”. His was a hand to mouth existence, and - for anyone interested in the 1940s, and literary London - is well worth reading.
"Of Love and Hunger", Maclaren-Ross’s first full length novel, draws on his own experiences of living in Bognor Regis and working for Electrolux in Hove as a door to door vacuum salesman. In common with Patrick Hamilton, this is a world of casual work, drinkers, hardship and boarding-houses.
The story takes place during 1939. War looms and Maclaren-Ross evokes the sense of impending doom and transience. I really enjoyed it. Well observed characters populate the main story of a doomed love affair, that also features pettiness, snobbery, fascism, misanthropy, and humour. Whilst not quite up there with Hamilton’s “Hangover Square” or “Slaves Of Solitude” (let’s face it - what is?), it is nonetheless a compelling, enjoyable read filled with great period detail. The short epilogue, three years on from the main story, beautifully brings together the threads of the ensuing War and the personal lives of the main characters. A minor classic.
After reading this, I am really looking forward to the two other books by Julian Maclaren-Ross that I also purchased off the back of “Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia” - “Selected Stories” and “Memoirs of the Forties”.
This has been the year when I have discovered the genius of Patrick Hamilton as my burgeoning Hamilton collection attests.
My joy was complete when I discovered that one of the many places that Patrick Hamilton lived in Hove was a tiny cottage round the corner from where I live. He wrote "The West Pier" there. I love the idea of Patrick pounding the same streets as me - albeit 60 odd years earlier.
A tale of extreme navel gazing and introspection which - due to Tim Parks’ engaging style - is, improbably, a page-turner. I’d previously read three Tim Parks non-fiction books… ”Italian Neighbours: An Englishman in Verona”, ”An Italian Education”, and ”A Season With Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusions, National Character and Goals” …and really enjoyed them all. Tim Parks is a good writer with the knack of making the everyday interesting and, in the case of this book, making philosophy, the tyranny of language, and self-enquiry all interesting and accessible.
This book is beautifully written, well observed and accessible. I felt privileged to share in Tim’s inner most thoughts as he makes his journey from unwell sceptic to a healthier life characterised by open-minded acceptance. My one complaint, the book was over too quickly.
Anther enjoyable romp through the murky mind and memories of Mr Luke Haines. If you’re reading this then you’re probably already aware of Mr Haines’ oeuvre. Suffice to say he’s one of those under-appreciated English mavericks who manage to carve out a career on the fringes of popular music. He is - in short - a national treasure. His books, like his music, offer black humour, wit, and a welcome respite from the mainstream, and - yes - entertainment. This is showbusiness after all, and there’s no business…
Post Everything follows on from “Bad Vibes: Britpop and my part in its downfall”, his previous memoir, and between them they offer an alternative history of Britpop and beyond. Probably all you’ll ever need to read on that overhyped musical period (although “Kill Your Friends” by John Niven is a hilarious read and one I heartily recommend). So. In. A. Nutshell. Buy this. Read it. And then give Mr Haines some more money. We need him more than he needs us.
I’d just finished reading five novels by Patrick Hamilton (Hangover Square, The Slaves Of Solitude, and the Gorse Trilogy); a biography of Patrick Hamilton (Through a Glass Darkly: The Life of Patrick Hamilton); and a biography of Julian MacLaren-Ross (Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Julian Maclaren-Ross). Reading these books helped me to realise how much I enjoy books about London. Coincidentally Amazon recommended this book to me (and it was a book that I’d not heard of until the recommendation).
Over 700 pages long, London is unquestionably the star of the book. More specifically South London for the inhabitants of a shared house located at 10 Dulcimer Street in Kennington. The book is set in 1939-40 and evokes the era wonderfully. The second world war looms as each of the varied and memorable characters contend with their own lives and preoccupations. Their stories are variously funny, tragic, exciting, interesting, and the interweaving narratives kept me engrossed throughout.
If you enjoy well written stories about London, about Britain in the 1940s, and the vagaries of human nature, then it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t enjoy this book. By the end I felt the characters were old friends and I wanted to continue to read about their lives. In a nutshell, I loved it and didn’t want it to end.