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”.