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The L-Shaped Room (Jane Graham #1)

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  2,083 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
In this bestselling novel which became a famous film, Janet Graham, alone and pregnant, retreats to a bug-infested attic bedsit in Fulham where she finds unexpected companionship, happiness and love.

Alternate cover for ISBN13: 9780099469636
Paperback, 269 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1960)
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Paul Bryant
Mar 03, 2017 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
It’s such a drag being an unwilling member of the PC Police, scanning fiction from the 1950s for standard racism and homophobia and grilling authors about their gender politics, so that when you choose to read a novel published in 1960 about a 27 year old woman having an illegitimate baby you feel you want to lay all the righteousness to one side and jump into this different pre-swinging time, just as you would a Jane Austin crinolinefest. But this author doesn’t make it easy to do that because ...more
Feb 02, 2014 Nigeyb rated it really liked it
It's easy to forget how completely different the late 1950s were in Britain when compared with the early 21st century. "The L-Shaped Room" by Lynne Reid Banks is a perfect time capsule that puts us right back into that era. Even for readers who know about the differences it's still a shocking read. Crass and cliched racial stereotypes abound and, lest we forget, this was how the majority of British people perceived "foreigners" living in Britain, and - at this book's heart - just what a taboo it ...more
This was published before the sixties swung (1960) and is the story of Jane, an upper middle class girl of 27 who finds herself pregnant and single. She moves out of her father’s house, into an L-shaped room in a dodgy house in a dodgy area.

Her self-awareness and the way she analyses her feelings and those of people around make the novel transcend its period – although she dislikes Toby’s “useless fund of self-knowledge”. At times she wants to punish herself, and telling her father was like a bu
The L-Shaped Room

List of characters

Jane Graham
Jane's father
Proprietor of the paper shop
Frank - cafe owner
Malcolm - gay actor
Terry - actor in a travelling theatre troupe
Doris - landlady
John Graham - (no relation) elderly doctor
Mrs Graham - the doctor's wife
Mrs Williams - decayed gentry, had the room prior to Jane
Toby Coleman/Cohen - writer
Mavis - elderly spinster downstairs
John - negro jazz musician (negro was an accepted term in the 1960s)
Jane - older prostitute
Sonia - prostitute
James Paige -
Jan 11, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
In London, in the late 1950s, society did not look kindly upon unmarried women who fell pregnant.

Jane was nobody’s fool.

She had been an actress, with a touring company, and she was doing well. She didn’t have much money, but she managed, she was happy doing what she wanted to do with her life. But Jane got on the wrong side of a difficult actor, and was ‘let go’.

She was too proud, too independent, to go home and so she took a job in a cafe. And she made a success of it, working diligently and in
Jan 08, 2013 Bookguide rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a teenager, and it was probably the first teenage book I read. As such, it made a huge impression on me and made me think about gritty social issues which I had never before considered: abortion, teenage mothers, poverty. These were all things which I had no actual first-hand experience of, and the idea of the multiracial society was worlds away in my provincial town. I didn't realise that there were sequels to 'The L-Shaped Room'. It would be interesting to read the whole series ...more
Feb 28, 2017 Maygirl7 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memory-rating
I read this when I was 22 and living in London. It made me search all Lynn Reid Banks books for a while. Just thinking about this book is causing a rush of memories and remembered emotions. If just thinking about a book can cause that much internal activity, I feel justified in the five stars.
Mar 21, 2010 Alison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a strange one. Having read and enjoyed the Indian in the Cupboard as a child, I was intrigued by the idea of reading a 'grown-up' novel by the same author. It was not a great book - characters were characters instead of people was my main complaint and it had the feel of a soap opera or a Romeo and Juliet love story where people seem to have no brains and fall victim to the passion of love when it suits the plot. The strangest part of the book was the constant racist and anti-Semitic co ...more
I first read this book in junior high. I read about it in the back of some other book. I put it on hold, or requested it from the library. When it came the library clerk tried to give it to my mother, mistakenly thinking she had requested it. He had hard a time accepting that a tiny little girl like me wanted to read it. ( I may have been around 12 or 13 but I looked like I 8 or 9) I remember him looking at the both of us like I shouldn't be reading this book. My mother never restricted me from ...more
Mar 21, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I raced through this book. It's easy to read and the heroine––stubborn, smart, capable––is easy to like. The casual slurs she drops about blacks, Jews, and homosexuals are nasty, but they accurately reflect ordinary thinking in the late '50s; that fact doesn't make them more acceptable, but it does put them into a context. Of course, the viciously casual rejection of such people as being outside social norms and thus undeserving of respect resembles the attitude directed at pregnant single women ...more
Mar 27, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane's struggle to cope is a journey of self discovery and independence..... a wistful and haunting period piece.

You can almost feel the squalor of the stark dingy L shaped room where Jane goes when her father threw her out after he discovered she was pregnant.
Set in 1950's London where life was very different and unmarried mother's were frowned upon!
Jane ends up in a bed sit in a house in Fulham.
Beset by bed bugs, dirt and morning sickness.
Her neighbours bring comfort to her, John the black mus
Apr 18, 2010 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It must be more than 10 years since I read this book, originally bought for me by my mother but lent out somewhere on life's path. It was appropriate though that on a wet day in March I happened across a battered old hardback edition in my local library and took it home for a happy re-read.

This book exudes the feel of the early sixties, and is surprisingly honest about taboo subjects at the time - single mothers, prostitution, abortion, racism, and homosexuality. Jane is in her late twenties and
Jan 13, 2013 Melee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't the edition I have. I would add my copy to the goodreads database except it was published in 1975 and has a horrible reeks-of-70s, are-these-even-the-right-characters cover. Every time I look at it I giggle and grimace simultaneously. Also in my edition, on the last page there's a lone ad to buy The Joy of Sex for only $5.95. Woot! I wonder if I sent in the voucher now if I could still get it for such a groovy price.

Anyhow. The L-Shaped Room. In my opinion, not nearly as good as Marga
Nov 17, 2010 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
I felt that there was a certain truth to Jane. She was a contrary little snob filled to the brim with a toxic mix of self-pity, racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. But I didn't think other aspects worked very well. Aunt Addy arriving on Christmas morning was a bit silly; why hadn't Jane previously mentioned her caring and unconventional spinster aunt as a potential source of support?

If you read this, you need to be prepared for:

"A surge of the powerful negro odour preceded him."

"You might just
I read this in the early 70s. The story probably stood up better then than now. I do not think that you can look at this 1950s story (or the 60s) with todays moral standards. If you became pregnant and you were unmarried it was a disgrace and you had three choses, A shot gun wedding, the unmarried mothers home and adoption or if you were lucky your mother would bring the child up as her own.
Women were wolf whistled and shouted to in the street, plus groped on the tube in the 'rush hour' crush.
Oct 28, 2009 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few weeks ago I happened to catch the 1962 film with Leslie Caron on TCM and liked it so I tracked down the book, which I liked as well. It is about a young, pregnant woman who's father has thrown her out and she goes to live in a boarding house. She vows to herself not to become involved with the the other tenants while she decides what to do with her life as that will only complicate her situation. Of course she does and it does. It was a good story, kept me interested, nice detail. It was, ...more
The L-Shaped Room is one of those books that was incredibly brave and daring for its time (1960) and I feel like I would have perhaps enjoyed it a lot more had I read it back then. I didn't really warm to the main character Jane very much, a young pregnant woman who has been kicked out of her family home by her father. She ends up renting the 'l-shaped room', a shabby and dirty flat in the rough end of town, with prostitutes in the basement and begins to interact with the various other tenants. ...more
Jan 30, 2010 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. It's a sad little tale following a pregnant girl/woman who has got 'knocked up' after a brief fling. It follows her life over a year and how she copes with it in an age where unmarried mothers are excluded and shamed.

You do feel for the character but there were lots of points where I'd have given her a slap and told her to get a grip as she was wishy washy. Perhaps that's my personality but I do recommend you read it to see if you agree.
Jun 14, 2010 Bettie☯ rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC7 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 03, 2017 Greta marked it as not-to-read  ·  review of another edition
An excerpt from David's review(

f you read this, you need to be prepared for:

"A surge of the powerful negro odour preceded him."

"You might just as well describe your plot to a shop-girl in Woolworth's and hope she'd see its possibilities."

"Do negroes have more teeth than other people? I'll swear they do."

"Better you than some club for Jewish juvenile delinquents. Take it and buy a pram, and if your conscience bothers you, paint 'Down with Arabs' on one side
Amy Westgarth
Jan 03, 2014 Amy Westgarth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Definitely a book of its time and full of outdated ideas. The main plot point about the shame of being an unmarried mother isn't really shocking or relevant today.

Despite that, I enjoyed the book. That might be in part down to the fact I read the book while on holiday, most often with a can of cheap wine in my other hand.

I like books written in the first person which this was – from the point of view of said unmarried mother Jane. It was interesting to follow her on her journey and to see how
Sep 12, 2012 Kirsty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Really enjoyed this book. I was hooked from the start by the narrator, Jane, who has a compelling voice. Some of the interest for me is in how much times have changed. Jane is unmarried and pregnant and experiences huge amounts of prejudice as a result, which is hard to imagine now (thankfully). This could be a depressing book, but actually is mostly about the unexpected kindness of the people she meets and therefore isn't.

It is a first person narrative and there are some unpleasant remarks on
Dec 12, 2012 Becky rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama, classic, library
Although certain aspects of this novel (namely the attitudes towards race) do feel a little dated now, the basic premise of this novel is still excellent. The reactions towards the unmarried mother in this story are presented in a heartfelt and genuine manner. The way in which relationships develop and grow are quite lovely. Having read The Millstone earlier in the year it was interesting to read another novel of a similar period, covering a similar topic. Banks certainly presents 1960's pregnan ...more
Oct 13, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 While many would find this book quite dated, I loved it. In London, Jane has taken a room in a boarding house after she becomes pregnant and her father makes her leave the house. The house is dated and dreary, and the first night in her room, Jane sees bugs crawling out of her mattress. But she makes a home for herself and becomes involved with the characters in the house. I loved Jane's braveness and lack of self-pity. There are two books that follow about Jane and her child that I look f ...more
Lisa Stewart
Jan 09, 2015 Lisa Stewart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of those books I've always intended to read, and glad I finally got round to it. Many of its central themes feel as relevant today as they were when it was written - from a gender equality perspective, it made me feel at some points heartened at progress made and at other times sad and reflective that progress hasn't been greater. A simplistic approach to the relationships between characters, but gripping and brilliantly written with moments of insight that sort of take you by surprise.
Josephine Grace
My mother in law gave me this book. I haven't seen the film. I thought it had a lot to offer, particular in the character of the protagonist. I didn't find her very likeable: too privileged and a bit ditsy, but nonetheless she seemed realistic for the time. I didn't really have a problem with her racism or homophobia which seemed entirely in character.
I didn't like the ending which was a bit fairytale for me.
Mar 04, 2015 Annette rated it liked it
This was a ground-breaking story at the time back in the sixties, however, the writing itself doesn't stand the test of time.

Some of the attitudes in the book will make people wince though bothered me less, it was after all the way things were back then.

Not a great writer but significant in its time.
Carey Combe
Putting aside the 'of-its-time' racist and sexist aspects, what most annoyed me about this book was the 'happy ending', the unrealistic coincidences throughout so much of the book and the stereotypes of cad / writer/ landlady etc. However, I can see why it was a ground-breaking book and it was a reasonably enjoyable read.
Apr 02, 2008 Nickie marked it as binned  ·  review of another edition
Bleh. What was it about the 50s/60s that everyone felt they had to document every poxy detail of every poxy thing they did/saw. Well, it was the fact that everything was changing. But that doesn't mean that I have to like it.
This was the first book I was asked to read in Language 1 at the Teaching Training College. I was fascinated by the way it was written . I even copied phrases in a booklet, and I intended to use in my own writings. It is one of the most beautiful memories I have from that year in College.
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Lynne Reid Banks is a British author of books for children and adults. She has written forty books, including the best-selling children's novel The Indian in the Cupboard, which has sold over 10 million copies and been made into a film.
Banks was born in London, the only child of James and Muriel Reid Banks. She was evacuated to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada during World War II but returned after
More about Lynne Reid Banks...

Other Books in the Series

Jane Graham (3 books)
  • The Backward Shadow (Jane Graham, #2)
  • Two Is Lonely (Jane Graham, #3)

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