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Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky)

4.26  ·  Rating Details ·  1,092 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
A timeless classic of sleazy London life in the 1930s, a world of streets, full of cruelty and kindness, comedy and pathos, where people emerge from cheap lodgings in Pimlico to pour out their passions, hopes and despair in pubs and bars.
Paperback, 528 pages
Published May 6th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1935)
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Jan 09, 2009 karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 22, 2012 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
May 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
Apr 18, 2013 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
the gift
this is three books: 'midnight bell', 'siege of pleasure', 'plains of cement'.

the first book is longest, introducing bob the waiter at the pub so named, and his pathetic relationship with prostitiute jenny, avowedly the most autobiographical story, not too different than hamilton's 'hangover square'. this was most difficult to read, for though i have never had such hopeless pursuit yes i have had stupid relationships (ask my friends...). this story made me think actually of proust's saint loup
Robert Pereno
Sep 10, 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
Feb 25, 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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 06, 2008 David marked it as own-but-not-yet-read  ·  review of another edition
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
Jen Davis
Mar 18, 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.
Simon Hollway
Jan 19, 2017 Simon Hollway rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
A poignant, working-class epic. Heartbreaking, gripping and with a gaze so focused, so evocative and so incisively applied to the anxieties and mannerisms of a small cast of characters in 1930s London, that it is the closest thing to time-travel you'll ever stumble upon. Above all, regardless of their sorrows and frustrations, the author's devotion and love for his players surges from the pages and somehow redeems and resurrects them and the generic lost souls they represent.
Erin Boyington
Feb 24, 2013 Erin Boyington rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
rachael gibson
Dec 28, 2012 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
Sep 17, 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
Dec 09, 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
Feb 14, 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 27, 2012 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.
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.
Feb 06, 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.
Michael Brooke
Sep 03, 2013 Michael Brooke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky is a repackaging of three consecutive novels:

The Midnight Bell (1929)

This was apparently strongly autobiographical, which could be guessed from a very early stage - Hamilton writes in the third person, but gets inside his hapless protagonist Bob's head from the start. A 25-year-old waiter in a Euston pub called The Midnight Bell, he lives above the shop, is single (he has a close but clearly platonic friendship with his colleague Ella), enjoys his job as muc
Feb 09, 2017 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I kind of despise Heidegger, but I will never forget that time many years ago when I was flipping dreamily through BEING AND TIME and came upon one of the greatest lines I have ever read: "the motion of falling prey is characterized by eddying." In the first and third novels of this marvelous triptych - two pieces which mirror one another and plum, when counterpointed, tremendous pockets of dramatic irony - we are shown two complementary processes whereby protagonists become trapped in a kind of ...more
Feb 14, 2017 Nisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Blown away by this book, I don't think a book has ever made me cry as much as this one, nor have I ever highlighted so many paragraphs!
I love Hamilton's clever style of writing; the descriptions, metaphors and wittiness. Certain descriptions made me really laugh!
In regards to the three main characters, Bob, Jenny and Ella, despite their foolish ways, I still really felt for them, especially Ella.
That's what made this book so touching for me, despite the action being set nearly 100 years ago, it
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
Oct 13, 2010 Frank rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a modest hit in the bookshops recently. I’d suggest that for the real horror version of Jane Austen, readers had better turn to Patrick Hamilton. He doesn’t need actual zombies to produces this. Merely putting his characters’ hopes and longings through the grinder of reality is enough to end up with love triangles that read like Austen gone wrong. This is what he does this trilogy, and in his even better Slaves of Solitude.

I think of Hamilton as a kind of pre
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
Terry Clague
Mar 30, 2011 Terry Clague rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read the excellent "Hangover Square" by the same author earlier this year, I've broken my own rule by reading this by the same author. It made me think about why I obey the rule at all - the first reason was to widen the range of authors of fiction I'd experienced but in breaking the rule I find new reasons to obey it and new reasons to break it - reading another book by the same author you notice similarities and I find that I think more about the author - which breaks the spell for me s ...more
Aug 21, 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
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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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