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

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  881 ratings  ·  105 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 13, 2009 karen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...
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
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
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  ·  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
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 bank
Jen Davis
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.
Robert Pereno
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
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
As this is a trilogy, I will rate the novels individually.

The Midnight Bell (Four Stars): The pub scene is here, but is in the background. In the foreground is the torturous relationship of a waiter and a prostitute. It is a meticulous description of the willful self-destruction that comes with a bad relationship. The ending, however,is weakened not so much by events, as by a rushed and moralizing tone.

The Siege of Pleasure (Three Stars): This is the story of the prostitute the waiter falls for,
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
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.
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
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
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
Jakey Gee
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
"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
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
M. Newman
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
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.
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
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.
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.
It is a little embarrassing to think it took me about the same time to read The Brothers Karamazov as it did to read this book. But last year I was attempting to read 50 books, so I put myself on something of a reading regime. 2015 I've decided to cut myself some slack, with the result that it took me an entire month to get through Hamilton's trilogy (technically three books, I guess?).

That aside, I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. Hamilton's prose is smooth and easy to read, marked
c1935: FWFTB: pub, prostitute, barmaid, sleazy, desires. I would probably put this book on one of those lists that try and profile books that do/did not deserve to go out of print. Many of the 'classics'. I think, have been preserved because of their inclusion into the multitude of required reading lists when taking English Literature but I doubt this book would have cracked the nod simply because of its subject matter. I found it fascinating but, at the same time, depressing. Contemporaneous, n ...more
rachael gibson
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
This trilogy, written and set in 30s London, reminded me of the Patrick Melrose novels. The writing was appealingly quirky but no less grim. This is the kind of book where you find yourself frequently imposing yourself on your spouse or anyone around to read passages aloud. Each of the major characters, Bob a pub waiter, Jenny a prostitute, and Ella, a barmaid, has their own book, so you get basically the same story from three perspectives. The prose can be wordy with eccentric capitalizations a ...more
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
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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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