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The Midnight Bell (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky #1)
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The Midnight Bell

(Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  142 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
The Midnight Bell tells the story of Bob, a sailor turned bar waiter who falls in love with Jenny, a prostitute who visits the pub. Ella, the barmaid at the pub, is secretly in love with Bob.
221 pages
Published (first published 1929)
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Doug H
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
“The approach of love is something as stealthy and imperceptible as the catching of a cold. A man of spirit never knows he has it until the last moment.”

A genius character-driven story of obsessive love infatuation.

It’s amazing to me that The Midnight Bell was published when Patrick Hamilton was only 25 years old. Its masterfully controlled narrative and adept language-play feels like the product of a more mature author.

The first of a trilogy of novels later re-published in one volume as Twent
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Midnight Bell (1929) is the first book of the Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky trilogy - the other two are The Siege of Pleasure (1932) and The Plains of Cement (1934).

Around a year before reading the book I watched a DVD of the BBC4 adaptation screened in 2005 - three one hour episodes (one per book). On reflection I wish I hadn't watched the TV adaptation first as I think I'd prefer not to have known the story before I read the book. My mental image of the characters was based on the
Michael Brooke
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 much as he can do (he has ambitions to write, his room littered with copies of John O'London's Weekly) and has ...more
Roger Pettit
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Patrick Hamilton, who died in 1962, is one of the hidden jewels of English novel-writing. He's an accomplished author whose work is inexplicably and quite unfairly neglected these days. His most famous book is 'Hangover Square', which is very good indeed. 'The Midnight Bell', which appeared in 1929 and is the first of a trilogy of novels that was collected and published in the mid-1930s under the title 'Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky', is every bit as good as 'Hangover Square'. Indeed, I ...more
Liam Byrne
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of ready Andy Miller’s ‘A Year of Dangerous Reading’ (second mention of this book already, but he is responsible for at least my next two books that I’ve completed). Like seemingly all humans, I’m pre-disposed to enjoy lists of any sort; as a reader and writer, a list about books is nirvana-esque in nature. These were all books that had Miller had lied to people about reading, both in general and in his previous incarnation as a worker in a bookshop.

I couldn
James Fountain
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A terrific insight into 1930s London life through the eyes of a barman, who is an autobiographical projection of the novel's author, Hamilton. Well-controlled narrative with characters who are brightly and realistically painted. There are many fine passages in the novel and it is surprising that the trilogy of which this is the first part, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, is not better known...
Moira Dennison
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
A pub in the Euston Road, a barman with savings and a working girl who happily takes him for a ride. The descriptions of the drinkers who frequent the bar are still familiar today. The London that Hamilton describes is still there too. It's never going to end well this tale of mis placed love and the air of gaiety that descends on Soho and the West End is brittle and cheap and only serves to reinforce the superficial nature of what he thinks of as love and she sees as a meal ticket.

Geo Forman
Sep 16, 2012 rated it liked it
A London put waiter falls for a prostitute who stops into the pub one night. She and her lady friend are discussing her small, but immediate need of this week's rent money. The waiter gives her the sum and she promises to come back the following night to repay the debt. He thinks very highly of himself for gifting money to someone whom most people would not even talk to. Of course, she does not return so on his next evening off work he "casually" strolls the neighborhood where folks of her calli ...more
Ian Mapp
Mar 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Part of a trilogy, where the book had to be returned as it had been ordered. So there are two of us out there reading hamilton.

This is a straight forward story on similar ground to HS that probably proves too things... 1) Hamilton has a emotionally juvenile understanding of women 2) the dialogue becomes repetitive but is saved by some stunning observations and sweet sentance construction.

Bob works in the Midnight Bell and has saved £80. Ella also works there and is in love with Bob, but Bob stri
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked this book, quite a lot in fact but the protagonist really did infuriate me immensely. Hamilton manages to capture something quite unique in the pages of this book: real life, by that I mean actually what life is like, the torment, the indecision, the difficulty, the highs and the lows. I found the ending a little bit weird but I am assuming because it is a trilogy that Bob will pop up again. Hamilton is descriptive but that's part of the sheer brilliance of it, it does take a long time f ...more
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Incredibly well observed writing. At times it made me feel claustrophobic as the nuances of every interaction are detailed in real-time. Over the course of the trilogy I developed a real fondness for 2 of the 3 key characters, and a real sense of what it took to survive London in that era.
Jon Knight
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A gripping and thoroughly entertaining jaunt through London in the early 1900s... The writer draws you into a beautiful and achingly familiar narrative to all men... A love story for boys! First of a trilogy... Bring on the rest!
Adam  McPhee
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: england
The cringing pain of watching a friend idiotically fall in love with someone uninterested and particularly cruel, combined with slowly watching your finances drip away as you slip into poverty. Eli Roth has nothing on this torture porn.
Steven Rainer
Jun 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Erica Chambers
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tales from the dark streets of Fitzrovia and Soho in the '30's. Beautifully atmospheric... The Midnight Bell is a fabulous book.
Adam Stevenson
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I decided to read this because it struck me as the perfect book to read in October, full of dark nights spent huddled in the corner of foetid pubs drinking dark beers. I was not disappointed.

Hamilton knew pubs. He spent a lot of time in them and he has a completely accurate understanding of pub dynamics. The description of the regulars, who all talk too much, none of whom listen at all - is perfect. Their dynamic, where none really like any of the others but being stuck in a room together with d
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a book you have to diive into, not only in the time, the locations, but also in its own particular narrative (often times wordy and metaphorically abusive, but I think it was fashionable at the time, in a Great Gatsby's vibe , even more coloquial and bleak for sure). The story is very relatable, the characters can be a bit annoying at times, but is the way Hamilton is able to put in you in the mood of each situation, the recreation of feelings of impatiences, anger, but above all, loss. ...more
Vel Veeter
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cbr-9
This first novel takes its name from the the name of the pub which is the center of all three novels. We meet Bob, the beloved half-Irish/half-American bartender who’s going to be a writer some day. For now, he’s saving up his money (has about 80 pounds/$1000 or so now) for his next big move. He’s not interested in Ella the plain but lovely barmaid or at too much of the life around him. He knows he drinks too much, but that’s ok because he’s got a system in place.

Then he meets Jenny, a chaotic a
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, london
The fact that The Midnight Bell is semi-autobiographical helps give credence to Bob the barman’s otherwise puzzling infatuation with the insouciant Jenny. It’s not a great explanation to say that “dreams were his life...[and] Bob believed that one day his dreams would come true”, but I suppose Patrick Hamilton may have felt the same, in real life, about his Lily. So what is Bob’s dream? Jenny looks very pretty and as such is an attractive companion for a young man with ambitions. But she also lo ...more
Slagle Rock
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Reading this book straight off the author’s Hangover Square, I must say there was something of an echo effect going on with our male protagonist who ought to know better far gone in love over another unworthy female antagonist interest again. Patrick Hamilton does seem to do these self-deluded Romeos rather well, the liner notes say he was a bit mad for trollops himself. OK. Well, on the positive side the two books are different. Midnight Bell is far less tragic. It also has some great dialogue ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy Silverman
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Apparently based on his own life and experience, Hamiton's story nevertheless quickly becomes all too predictable. Just the same, I very much appreciated his ability to powerfully evoke what was his contemporary London of the late 1920s. Much of the book takes place in a pub in central London and on the streets of Soho. Not only are the sights and sounds of these scenes vividly evoked, but I felt I could detect the scent of the beer.
Thomas Barrett
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: free-reading
Full of pathos and some fantastic writing about alcohol and getting blotto. Reminded me of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat but transported to London.
Katy L
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Moving and finely observed. This is the first book of a trilogy entitled 'Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky.' I liked it so much I am moving directly into the 2nd book, 'The Siege of Pleasure.'
Sep 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent book, great ending paragraph.
Andrew Mackay
rated it it was amazing
Jun 15, 2015
rated it really liked it
Jan 24, 2014
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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

Other books in the series

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (4 books)
  • The Siege of Pleasure (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky #2)
  • The Plains of Cement (Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky #3)
  • Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky