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Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy
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Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky)

4.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,012 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
Patrick Hamilton may be best known now for the plays Rope and Gaslight and for the classic Alfred Hitchcock and George Cukor movies they inspired, but in his heyday he was no less famous for his brooding tales of London life. Featuring a Dickensian cast of pubcrawlers, prostitutes, lowlifes, and just plain losers who are looking for love—or just an ear to bend—Hamilton’s n ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published February 19th 2008 by NYRB Classics (first published 1935)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,881)
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Jan 13, 2009 karen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all former stalkers
Shelves: littry-fiction, hoors
here is a man who understands the impositions placed upon women; and how difficult it is to be polite while also discouraging further involvements from overeager men. you know who you are...
Jun 15, 2007 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got a bit bogged down by life so this took a while to read - it is quite a tome. It's three novels in one telling the stories of three characters that exist in and around a pub called The Midnight Bell in 1930s Central London - one's a waiter, one's a prostitute and t'other is a bar maid.

It's pretty harsh stuff and is like watching your friend fall in love with an idiot, but its so well observed and inside the bits of us that we try and hide that it just blew me away. In fairness, Hamilton is a
Jul 10, 2016 Nigeyb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky trilogy is an amazing achievement, originally published as three separate books: The Midnight Bell (1929), The Siege of Pleasure (1932) and The Plains of Cement (1934).

In 1935, these books were first collected in one volume as Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky.

The Midnight Bell (1929)

Patrick Hamilton’s protagonist Bob, the waiter at a Euston pub called The Midnight Bell, has saved 80 (worth several thousands of pounds in today's money) in the ban
Jun 03, 2016 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: byt-main
This is a trilogy of linked stories.

"The Midnight Bell" is the name of a public house just off the Euston Road in London. All the major characters are introduced in this story, but the main focus is Bob. Bob is a dreamer who has worked at sea and is now a waiter in the pub, but he dreams of being a writer. To be more accurate Bob dreams of having written a wonderful novel by some form of spontaneous generation, since he never actually puts pen to paper.
The pub is so well described that I could s
I was first introduced to Patrick Hamilton when I watched a TV adaptation of this very book. I went on to try Hangover Square as I'm not keen on reading source material so close to watching something I love. After many years, I finally got around to it and I love it. It shows how faithful the TV adaptation was, but as always with TV, it cannot show effortlessly the inner workings of characters' minds, as a novel can.
My favourite section was always Ella's, but when reading the novel Bob's strug
Jan 23, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
You know that feeling of giddy pride you get when you feel like you have discovered an author? Such a "discovery" is, of course, ridiculous. If the author's been published then many other readers have most likely been there before you. Still, I feel like I just discovered Patrick Hamilton for myself. It just turns out that Doris Lessing discovered him, too. Then Sarah Waters. Nick Hornby compared his discovery with chancing upon a new best friend. When I first read the back cover to this collect ...more
Jan 07, 2009 David marked it as own-but-not-yet-read
The author of "Gaslight".

“Patrick Hamilton is being revived again. And it looks serious this time… JB Priestley was an early supporter. Hamilton's book The West Pier was generously described by Graham Greene as "the best novel ever written about Brighton". He was John Betjeman's favourite contemporary novelist. Writers from Julie Burchill to Doris Lessing are warm admirers. Biographer Michael Holroyd has written numerous essays and introductions. Nick Hornby recently described him as 'my new bes
Robert Pereno
Sep 29, 2010 Robert Pereno rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was so excited when I bought this book at Hatchards. Can not wait to get stuck in. See you later.

Brilliant . I will never ever forget this book. I could not put it down, yet again Hamilton has blown me away.

Every Londoner should read this book. Hamilton is a master story teller.
Doug H
Mar 22, 2015 Doug H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a good read overall, but not nearly as good a read as the novel that introduced me to and left me in awe of the brilliant mind of Patrick Hamilton: The Slaves of Solitude. While I quickly added TSOS to my list of favorite books, I found the individual novels in this trilogy to be more of a mixed bag.

The first part (The Midnight Bell) is the strongest and stands very well on its own. The characters and the setting come vividly to life and I strongly related to Bob the bartende
Jen Davis
May 11, 2015 Jen Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh genre porn, thy name is longwinded stories about British laborers in London living small lives, dealing with small issues and somehow breaking your heart in the process. The amount of tragedy that human beings can cope with never ceases to amaze me especially when treated well by an author with a flare for wry-statements-by-omniscient-narrator. My NYRB edition had a great foreward by Susanna Moore.
Sep 24, 2015 Annette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is extraordinarily good in a stealthy quiet way to start with then before you know it you're drawn in to the insanity of behaviour of each of Hamilton's characters.

Human frailty in it's individual forms is very carefully and cleverly drawn. Bob is infatuated with Jenny and like a car crash in accurate slow motion, and even though you can see far better than Bob how it will all end somehow you can't put the book down. This just shows you that twisty-turny shock-horror surprise plots are NOT
Aug 23, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky" is a trilogy, with each book telling the story of a character whose path crosses with the other two characters in a London pub, The Midnight Bell, somewhere off the Euston Road in London during the inter-war period of the 1920/30's.

The first book, "The Midnight Bell" tells the story of Bob, the waiter in the pub of the title, who falls in love with Jenny, a prostitute. His love for her brings him to ruin in more ways than one, and is a sobering story give
Jakey Gee
Oct 28, 2014 Jakey Gee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This is knockout. It’s all here, as promised: the respectably hard up, the hanging-on, the kindhearted and the sleazy. It’s a novel of small lives on huge canvasses, written with great empathy. There’s plenty of comedy amid the sleaze: memorably awful creeps like Ernest Eccles, the punters and the bar room twits. Ella is all good. Bob is an immature looker and will learn in time. Jenny is fantastically sinister (as the reader, you feel almost hoodwinked yourself). In some respects it’s social co ...more
rachael gibson
Aug 08, 2013 rachael gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christmas-2012
I used to work at Great Portland Street and despite the fact that was in the early 2000s not the 1930s, when the book is set, it still transported me back to those quiet little backstreet pubs that probably haven't changed since Hamilton's time. By the end of the first chapter I'd already envisioned the tv adaptation and which pub would feature as the Midnight Bell - Yorkshire Grey or Fitzroy Tavern, clearly. (When I discovered an adaptation had in fact been made and watched it, I'm fairly certa ...more
May 29, 2008 Sirikamol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I fell in love with the title ;p This trilogy contains three seperate stories centred around a London Pub in the 19th Century called 'The Midnight Bell'. The first story, 'The Midnight Bell', is a story of Bob the Waiter and his obsession with Jenny, a 'lady of the night' ie a prostitude. The second story is 'Siege of Pleasure', Jenny's story of how she became what she has become and the third, and definitely my favourite, is Ella the Barmaid's story - 'The Plains of Cement'. There's much more t ...more
Nothing here that attracts undue attention; the narratives and themes are similar to many stories and movies that may seem even more fundamental or iconic, but-- there is something in the hapless characters Hamilton has rendered that makes it all worthwhile.

Each of the three books is driven by a main character, but the overall structure, location and time-frame is the same and shared by all. The three central characters, Jenny, Bob, Ella-- all know each other, and their presence in the other ch
Erin Boyington
Apr 02, 2013 Erin Boyington rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
At the Midnight Bell, a quiet struggle embroils the hearts of three people: Ella the barmaid loves Bob the waiter, and Bob is hopelessly in love with Jenny--a prostitute with worries of her own.

This is a trilogy comprised of three novellas: The Midnight Bell (Bob's story), The Siege of Pleasure (Jenny's story), and The Plains of Cement (Ella's story) as these three unfortunates struggle against their fate in the backdrop of 1930s London. Hamilton has a gift for characterization, and each of the
Feb 13, 2014 Rupert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best novels I've read from the early 1900's in years. By the writer of the plays Rope and Gaslight that the successful movies were based on. Psychologically astute, funny and heartbreaking at the same time. The characters are self aware know they are going down in flames and why, but can't stop their instinctual imperative.
Aug 22, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing story set in London in the 1950s. At its centre is a pub, a bar steward, his female assistant and a streetwalker. The book is cleverly crafted with the story written from three different angles i.e. the three main characters. The bar steward wants to rescue the prostitute from her entrapped environment. The female assistant wants to be loved by the bar steward. The prostitute is readily distracted by offers of travel to Paris and doesn't want rescuing. Nobody is a winner. Each pers ...more
Dec 25, 2013 MG rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could not finish. The characters are described as "just plain losers looking for love" in the Goodreads little blurb. That is harsh but quite true. The novel is told from three perspectives: Bob, a waiter, Ella, the barmaid who loves him, and Jennie, the prostitute. I stopped with Bob. I won't even try to get through Jennie, though literary instincts tell me that her point of view might have a "lyrical despair" that would make it worth it. Hell, I've said nothing. These characters make bad dec ...more
Jul 05, 2015 Peter rated it it was amazing
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky is a marvelous book. Hamilton draws his characters with astonishing compassion and skill. His eye for minute detail is true, and just when you think he's about to pile it on too thick, he deftly nudges the story forward, with nothing more than a word, a phrase, or a telling observation. These interwoven stories are at times hilarious, yes, but also tender and heartbreaking. Spend some time in Hamilton's London, and you may find that his people and their stor ...more
Ben Bampton
Jun 14, 2016 Ben Bampton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If not his masterpiece, Twenty Thousand Streets is Patrick Hamilton's most summative, personal novel. Comprised of a trilogy of short novels that centre around 'The Midnight Bell', a sorry pub on the Euston Road, Hamilton captures the grimy, sleazy and oppressive life of 1930s London with typical panache.
Each segment of the trilogy follows a different character in their haphazard and inevitably ragged path, revealing with candid simplicity their flaws and striking humanity. Bob, barman at The M
Mark Joyce
Mar 19, 2016 Mark Joyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a flawless book by any means but a multi-layered one that is so passionately and evocatively written that it seems churlish to award any fewer than five stars. The first of the three novellas, written from the perspective of the barman and aspiring writer Bob, is semi-autobiographical and exudes genuinely felt pain and anger. The other two, focusing on the prostitute Jenny and the barmaid Ella, feel less authentic but are nonetheless devastating. The overall tone is extremely bleak but there ...more
Jun 26, 2015 Michael rated it liked it
For me, this was one of the toughest books to read that I have recently finished. Not that it wasn't well written, or interesting or important, etc. The aspect that made it though is that it is tiring, it wears on your soul (as it was intended to do) by describing life as it is for any of the less "privileged" members of society. The people that work day in and out to pay the rent or mortgage. Hamilton puts the struggle of these toilers on paper and shows that although you struggle daily, in the ...more
M. Newman
Feb 24, 2015 M. Newman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is actually a trilogy of linked novellas involving characters related to The Midnight Bell, a Public House near London. Bob, the protagonist of the first book is a hard-working, thrifty waiter with dreams of becoming a famous writer. One fateful evening, Bob waits on two prostitutes and falls head over heels in love with Jenny, the younger and prettier of the two. Jenny treas him poorly, missing dates while leading him on with kisses and oaths that she lovs him. Bob takes to drink and gradu ...more
May 21, 2012 Tobias rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great portrait of London society in the late 1920s. Three novellas each concentrate on one of the frequenters of The Midnight Bell in between Euston and Great Portland Street. Set in the West End, Regent's Park, Hampstead, Chiswick, Twickenham and Richmond. Some very astute Marxist analysis of characters in this.
Jul 30, 2013 Austin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful read. Depicts post-WWII working-class life and love in the U.K as experienced by three denizens of a particular seedy bar in London - two women and a man - each competing for, and losing, the objects of their dreams. Plainspoken, hard-edged, tragic, amusing, unflinching, well worth a read.
son pham
Apr 30, 2012 son pham rated it it was amazing
This is a great reading experience. Three stories about three characters that interact with each other. The plotting reminds you of Pulp Fiction, where the character's plot lines intersect within each of the stories. The prose is clean with the depth of the characters well written.
May 11, 2012 Hosho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and haunting, all punctuated by tremdous humor, and profoundly human insights. Oh, how wrong so many loves go! How cruel it can all turn. Hamilton is a tremendous talent, Britian's John Fante.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 96 97 next »
  • London Belongs to Me
  • Of Love and Hunger
  • Eustace and Hilda
  • Great Granny Webster
  • The Outward Room
  • Mr. Fortune's Maggot; and, The Salutation
  • School for Love
  • Short Letter, Long Farewell
  • Irretrievable
  • My Fantoms
  • The Widow
  • The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
  • The Expendable Man
  • The Unpossessed
  • The Pumpkin Eater
  • The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
  • My Face for the World to See
  • Wish Her Safe at Home
He was born Anthony Walter Patrick Hamilton in the Sussex village of Hassocks, near Brighton, to writer parents. Due to his father's alcoholism and financial ineptitude, the family spent much of Hamilton's childhood living in boarding houses in Chiswick and Hove. His education was patchy, and ended just after his fifteenth birthday when his mother withdrew him from Westminster School.

After a brief
More about Patrick Hamilton...

Other Books in the Series

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (4 books)
  • The Midnight Bell (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky #1)
  • The Siege of Pleasure (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky #2)
  • The Plains of Cement (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky #3)

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“[...] at any rate there is nothing in the world more dreary, damping, and obscurely perturbing than to come out of a cinema in the afternoon to a noisy world.” 8 likes
“Only at dawn should a man awake from excess - at dawn agleam with red and sorrowful resolve.” 6 likes
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