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The Slaves of Solitude
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2018 Forgotten Books Selections > 1/18 The Slaves of Solitude

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message 1: by Carol (last edited Dec 28, 2017 11:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol (carolfromnc) This thread is for background and initial discussions about our January 2018 selection, The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton. Please hide spoilers behind tags in this discussion thread.

We'll plan to start reading and discussing as of January 1. (Hint. Get your copy!) Let us know if you plan to join, if you have a moment.


Carol (carolfromnc) The Rosamund Tea Rooms in Thames Lockdon (suburban London) was once a tearoom, but now has become a boarding house. Its residents are mostly middle-aged or elderly. Meals are enjoyed only at a scheduled time. The war is on. The blackout is in force.

The main character, Miss Roach, is what Barbara Pym referred to as an "excellent woman".

The boarding house also includes Mr. Thwaites, a bore and bully.

Links to two reviews I found interesting - each penned by bloggers.

https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2014...

https://pechorinsjournal.wordpress.co...

Below is an excerpt from Pechorin's Journal:

This is, I understand, the only wartime novel Hamilton wrote. The war here is in one sense far away. There are no bombs in this novel, no battles. In another sense though it’s ever present. The characters are only in Thames Lockdon because of the war. Mr. Thwaites only has Miss Roach in his power because of it. The war here is not exciting or even particularly frightening, rather it is a constant drain that affects every part of life.


message 3: by carissa (last edited Dec 31, 2017 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

carissa My copy is in transit from the library. I'll request Pym's Excellent Women as well! I think I may be one:) Thanks Carol.


Carol (carolfromnc) carissa wrote: "My copy is in transit from the library. I'll request Pym's Excellent Women as well! I think I may be one:) Thanks Carol."

Pym was one of my 2017 finds. I am curious whether you'll conclude you are or aren't. :)


carissa Carol wrote: "Pym was one of my 2017 finds. I am curious whether you'll conclude you are or aren't. :)"

It's one of those author/titles that comes up a lot, but I'm not familiar with. Now I'll remedy that.
And, I was just being silly. Not even sure what the Pym book is about, but I'll let you know either way.


Carol (carolfromnc) carissa wrote: "Carol wrote: "Pym was one of my 2017 finds. I am curious whether you'll conclude you are or aren't. :)"

It's one of those author/titles that comes up a lot, but I'm not familiar with. Now I'll rem..."


Silliness is a good thing :)


Carol (carolfromnc) @Hugh or Luella,

At our group bookshelf, please change Slaves of Solitude to "currently reading" ( and Children to "read").

Thank you!


Carol (carolfromnc) I'm on page 100 and things have taken an intriguing turn since Vicki has come on the scene. I do not like her, Sam I am. She's immensely watchable and intriguing, though, like a train wreck.

I am a fan of Hamilton's phrasing and at least once every three pages I'll encounter a sentence I stop and reread and --sometimes post as an update. As a whole, Slaves can be a tad dense, but in the way of all great literature. I'm noticing that my updates are getting an unusually large number of likes, which in my experience indicates that those who've read it have some residual passion for it and enjoy seeing friends reading it. I can see why.

I'm a fan of Miss Roach and feel for how "stuck" she is -- in an environment not of her ideal choosing, with one boarding house mate she abhors and fears, socializing from time to time, with a man who drinks substantially and pushes her to do the same, who aspires to own and operate a laundromat in Wilkes-Barre, who appears to be happy to hang with almost any reasonably attractive female who wanders into his orbit.

OTOH, while I am endeavoring not to approach the characters from a 21st Century sensibility, I don't quite understand why she and everyone else at Mrs. Payne'S Tea Room are so cowed by Thwaites. Life is full of opinionated blowhards who rare judgy and not nice. I wouldn't enjoy dining with him nightly, indeed, but why are Miss Roach and everyone so intimidated and uncomfortable? Somewhere in the deep recesses of my literary memory, I recall at least one Dickens character who was similarly obnoxious and, what, 50-75 years earlier, the other characters dealt with him with more gumption than this boarding house collective.

Has anyone else started it? Your thoughts?


message 9: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 279 comments Mod
Sorry - I can't see any way I can fit this one in this month. I have updated the group bookshelf.


Carol (carolfromnc) Hugh wrote: "Sorry - I can't see any way I can fit this one in this month. I have updated the group bookshelf."

Thanks, Hugh! If you ever do read it, .I'd be interested in your thoughts on it.


message 11: by carissa (last edited Jan 10, 2018 07:41PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

carissa I just finished the prologue. I'm deciding if I want to read Excellent Women first. hm. I should get to both by this weekend.


Carol (carolfromnc) carissa wrote: "I just finished the prologue. I'm deciding if I want to read Excellent Women first. hm. I should get to both by this weekend."

I'm far enough in to tell you that Miss Roach is not one of Pym's excellent women, except in spirit. Pym is referring to those not-employed-outside-the-home women whom the church and all other nonprofits count on to keep the wheels of a town turning, Those who prepare the altar floral arrangements, make cucumber sandwiches for all the funerals, organize and sort apparel donations to organizations serving the poor/needy, who can always be counted on to do some thankless task at the last moment and will always prepare a pot of tea with no notice.

Miss Roach is employed and not really embedded in the suburban community which is temporarily her home. She is also not quite yet of an age to be uncharitably called (ugh - hate the word) a spinster, a key qualification of excellency.

But my long-ago English Lit major self would have loved to write a paper comparing the two main characters. One thing I have to keep reminding myself of is that Miss Roach comes 25 years or so before Mildred Lathbury. In some ways, Miss Roach seems more contemporary.

In any event, I'm intrigued to hear your thoughts on either and both.


Carol (carolfromnc) A friend in another group shared this Backlisted podcast with me yesterday. It is fabulous. In the interest of full disclosure, it takes those participating in the conversation some time to get to discussing Slaves of Solitude. I didn't time it, but think it's approximately 45 minutes in duration. What they share along the way re Hamilton, generally, and other contemporaries is an eye opener at least for me, someone unfamiliar with Hamilton et al. I did not think it included any spoilers, but I'm not highly sensitive to what some consider spoilers...

https://soundcloud.com/backlistedpod/...


carissa Carol wrote: "I'm far enough in to tell you that Miss Roach is not ..."

oh! Church ladies...my mom is an excellent woman, without question. I've been calling myself a Spinster since I was 11/12 or so, when I first learned what that term meant! In my soul that's what I am...unbeholden!


Carol (carolfromnc) carissa wrote: "Carol wrote: "I'm far enough in to tell you that Miss Roach is not ..."

oh! Church ladies...my mom is an excellent woman, without question. I've been calling myself a Spinster since I was 11/12 or..."


I quite like "unbeholden", lol. I shall use that henceforth without attribution.


Cordelia (anne21) My copy has just come through from the library. I will start it today.


Carol (carolfromnc) Cordelia wrote: "My copy has just come through from the library. I will start it today."

Most excellent! We can flip to the spoilers-permitted thread whenever you all want to, or stay here through page 150 or so, then switch. I look forward to hearing your perspective on Vicky, the Lieutenant, et al.


Cordelia (anne21) Dont worry about me. Spoilers never bother me.


carissa Cordelia wrote: "Dont worry about me. Spoilers never bother me."

ditto.


Cordelia (anne21) This book is wonderful. The writing is amazing. At present reading about dinner in the dining room. Mr Thwaites is such a nasty man.

This is one of my favourite periods of British writing - the 1930s and 1940s.


Cordelia (anne21) Up to page 120. I've met Vicki. Not sure yet what to make of her. I certainly dont like her. She appears to be one of those careless people who run all over people's lives.

Alcohol plays a big part in the story which I suppose is not surprising considering Hamilton drank himself to death (3 bottles of whisky a day apparently).

The American Lootenant is a strange character - funny mix of man about town and small town American boy. Miss Roach is rather sweet. But I dont think that I would want to marry into a laundomat.


carissa I'm up to Chap 3.

What a group of sad pitiful characters. It's an excruciating read...the confinement of manners, writing style and actual space(s) occupied in the story. I have a bit of claustrophobia when reading this book...yikes!

I can see why he's compared to Austen, but he's a hateful (and so far, humorless) Austen.

And, the booze! yuck. I'm saddened, but not surprised that the author was an addict. It explains a lot about how it's written.


Cordelia (anne21) I can imagine Hamilton sitting in bed writing and think about booze until it was time to go out drinking (according to my introduction by Doris Lessing). Lessing also says that this was the atmosphere and the environment of that time. Perfectly described she says.


message 24: by carissa (last edited Jan 14, 2018 04:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

carissa Cordelia wrote: "I can imagine Hamilton sitting in bed writing and think about booze until it was time to go out drinking (according to my introduction by Doris Lessing). Lessing also says that this was the atmosph..."

Hamilton has a gift for creating an atmosphere, for sure! And, the characters are timeless. I feel like I could meet any of them now...they'd have the same opinions/ways about them...remarkable writing.

I'm so sad reading this book. His descriptions of people are relentlessly on-the-mark and depressing. I just finished Chap 5 and am crying. All the mutual disdain and loneliness is painful to read.

I thought this was supposed to be funny? I have the same response to the supposed wit of Oscar Wilde. He makes me depressed about human nature too.


Cordelia (anne21) I dont much like Oscar Wilde. I find him rather depressing


Carol (carolfromnc) carissa wrote: "Cordelia wrote: "I can imagine Hamilton sitting in bed writing and think about booze until it was time to go out drinking (according to my introduction by Doris Lessing). Lessing also says that thi..."

I'm a soft touch, but nothing so far has driven me to tears. Maybe I'm missing things.

When Miss Roach was most concerned about Vicki borrowing her hairbrush, I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and yell, ITS ONLY A HAIRBRUSH. SNAP OUT OF IT, Similarly, she's counting rounds, but unwilling to stop drinking when she wants to? There are bigger betrayals and boundaries being crushed. smh

I agree with the podcast that one of the things Hamilton has down, no surprise, is how people interact and talk when they are drunk. I felt for the poor chauffeur waiting to drive them to dinner. And waiting. And waiting.

The most excruciating scene for me was when the Lieut took both women to the park, to the same bench where he has previously made out with Miss Roach, and kissed Vicki in the same manner.

Didn't Miss Roach have any friends prior to her temporary move to the burbs? It's odd to me how unmoored she seems. What does she care about? What is her philosophy of life? She strikes bpme as kind of milquetoast-y.


Carol (carolfromnc) I don't have the Lieutenant pegged at all. One minute .i think he's a useless, shallow, inconsiderate waste of time and energy. The next he behaves better and, while Inwouldnt waste a third evening on him, I don't fault Miss Roach for doing so ... I just am not clear on what is motivating her to do so, unless any night out with anyone is better than sitting at home --a philosophy I find tiresome at any age.


carissa When a person with bad boundaries (Vicki) moves into a house with little privacy, irritation and projection are bound to happen! I'd be annoyed by most of these characters, just like they are with one another...but don't express it outloud.

Reading Chap 5 about Mr. Prest and his journeys into London made me sad. I'm sad for each of these characters...how petty they are.

None of the characters seem to have anyone in their lives at this point.

And, yes, what do they believe in?! It's all so dreary and monotonous and dull. Maybe that's why their actions/speech/Roach's inner dialogue seem so cruel/thoughtless.

The Lieut reminds me of a certain type of narcissist...he's a dumb, artless shark. Miss Roach is a bored, inexperienced woman with low self-esteem. They are like magnets toward one another...eek!

I haven't gotten to the point where Vicki and the Lieut get together...e-gads! hahaha So realistic and predictable...

I should finish tomorrow...and even though this is a sad read, it's also a great one! Hamilton has a few quirks that irk-like using variations of the same word within the same page and cliches, but they all seem to work somehow to create this definite atmosphere.


Carol (carolfromnc) The Mr. Prest chapter was a masterpiece and very sad. My favorite chapter so far.

Why haven't we been introduced to any of the other occupants ? What is it about Mr. Prest that he gets this treatment? It's not that he is close to or important to Miss Roach?

Is Miss Roach complex enough to carry this novel? I don't identify with her and she's weak, IMO. I like her well enough, but ...

Your thoughts?


Cordelia (anne21) I'm finished. Not quite sure what to make of this book. Need to think about it for a bit.


Cordelia (anne21) Carol wrote: "The Mr. Prest chapter was a masterpiece and very sad. My favorite chapter so far.

Why haven't we been introduced to any of the other occupants ? What is it about Mr. Prest that he gets this treatm..."


Is that the one at the end when Mr Prest meets Miss Roach in the pub, and later at the theatre?


Carol (carolfromnc) Cordelia wrote: "Carol wrote: "The Mr. Prest chapter was a masterpiece and very sad. My favorite chapter so far.

Why haven't we been introduced to any of the other occupants ? What is it about Mr. Prest that he ge..."


I'm only at page 129, and I don't think they've had any meaningful connection yet, which was part of what I found so odd about the chapter that introduced and told Prest's background. Hamilton didn't tee up or connect Prest to the story at that point.


carissa wow wow wow...just finished a bit ago and it's about a 3-4 star read for me at this point.

Not a feminist bone in this book at all...did Hamilton like women? Or people, for that matter? wow. just whoa.

Most of the real action takes place in Miss Roach's mind! And, what a confused mind that is. Hamilton was not kind about Miss Roach, at all. Is her confusion that of a spinster only or is it compounded by war? Hard to tell...

The Prest chapter is chapter 5. I agree with you Carol, it is the best in the book.

I am annoyed by parts of the ending, but I'll wait to talk about it until you are both done reading.


carissa I just read the 2 reviews you posted Carol...thank you! I read the nybr edition. I want to read the edition with Doris Lessing's intro!


Cordelia (anne21) I am finished but will hold off until we are all finished.


Carol (carolfromnc) I finished, and apologize for getting waylaid with other novels recently.

I am puzzled that Hamilton chose to end it where he did, and not earlier. For example, it could have ended with her walking home from the doctor's office, or heading to London with her single bag, or after seeing Mr. Prest's performance. Some steam went out if things as that ending piddled on 15 pages or so further than I wanted.

Aside from that, what did you both think, as a whole? Why did Hamilton write this novel? Did he like Miss Roach or any of his other characters?

My view is, Hamilton has disdain for those like these room-ers who let their fear drive them from London. He saw in the countryside whole houses full of the fearful, the timid, the judgy, persons more worried about appearing silly, or any of the other things Miss Roach didn't want others to think she was, than living life and letting the chips fall. He sees Prest and the Lieutenant and Mrs. Payne making the best of their respective circumstances.

When Miss Roach returns to London, she can barely enjoy a single night at the hotel for worrying about how she'll pay for it, which provided my last unkind eye roll. Take the room or don't take the room, but to take it and then enjoy it less as one worries with twisting hands seems a pattern of hers. Yes, eventually she gets over her panic and determines to enjoy the room, as of the last page.

For my taste, much as I continued to try to like Miss Roach, she was far too worked up about getting revenge (what? In a conversation??) on Vicki, and on not looking ... her fave term, "silly.". I was frustrated by her foolishness. She didn't seem to have any sort of inner moral compass but was entirely driven by what surrounding persons -- whomever they might be -- thought of her. I couldn't root for her as she made mountains out of molehills, acted against her interest, and was so worked up over meals and tea in Thwaites' company. In a time of war, she seemed to have no perspective at all.

In terms of Hamilton, while I tire of the omnipresence of drinking and beverages, I loved many of his sentences. He is the cyncical uncle I'd love to stand next to at a large party of strangers, just to hear his witty, spot-on commentary. I am uncertain, though, whether he had a compelling tale to tell, or only a formidable talent set against telling a minor story which could and should have been 80 pages shorter.


Carol (carolfromnc) carissa wrote: "wow wow wow...just finished a bit ago and it's about a 3-4 star read for me at this point.

Not a feminist bone in this book at all...did Hamilton like women? Or people, for that matter? wow. just ..."


I think he liked women as much as he liked men. He is an equal opportunity skewerer, at least of this group of his own characters. Whether he carried that over to all humanity in real life, I don't know.


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