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  ·  651 ratings  ·  85 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...more
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...more
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...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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
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
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
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,...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.
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.
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...more
Michael Brooke
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...more
Terry Clague
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
Erin Boyington
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...more
Jonathan Terranova
I would have given it four stars if it wasn't for the dull third part. I found the character of Ella charming but colorless to read. When Mr. Eccles makes his advances on her it takes Hamilton about 5 pages to describe him asking her to go to the theatre with him. I wanted to tear my hair out at these parts; very much reminded me of some George Eliot know, like the rambling aspect...Dickens does it too, to a certain degree.

Jenny was quite an interesting character...lacked interest i...more
Nicholas During
I've only read the first book so far, "The Midnight Bell," so will limit my comments for now. However I really like what I've read. Not so angry as the English writers after the WWII, and in fact quite a humanist, which I was surprised about since I thought it was going to be totally hard-boiled, genre, blood-and-guts on the bar floor. But really it's about how hard life is for the poor in particular, and really probably everyone. The dialogue is excellent, not many people do it better, and I li...more
This book is actually a trilogy rolled into one, which works perfectly.

Each story could stand alone as a separate entity but they all flow together as each story covers a character that we initially meet in the first book - The Midnight Bell.

Having never read any books by Patrick Hamilton I bought this book based on a recommendation and I wasn't disappointed, Hamiltons writing really takes you into the world of the characters and creates a real sense of atmosphere. I could picture the pub in pa...more
I recently discovered this Author and have enjoyed several of his books. This one takes place in the 1920's in England and the story revolves around a seedy pub in London. The first quarter of the book tells the story of the "The Midnight Bell" and the characters who work and live there. The second quarter is about Bob the waiter who is sensible, scrimps and saves and dreams of writing a novel. He falls in love with a pretty prostitute and blows it all. The third quarter is about Jenny the beaut...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Three linked novellas: the story of handsome Bob the waiter at the Midnight Bell pub, a little north of Oxford street; then of Jenny, the prostitute with whom he is hopelessly infatuated; finally of Ella, the barmaid at the pub, who is hopelessly in love with Bob.

Hamilton is an astonishing social commentator. I get the feeling of 1930s London as in nothing else. His ear for dialogue is as sharp as ever; his doom-laden writing as gloomy, but as sardonic as ever; his characters as solidly drawn. I...more
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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
More about Patrick Hamilton...
Hangover Square The Slaves of Solitude The Gorse Trilogy: The West Pier, Mr Stimpson And Mr Gorse, Unknown Assailant Rope: A Play Gas Light

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“Only at dawn should a man awake from excess - at dawn agleam with red and sorrowful resolve.” 5 likes
“[...] 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.” 3 likes
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