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Room at the Top (At the Top)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,623 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
The ruthlessly ambitious Joe Lampton rises swiftly from the petty bureaucracy of local government into the world of inherited wealth, fast cars and glamorous women. But betrayal and tragedy strike as the original 'angry young man' of the fifties pursues his goals.
Hardcover
Published by Methuen Publishing (first published 1957)
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Sue
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sue by: David Bowie's Top 100 Books
Joe Lampton was orphaned when a bomb killed his parents as they slept. His Aunt and Uncle raise him dutifully but his goal is escape and betterment--The Top. Money. Good Marriage. Great House. Great Sex. Not all necessarily from the same source, of course, but it would be nice to combine a few. So he makes his move by physically transporting himself to a new town, new job, and the tale begins.

Braine's prose drew me in from the start. He has a way of making Joe intriguing even when his motives an
...more
Paul Bryant
Jun 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels

And Tom Jones begat Nicholas Nickleby who begat Heathcliff who begat Paul Morel who begat Oliver Mellors who begat Steerpike; and Steerpike begat Jim Dixon who begat Joe Lampton who begat William Fisher who begat Arthur Seaton who begat Frederick Clegg; and Frederick Clegg begat Frank Machin who begat Alfie Elkins who begat Alex DeLarge; and Alex DeLarge begat Mark Renton; and these were the generations of the toilers by hand in the land of Albion; and some were blessed and lived off the fat of
...more
Susan
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1957, this debut novel is an example of the ‘Angry Young Men’ fiction of the 1950’s and 1960’s. These novels generally involve themes of class, resentment and anger and the main character in this novel, Joe Lampton, personifies all these feelings. Lampton comes from the Northern mill town of Dufton. His parents were killed in air raid, leaving him to be brought up by an aunt. When we meet him, he has returned from the war, he is twenty five, and is about to leave the confines of his ...more
C.S. Burrough
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Most
This good old (1957) nostalgic winter's night read had me gripped from start to finish. John Braine's gritty post-war British characters are astonishingly true, their strengths believable, their defects authentic, their dialogue the real McCoy.

After studying accountancy as a Prisoner of War, ex-serviceman Joe Lampton leaves his northern English hometown of Dufton, where he grew up a poor orphan after his parents were killed in an air raid.

Chasing a new life, Joe arrives in nearby Warley to comm
...more
Nigeyb
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gritty, cynical and credible book.

Room at the Top (1957) by John Braine still packs a heck of a punch. I’d wanted to read Room at the Top for a long time having watched the memorable 1959 film adaptation with Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret's Oscar winning performance. The film adaptation has stayed with me since I viewed it in the early 1980s, so I was gratified to discover that the book is every bit as good as I’d hoped.

Room at the Top is one of the best known examples of social realism
...more
Kaph
Verdict: A morality tale for the modern age chock-full of insight so unflinching that even after half a century it will still make you flinch.

I don’t quite know what to say about “Room at the Top” except that I can see how it might grate with even the most casual of contemporary feminist. For my part I can’t agree. Not because I hate women, but because I feel this view rather misses the forest for the trees. More on that later, though. First, a brief overview. I can’t imagine I’ll have a huge po
...more
Tony Fletcher
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Novel set in post-war Northern England is like a time capsule into a past world where even the educated working classes faced limited opportunities unless they demonstrated the rare avarice to try and climb socially via marriage - which forms the basis of the narrator's quest. If the amount of alcohol consumed by rich and poor alike through the process of this story fails to surprise (this is England, after all), then the degree of pre-marital, extra-marital, passing and unprotected sex may shoc ...more
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sister_ray
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was ok

First read in 1991 for school: It made me terribly angry, because I absolutely loathed the first-person-narrator. He's a misogynistic, manipulating and socially upward asshole and I was furious that we had to read this stuff. I was guilty of confusing the narrator with the author and transferred all my anger onto John (without a) Braine.
Upon re-reading I'm still not sure that the writer himself sees things differently than his protagonist. Sure, Britain's post-war society with its class boundar
...more
metaphor
Nov 10, 2015 rated it liked it
As I took her roughly into my arms I felt loneliness come over me, real as the damp churchyard smell of the grass, melancholy as the sound of the beck in the little glen below us. I felt heavy as Sunday, as if time might drag me into a world like a bad engraving, still and dark and dull and lost.
Nicole
I think a lot of people still think like this today, even if they don't end up bloody and drunk in the street at the end. The hierarchy of grades of partner seems awfully familiar, and the sense of distance from your own happiness is, sadly, not simply a product of a 50s mindset.
Steven
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, british
1 of the great gems of modern literature - if you have a heart, you will be in tears. Unfortunately, an all too true account of how love is in the real world, rather than how we wish it were.
Philip
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
It’s fifty years since A Room At The Top first appeared. Against a backdrop of post-war Britain, a period when people really did believe that a new future, a different kind of society was just around the corner, Joe Lampton, born January 1921, aspired to social and economic elevation. Though competent and already promoted, as a local government officer in a grubby northern English town, with spare time interests in amateur dramatics, cigarettes and beer, even he himself rated his prospects of su ...more
Cecily
Written in 1957, but set a little earlier, this is the story of a shameless social climber.

Orphaned Joe was raised by his working class aunt and uncle in a grim northern industrial town. Whilst a PoW, he studied for accountancy qualifications and after the war moves to a more prosperous town. He lodges with a well-to-do middle aged couple, gets involved with the local amateur dramatic group ands sets about bettering himself (whilst ensuring he gets plenty of sex too - it was probably pretty racy
...more
Owain Lewis
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Joe Lampton has to be one of the great characters of post war fiction: smart, passionate and massively conflicted. Braine writes Lampton's experiences almost like a memoir, with ocassional references to the fact that he's got what he wanted, or at least what he thought he wanted - always in the background there's the sense of something missed or lost entirely but it's not quite regret. It's a sad book full of people trapped by the cages of class and reputation, with brief moments of escape, whic ...more
Chris
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
John Braine's postwar novel, another installment in the 'angry young men' genre, focuses on the meteoric rise of the young Joe Lampton. The protagonist moves to the northern industrial town of Warley and sets himself the challenge of making room for himself at the top of the social ladder.

He flees the zombie filled restrictions of his hometown and gets himself a room with The Thompsons, a local family with links to the local theatre group. Not one to turn down an opportunity, he immediately gets
...more
Lostaccount
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Joe Lampton ("I’m better looking than everyone else") narcissistic womaniser with a chip on his shoulder about being working class relocates from crappy Dufton (up north somewhere) to Warley (who knows where) in the hope of rising t’top but ends up trying to sleep his way to the top.

Joe meets his first batch of victims at the local theatre group. But he has a rival for his affection in Jack Wales, a moneyed toff, betrothed to Susan, the nineteen year old naive little chaste rich bitch whom Joe f
...more
Vanessa (V.C.)
Aug 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
There may not be a lot in plot, but Room at the Top has a whole lot in character, and that character is Joe Lampton. He's a character that we aren't meant to like. He's an anti-hero and he knows it. He's a social climber. He rates people based on levels and on monetary value. He wants to be in love, but it isn't enough that he has to like the woman of his desires, she has to be rich, or be in some kind of high class standing, for him to be remotely interested. And he wants the finer things in li ...more
Rob
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sitting opposite my Dad on the train, he noticed the dust jacket of this book and remarked - 'Joe Lampton?'

Hence, my realisation that in his day, and largely due to the subsequent TV series rather than John Braine's novel, Lampton was as familiar a character as Dirty Den or JR; D'Angelo Barksdale or Don Draper.

The novel spins on the reader's view - is Lampton's behaviour condoned or condemned? There's no doubt he's fully dislikeable and his behaviour is appalling but the inner voice lent by the
...more
Lucie Novak
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book in Czech a long time ago. I loved it and read it several times. The brilliantly written flawed main character. I liked the second part, too.
Sally
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
"I was moving into the attack and no one had better try to stop me"
By sally tarbox on 8 December 2017
Format: Paperback
Grabs you from the first page: narrated by fiercely ambitious young Joe Lampton, an intelligent lad from a humble background. It's just after WW2 and accountant Joe has broken away from his grim northern hometown of Dufton for an accountancy position in the much more salubrious Warley. He appreciates his new, elegant lodgings,the middle class folk around him; he starts mixing wit
...more
Cheryl
I really want to know why David Bowie had this on his top 100 list. The thing is, I do think it redeemed itself (for me) by the end, but not enough to make it even a 4 star book.

It reminded me of a lot of other things I've read, not in its entirety, but seemed to have shades of other books as inspiration. The two in particular being The Great Gatsby and An American Tragedy. I'm not as familiar with the social hierarchy in England, but it seems that both sides of the pond were similar.

For the mos
...more
Sharon Loveday
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the writing style

I liked the writing style and the in-depth insight into Joe Lampton's character. I can't say I "enjoyed" the book overall though as it was disjointed in places. Joe is a seedy, ambitious character from a sad background. The author makes a good job of taking him out of his home setting and placing him in where he aspires to be so we can see the misfit.
Joanna
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Compared to so many books that feel written to be read, composed for effect, this is a lot closer to the bone, willing to get closer to what feels like the truth. A plot that holds together and a main character you cannot love but can get to know, and recognise, and a world of post-war England that is vivid and true, and is still somehow part of us, however much we might wish that were not so.
Mark
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
A little disappointed.
Certainly interesting and a book very much of its time. But it hasn't aged well for me.
And the casual racism, and acceptance of domestic violence don't sit well with a modern reader.
Jay Shelat
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional from start to finish, even though the protagonist/narrator of Room at the Top is an awful person with little to no redeemable qualities.
Peer
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-reads
Wow, this is a hell of a book. I should have read it when I was in my twenties.
Wayne
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
wonderful read. Great writing.
Angelika Tsivinskaya
Typical story.
Alex
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul McGann reads this audio book and he does a beautiful job.
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Could Joe Lampton exist today? 1 1 Oct 15, 2016 06:52AM  
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John Gerard Braine was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1922. He sprang to immediate fame in 1957 with publication of his first novel, Room at the Top, which was a critical success and a major bestseller in England and America and was adapted for the screen in an Oscar-winning 1959 film starring Simone Signoret and Laurence Harvey. His second novel, The Vodi (1959), met with mixed reviews and a disa ...more
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