A bleak, meagre novel depicting single life in wartime England. Rich in pompous bullies, spiteful villains, middle class etiquette and lost values, HaA bleak, meagre novel depicting single life in wartime England. Rich in pompous bullies, spiteful villains, middle class etiquette and lost values, Hamilton is painfully accurate in his depiction of the pettiness and tension that results from lonely, unmarried characters forced to live together in a small town boarding house. This novel is semi-autobiographical, cathartic perhaps, drawing on Hamilton's rollercoaster personal life. The detail of the dinner scenes is so precise, and reminded me of the observational skills demonstrated in Alan Bennett's work (decades later, of course). By the end, the central character is offered redemption from the solitude, but the redemption is a false hope, the impeding doom of the London Blitz building on the horizon.
Hamilton is a great British writer. Many have claimed this to be his finest work;; Doris Lessing and Michael Holroyd provide introductions to this edition....more
A semi-autobiographical and bizarrely comical tale about a 50 year old, male novelist who takes a cruise to escape from his mid-life crisis. Waugh firA semi-autobiographical and bizarrely comical tale about a 50 year old, male novelist who takes a cruise to escape from his mid-life crisis. Waugh fires both barrels at the sneering media critics of his time whilst taking a satirical look at the effects of pharmaceutically-induced hallucinations (a side-effect of prescribed medication in all probability), paranoia and mental breakdown on the mind of a creative novelist (ie, himself). This edition carries background information and excerpts from various interviews to help explain the novel. Short in comparison to Brideshead and the Sword of Honour trilogy, this is one that Waugh fans could easily devour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Just not on a boat if you're male and middle-aged.... ...more
Originally written as a Christmas "shilling shocker" commission in 1885 for Longmans (supernatural short stories and creepy tales were often commissioOriginally written as a Christmas "shilling shocker" commission in 1885 for Longmans (supernatural short stories and creepy tales were often commissioned for the festive season at the end of the 19th Century), this original and compelling short story continues to influence modern-day culture. To appreciate this story, one must abandon all preconceptions and current interpretations and read this book from a blank canvas as readers would have done in 1885. RLS draws on late 19th Century ideas of human psychology, evolutionary biology, class structure, drug addiction, morality and sexual deviation to create his terror figures of Dr Jekyll (of a higher social status) and Mr Hyde (of a lower status). Readers can easily identify the themes which captured people's imagination and have survived today - the split personality, good versus evil, social class morality etc etc.
The novel is accompanied by two bookend pieces by Robert Mighall who examines the idea of the Jekyll and Hyde split personality and provides a wealth of notes on the story. He also considers how this novel may have affected the media coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders in the East End of London thus creating the numerous theories on this unsolved series of horrific crimes that continue to thrive today.
This edition also includes two further "shilling shockers" and an essay: Olalla, a tale of family vampires (notably, this was written before Bram Stoker's Dracula) The Body Snatcher, where RLS writes a take on Burke and Hare A Chapter on Dreams, where RLS contemplates the role of dreams in his creative writing...more
Classic tension thriller........ terribly nice single solicitor chap from the big city sent off to deal with the country estate and remote house of aClassic tension thriller........ terribly nice single solicitor chap from the big city sent off to deal with the country estate and remote house of a recently deceased solitary old woman...... the local inhabitants are somewhat unhelpful to the new boy and are expressively wary of the remote house..... the terribly nice single solicitor chap from the big city cries "Pah!" to the local nonsense and sets off to deal with the house... you can guess the rest, or can you? I won't say what happens....
Susan Hill is an accomplished writer of the short story, and this is a decent chiller that draws on many gothic horror themes with a swift narrative that quickly builds the tension, pulses through a number of frightening moments, offers a worthy back story, and concludes with a feasible twist to end the tale. Don't dwell, read this in one sitting....more
Bleak, intense, traumatic, provocative. The chapters describing home leave are as moving and brutally honest as all the passages detailing battle in tBleak, intense, traumatic, provocative. The chapters describing home leave are as moving and brutally honest as all the passages detailing battle in the trenches. ...more
False romanticism, betrayal, adultery, death, the tragedy of ancestral pride, irony, social satire,..... crikey, it's all in this one. With the most bFalse romanticism, betrayal, adultery, death, the tragedy of ancestral pride, irony, social satire,..... crikey, it's all in this one. With the most bizarre ending of any Waugh novel, A Handful of Dust is semi-autobiographical, drawing on the years of Waugh's divorce and his travels across Europe, Africa and South America. Waugh doesn't hold back on the bitterness for his female characters, and satirically offers up the central male character, Tony Last, as a betrayed romantic, a weak and inactive voyeur of the disintegration of his family's upper class lifestyle. This Penguin Classics edition also includes an alternative ending, written by Waugh for an American serialisation of the novel....more
Interwoven tales of pioneering aeronautical adventure, recalling flights into uncharted territories and stories of Saint-Exupery's comrades in the fleInterwoven tales of pioneering aeronautical adventure, recalling flights into uncharted territories and stories of Saint-Exupery's comrades in the fledgling French airline business form this 1939 autobiography rich in descriptions of hostile environments, courageous determination and acts of human kindness. The trials of flying at night across the desert in primitive aircraft with limited instruments brought out highly emotive narratives and detailed a considered, humanistic insight at the perils of his co-pilots and the people which they encountered on their journeys. There were two passages that stood out for me. Firstly, during one of his flights into North Africa he is forced to land in uncharted territory, and here he describes being the first human being to set foot on a barren plateau, captivated by the discovery of black marbles of meteorites that had fallen there; secondly, by his tale of purchasing a man out of slavery. The origins of The Little Prince are easily identified here. This poetic, autobiographical novel sits alongside Southern Mail/Night Flight and Flight to Arras. ...more
Every once in a while, readers find an author who captures their imagination and leans on the buttons that press on their psyche. I have entered the wEvery once in a while, readers find an author who captures their imagination and leans on the buttons that press on their psyche. I have entered the world of Patrick Hamilton, and I am hooked.
This is the lonely, desperate and black world of 1939 pre-War Earls Court, centred on the story of an alcohol-fuelled schizophrenic who is infactuated with an archetypal wannabe actress who clearly doesn't love him. His infactuation is reciprocated with cruel, malicious and belittling manipulation from the femme fatale, resulting in a downward spiral of depressive risk-taking, naive decision-making and ill-judged reactive behaviours from the hero. He tries to escape his obsession, he tries to become objective, he hopes to reject his destructive lifestyle, but the arrival of a close friend confuses his world even futher. But to tell you more would give away the plot.
This is a tremendous novel, extremely dark, gritty, detailed, unnerving, black puns throughout (and right to the end), and even more beguiling when one discovers Hamilton's personal history. My only question: Can anyone explain the meaning of the white cat?...more