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Historical Context > Working Class Fiction & Non-Fiction

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I've realised that a lot of what we read here at Bright Young Things comes from the middle or upper class perspective of the era, although this is a very interesting perspective it isn't the whole story and I'm keen to show that there are a great many books and authors who chose to highlight the lives of the working classes during 1900-1945...please feel free to add to this thread any books that you feel need to be brought to our attention!

message 2: by Ally (last edited Jun 03, 2012 04:22AM) (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
They Drive By Night by James Curtis They Drive By Night by James Curtis

First published in 1938, this is the second James Curtis title to be reprinted by London Books (The Gilt Kid appeared in 2007) and sees the author take his favourite themes of justice and equality on a rollercoaster ride through the streets of the capital and onto the great roads heading North. This new edition comes with an introduction by the well-known writer, broadcaster and Curtis-fan, Jonathan Meades.

See this article on the London Books website for more info:

See also the links on this site to some other works such as The Gilt Kid, Wide Boys Never Work and Night and the City

message 3: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

'The present system means joyless drudgery, semi-starvation, rags and premature death; and they vote for it and uphold it. Let them have what they vote for! Let them drudge and let them starve!' There is no other novel quite like The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. George Orwell called it 'a wonderful book'; its readers have become a living part of its remarkable history. Tressell's novel is about survival on the underside of the Edwardian Twilight, about exploitative employment when the only safety nets are charity, workhouse, and grave. Following the fortunes of a group of painters and decorators and their families, and the attempts to rouse their political will by the Socialist visionary Frank Owen, the book is both a highly entertaining story and a passionate appeal for a fairer way of life. It asks questions that are still being asked today: why do your wages bear no relation to the value of your work? Why do fat cats get richer when you don't? Tressell's answers are 'The Great Money Trick' and the 'philanthropy' of an unenlightened workforce, who give away their rights and aspirations to a decent life so freely. Intellectually enlightening, deeply moving and gloriously funny (complete with exploding clergyman), The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a book that changes lives.

message 4: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Love On The Dole by Walter Greenwood Love On The Dole by Walter Greenwood

In Hanky Park, near Salford, Harry and Sally Hardcastle grow up in a society preoccupied with grinding poverty, exploited by bookies and pawnbrokers, bullied by petty officials and living in constant fear of the dole queue and the Means Test. His love affair with a local girl ends in a shotgun marriage, and, disowned by his family, Harry is tempted by crime. Sally, meanwhile, falls in love with Larry Meath, a self-educated Marxist. But Larry is a sick man and there are other more powerful rivals for her affection. The definitive depiction of a northern town in the midst of the thirties' depression. Walter Greenwood's Love on the Dole was the first novel to be set against a background of mass unemployment and was instantly recognised as a classic when it was first published in 1933. Raw, violent and powerful, it was a cry of outrage that stirred the national conscience in the same way as the Jarrow march.

message 5: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
A couple of novels by John Steinbeck:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men

Streetwise George and his big, childlike friend Lennie are drifters, searching for work in the fields and valleys of California. They have nothing except the clothes on their back, and a hope that one day they'll find a place of their own and live the American dream. But dreams come at a price. Gentle giant Lennie doesn't know his own strength, and when they find work at a ranch he gets into trouble with the boss's daughter-in-law. Trouble so bad that even his protector George may not be able to save him ...

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath

Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck's Pulitzer prize-winning epic remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.

message 6: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
A few books by George Orwell:

The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell The Road to Wigan Pier

A searing account of George Orwell’s observations of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the 1930s, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, cramped slum housing, dangerous mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity. It crystallized the ideas that would be found in Orwell’s later works and novels, and remains a powerful portrait of poverty, injustice and class divisions in Britain.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell Down and Out in Paris and London

‘You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them.’ George Orwell’s vivid memoir of his time among the desperately poor and destitute in London and Paris is a moving tour of the underworld of society. Here he painstakingly documents a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor – sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses, working as a dishwasher in the vile ‘Hôtel X’, living alongside tramps, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts – in an unforgettable account of what being down and out is really like.

Animal Farm by George Orwell Animal Farm

Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Wellington leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges …

message 7: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins London Belongs to Me Norman Collins

It is 1938 and the prospect of war hangs over every London inhabitant. But the city doesn't stop. Everywhere people continue to work, drink, fall in love, fight and struggle to get on in life. At the lodging-house at No.10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington, the buttoned-up clerk Mr Josser returns home with the clock he has received as a retirement gift. The other residents include faded actress Connie; tinned food-loving Mr Puddy; widowed landlady Mrs Vizzard (whose head is turned by her new lodger, a self-styled 'Professor of Spiritualism'); and flashy young mechanic Percy Boon, whose foray into stolen cars descends into something much, much worse ...

message 8: by Ivan (new)

Ivan | 561 comments They Shoot Horses, Don't They? by Horace McCoy They Shoot Horses, Don't They? by Horace McCoy

"Sordid, pathetic, senselessly exciting. . . has the immediacy and the significance of a nerve-shattering explosion."—The New Republic

The depression of the 1930s led people to desperate measures to survive. The marathon dance craze, which flourished at that time, seemed a simple way for people to earn extra money dancing the hours away for cash, for weeks at a time. But the underside of that craze was filled with a competition and violence unknown to most ballrooms.

Horace McCoy was born near Nashville, Tennessee in 1897. His novels include I Should Have Stayed Home (1938), and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1948).

message 9: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair's dramatic and deeply moving story exposed the brutal conditions in the Chicago stockyards at the turn of the nineteenth century and brought into sharp moral focus the apalling odds against which immigrants and other working people struggled for their share of the American dream. Denounced by the conservative press as an un-American libel on the meatpacking industry, the book was championed by more progressive thinkers, including then president Theodore Roosevelt, and was a major catalyst to the passing of the Pure Food and Meat Inspection act, which has tremendous impact to this day.

message 10: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Loving / Living / Party Going by Henry Green Loving / Living / Party Going by Henry Green

I don't know for sure if this would count, but "Henry Green explored class distinctions through the medium of love. This volume brings together three of his novels contrasting the lives of servants and masters (Loving); workers and owners, set in a Birmingham iron foundry (Living); and the different lives of the wealthy and the ordinary, (Party Going)." It has lower class, but not exclusively.

The Jungle is so good.

message 11: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments Triangle The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle is about the fire and aftermath that lead to the changes for workers' rights, unions, pay, etc.

message 12: by Charles (new)

Charles The People of the Abyss Jack London. Similar subject and method to Orwell's Down and Out In Paris and London.

message 13: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Some wonderful suggestions in here Ally. I've read quite a few. The ones that I heartily recommend are:

London Belongs to Me - superb

The Road to Wigan Pier - interesting though tales off

Down and Out in Paris and London - essential

Of Mice and Men - excellent

The Grapes of Wrath - heartbreaking

Love On The Dole - interesting with loads of great period detail

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - interesting

I've not ready any James Curtis though will be reading The Gilt Kid in the next few weeks.

We should definitely read more of this stuff.

Another name that I have come across is Alexander Baron. I have From the City, from the Plough. on my pile of books to read after a friend recommended him. The Lowlife is well regarded too and one I intend to read.

message 14: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Nigeyb wrote: "I've not ready any James Curtis though will be reading The Gilt Kid in the next few weeks."

The Gilt Kid by James Curtis

The Gilt Kid

"In the cold truth, nobody in the world cared a damn about him. He was as lonely here, at liberty in the streets of London, as ever he had been, sitting on the floor of his locked cell in prison sewing mailbags. It was a hell of a life."

Written in 1936 - and containing a cast of criminals, dossers, prostitutes and down-and-outs - this is an incredibly vivid and authentic evocation of a side of London seldom depicted in fiction during this era. Apparently James Curtis, the author, was a regular face around the pubs and clubs of the West End, where he rubbed up against London's underworld, and this first hand experience shines through. The book feels really authentic: peppered with colourful slang (and no glossary), the tale whips along. The Gilt Kid is a habitual housebreaker, just released from prison, who tells his own story of the next few days. He has no intention of working, and from his bedsit in Victoria spends his time in the West End drinking and scheming with criminals, dossers, and prostitutes. Whilst the book incorporates some politics - The Gilt Kid's one and only book being Marx's Das Kapital - it's more a visceral thriller. At the core of the book is a burglary that doesn't exactly go to plan and is superbly written. The book also incorporates some romance, social comment, politics and philosophy.

As Paul Willetts puts it in his introduction, "...reading The Gilt Kid for the first time is akin to watching some hitherto undiscovered classic black and white British crime movie, replete with memorable performances and tantalising glimpses of a lost world."

I really enjoyed the experience of reading a 1930s London novel from the perspective of an unapologetic, dyed-in-the-wool criminal.


message 15: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
The Bonus Army: An American Epic by Paul Dickson

In the summer of 1932, at the height of the Depression, some forty-five thousand World War I veterans--whites and blacks together--descended on Washington D.C., from all over the country to demand the bonus promised them eight years earlier for their wartime service. Fearing violence after the Senate defeated the "bonus bill," Herbert Hoover's Army Chief of Staff, Douglas MacArthur, led tanks through the streets on July 28 to evict the bonus marchers.

Through seminal research, including interviews with the last surviving witnesses, Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen tell the full story of the Bonus Army, recovering the voices of ordinary men who dared tilt at powerful injustice. The march ultimately transformed the nation, inspiring Congress to pass the GI Bill of Rights in 1944, one of the most important pieces of social legislation in our history, which in large part created America's middle class.

message 16: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Thanks Jennifer. Interesting review. How much did you enjoy it?

message 17: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I think I might have that book ... somewhere.

message 18: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Nigeyb wrote: "Thanks Jennifer. Interesting review. How much did you enjoy it?"

I haven't read it, I just found it while browsing today.

message 19: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Thanks Jennifer. Will you be reading it?

message 20: by Val (new)

Val That protest and the heavy-handed reaction to it were mentioned in The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I had not heard of it before reading that book. I will be interested to hear what you think about The Bonus Army: An American Epic Jennifer. The library here does not have it listed.

message 21: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I read a sample on kindle and either it was withdrawn or it cost too much there because I believe I bought it used from

message 22: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I stand corrected - I have a different book. B.E.F.: The Whole Story of the Bonus Army by W. W. Waters and William C. White.

message 23: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I probably will read it, it'll just be a matter of when.

Val, that's where I first heard of it, too. It was mentioned again in the book I'm reading, Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, which is what made me go look for some material for this group. There really isn't much out there on it.

message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 239 comments "The Casualties of Peterloo" by Prof Michael Bush, I could have put this in the 'What books have you just bought' thread. Although not strictly 1900-1945 actually 1819. But I find the that so much that is in the early part of the 20th century has it's roots before that time. As a card carrying Mancunian to learn more about the events of what was essentially a gathering to discuss Parliamentary Reform ended in bloodshed. I shall let you know how it goes.

message 25: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 16, 2013 04:41AM) (new)

Nigeyb Ally wrote:

London Belongs to Me by Norman Collins

London Belongs to Me
by Norman Collins

There's some great ideas in this thread including many personal favourites. For now I just want to focus on London Belongs to Me...

I absolutely loved this book. Off the back of five novels by Patrick Hamilton (Hangover Square, The Slaves Of Solitude, and the Gorse Trilogy); a biography of Patrick Hamilton (Through a Glass Darkly: The Life of Patrick Hamilton); and a biography of Julian MacLaren-Ross (Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Julian Maclaren-Ross), I realised how much I enjoy books about London. Amazon recommended London Belongs to Me to me (and it was a book that I'd not heard of until the recommendation).

It's marvellous. We should probably discuss it for one of our fiction reads one of these days. It's a biggie - over 700 pages long, and London is unquestionably the star of the book. More specifically South London for the inhabitants of a shared house located at 10 Dulcimer Street in Kennington. The book is set in 1939-40 and evokes the era wonderfully. The second world war looms as each of the varied and memorable characters contend with their own lives and preoccupations. Their stories are variously funny, tragic, exciting, interesting, and the interweaving narratives kept me engrossed throughout.

If you enjoy well written stories about London, about Britain in the 1940s, and the vagaries of human nature, then it's hard to imagine you wouldn't enjoy this book. By the end I felt the characters were old friends and I wanted to continue to read about their lives. In a nutshell, I loved it and didn't want it to end.


message 26: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Great ideas for future reading in this thread. I bought The Jungle by Upton Sinclair recently and it looks great - hope to get to it before too long!

message 27: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb I'm continuing my trawl through working class writers that were writing about or during our era, with a focus on London fiction. The most recent I have read is...

King Dido by Alexander Baron

This is the first book I have read by Alexander Baron (1917-1999 having heard very positive things about his work. He was a renowned London author, best known for his novel The Lowlife (1963).

His first novel, From the City, from the Plough (1948), was a best seller. It was based on Alexander Baron's own war service, fighting across France from the Normandy D-Day beaches. Baron went on to write many London novels which were similarly based largely on personal experience and observation.

King Dido (1969) is set in the years just before World War 1 and it's a gripping thriller about crime in the East End. It tells the story of Dido Peach, who is drawn into the violent world of protection rackets and gang warfare. Peach, a contradictory character, has his late father’s violence and strength combined with his mother’s concern for living a respectable, decent life. He rules his two younger brothers with a rod of iron and tries to live up to his mother's expectations. His family’s attempt to lead a virtuous life brings them into conflict with a local family of thugs led by the monstrous Ginger Murchison. Dido Peach and Ginger Murchison engage in a vicious and memorable street fight.

The novel abounds with memorable characters, not least Inspector Merry - a cunning, ambitious and relentless policeman.


message 28: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 15, 2014 04:14AM) (new)

Nigeyb I've nearly finished Rain On The Pavements by Roland Camberton - another working class author.

Rain On The Pavements takes place during our era and is a fabulous tale of a Jewish working class community in Hackney, East London.

I am discovering so much great working class fiction from our era at the moment - in many ways I feel more passionate about these depictions of ordinary people than the accounts of more privileged lives that many readers might more typically think about when considering the 1900-1945 period.

Anyway, Rain On The Pavements, is another recommendation for anyone seeking a satisfying read about ordinary lives in London during the 1930s.

message 29: by Nigeyb (last edited Feb 15, 2014 09:07AM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ I have now finished another fine example of working class fiction from our era...

Rain On The Pavements by Roland Camberton

Having very recently read Scamp, the first novel by Roland Camberton, and filled by enthusiasm for that book, I got hold of this, his only one other book before giving up writing.

Rain On The Pavements, first published in 1951, was - like Scamp - also republished by Five Leaves (via their New London Editions imprint) in 2010, again complete with the book's original cover art by John Minton - a beautiful artwork that really compliments the contents and enhances the whole experience.

Roland Camberton, born Henry Cohen, came from a Jewish family in Hackney where he attended Hackney Downs School in the 1930s. He later anglicised his name to so his strictly religious family remained unaware that he was writing novels. Both Rain On The Pavements and Scamp, are based on Roland Camberton's life.

David Hirsch, the main character, is probably a self-portrait, and the book details his life growing up in a fairly orthodox Jewish family in Hackney throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Each chapter takes a portion of David's life from early childhood to gaining a scholarship to University. Each chapter introduces new characters who were, in the main, significant people in David's life, these include young uncles, school friends, teachers etc. and describes David's experiences around the East End, at school, and beyond into Soho. As with Scamp, a big part of the pleasure of this utterly enjoyable book, is the wealth of social history and detail. It all rings so true and is clearly based on personal experience. Little things, like for instance, David and a friend in Cable Street watching two of their bigger, braver school friends fighting with fascist black shirts, the book is full of this kind of detail.

Hackney is the constant throughout this wonderful book, its streets and characters providing the backdrop to many of David's experiences. As he matures, he is increasingly drawn towards the bohemian world of Soho, however throughout all his experiences what is clear is that he can never really escape from his home borough and all that it signifies.


message 30: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
I just listened to the podcast of yesterday's 'woman's Hour' (...a BBC radio programme that I love!) and they did a section on a new play being premiered in Liverpool this week. It is based on a book that sounds right up our street...

'Tuppence to Cross the Mersey' by Helen Forrester

First published in 1974, Helen Forrester's poignant account of her poverty-stricken childhood in Liverpool during the depression of the 1930's has become a bestselling modern classic.

Twopence was the price of the ferry-boat between Liverpool and Birkenhead. A tiny sum but an impassable barrier for the poor of Liverpool - desperate to escape the city's grinding poverty.

When Helen Forrester's father went bankrupt in 1930, she and her six siblings were forced from their comfortable middle-class life into utmost destitution in Depression-ridden Liverpool. The running of the household and the care of her younger siblings all fell to twelve-year old Helen. In slum surroundings and with little food or support from her feckless parents, Helen was forced on her own resources.

Told with compassion, humour and a remarkable lack of self-pity, this is a fascinating picture of life in Britain before the Welfare State and the moving story one young girl's courage.

message 31: by Val (new)

Val I read that one several years ago. One detail I remember is that the parents did not want their poverty on show, as if it was something to be ashamed of, so they had a nice front parlour but no blankets or warm clothes and very little food.

message 32: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Looks like she has 4-5 other books as well. Have you tried them?

message 33: by Val (new)

Val I read "Liverpool Miss", which is the follow up to "Twopence to Cross the Mersey", but not any of her others.

message 34: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Yes, they mentioned in the interview with the play write that the family had it much worse than others in the same boat because they had come from middle class backgrounds with servants so they simply didn't have the right skills to cope.

message 35: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Just saw a new one at the library, but I didn't get it.

The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia's Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom

From before the dawn of the 20th century until the arrival of the New Deal, one of the most protracted and deadly labor struggles in American history was waged in West Virginia. On one side were powerful corporations whose millions bought armed guards and political influence. On the other side were 50,000 mine workers, the nation’s largest labor union, and the legendary “miners’ angel,” Mother Jones. The fight for unionization and civil rights sparked a political crisis verging on civil war that stretched from the creeks and hollows to the courts and the US Senate. In The Devil is Here in These Hills, celebrated labor historian James Green tells the story of West Virginia and coal like never before.

message 36: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Jennifer W wrote: "Just saw a new one at the library, but I didn't get it.

The Devil Is Here in These Hills: West Virginia's Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom

From before the dawn of the 20th..."

A good companion to this would be the movie Matewan, which may take place in the '20s-30s. Again, about the battle for Union in the mines, and pitting whites against blacks against foreigners and all against the Pinkertons. It was a John Sayles movie.

message 37: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb I’ve just finished reading…

"It Always Rains on Sunday" by Arthur La Bern

It’s wonderfully written, exciting, compelling and awash with atmospheric period and location detail, in short if you have any interest in London writing, or the 1930s, then this book is another essential read. Right up there with London Belongs to Me, Hangover Square, The Angel and the Cuckoo, and The Gilt Kid.

Click here to read my review


message 38: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb I have just started reading London E1 by Robert Poole, a BYT era working class novel about East London just before and during the Blitz...

London E1 by Robert Poole

Jimmy Wilson lives in London's East End, his father tending a barrow in Brick Lane, his mother taking in washing. We meet Jimmy playing in the streets as an eleven year old and again, after the war, twelve years later. Throughout the period he is infatuated with Pinkie, a mixed-race girl whose mother lives with "the Indians", then starting to move into the Brick Lane area as Jews move out. For Jimmy, Pinkie offers a new world, where he can improve himself, wear better clothes, get a decent job. This is London's East End in the 1940s - polyglot, violent, poor. We visit 'the local', the blitz and an all-day wedding feast. A vibrant area, but for Jimmy despair awaits when even his father steals from him. And how will Pinkie get on in these changing times? London E1 is introduced by Rachel Lichtenstien.

The spoiler laden introduction by Rachel Lichtenstein can be read here @ London Fictions:

message 39: by Matt (new)

Matt Hammontree (matthammontree) | 2 comments In Dubious Battle by Steinbeck will blow your socks off.

message 40: by Miss M (last edited Jan 18, 2016 10:55AM) (new)

Miss M | 118 comments Finished a book last week that would fit here...bit on the melodramatic side, but I did think it was well done. (Actually, a novella--110 pp.)

Saturday Night at the Greyhound
Sinister and scheming Mrs. Tapin has seen fourteen landlords come and go at the Greyhound, an old pub located in a Derbyshire mining village, and she has no doubt that the new owners, Ivy Flack, her gay brother Tom, and her drunken, philandering husband Fred, will soon be the next to fail. Pushed to the edge of ruin by Fred's gambling, the free drinks he gives away to customers, and the money he lavishes on his mistress, Ivy and Tom know that Saturday, the busiest night of the week, is their last hope to earn enough money to keep the pub open. But as the Greyhound opens for business that fateful Saturday night, none of them are prepared for what will ensue, as events unfold in a crescendo of violence and tragedy that will lead to a climax both bizarre and inevitable.

Widely acclaimed on its initial publication and running into three printings in its first week, Saturday Night at the Greyhound (1931) was a smash success for John Hampson (1901-1955) and his publishers Leonard and Virginia Woolf, who had rejected Hampson's earlier work for its undisguised homosexual content. Dedicated to Hampson's friend and mentor Forrest Reid and long recognized as a classic, Saturday Night at the Greyhound returns to print for the first time in 25 years in this new edition, which features a reproduction of the original jacket art and a new introduction by Helen Southworth

message 41: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ Very interesting. Thanks Miss M. One to add to the list.

message 42: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments My first thought was that the book was taking place at the bus station. Available on Kindle.

message 43: by Miss M (new)

Miss M | 118 comments Ha! Yep, I bet Saturday night stories from a Greyhound Station could fill a book, or two...

message 44: by Nigeyb (last edited Sep 05, 2016 09:57AM) (new)

Nigeyb Journey Through A Small Planet by Emanuel Litvinoff really needs to be represented in this thread.....

Emanuel Litvinoff recalls his working-class Jewish childhood in the East End of London: a small cluster of streets right next to the city, but worlds apart in culture and spirit. With vivid intensity Litvinoff describes the overcrowded tenements of Brick Lane and Whitechapel, the smell of pickled herring and onion bread, the rattle of sewing machines and chatter in Yiddish. He also relates stories of his parents, who fled from Russia in 1914, his experiences at school and a brief flirtation with Communism. Unsentimental, vital and almost dream like, this is a masterly evocation of a long-vanished world.

Here's my review...

Highly recommended for those who like books about London, and reading about the interwar years.

Journey Through A Small Planet by Emanuel Litvinoff is a masterly evocation of a long-vanished world in the overcrowded tenements of Brick Lane and Whitechapel of London's Jewish East End in the 1920s and 30s. The descriptions bring this distinctive, vibrant community vividly to life. A place awash with wonderful characters and stories amidst the squalor, poverty and daily grind.

Having enjoyed every page, it is no surprise that Penguin books identified Journey Through A Small Planet as a worthy addition to their Penguin Modern Classic imprint. The Penguin Modern Classic edition contains a comprehensive introduction about Emanuel Litvinoff written by Patrick Wright; the original book, first published in 1972, which consists of 12 chapters of reminiscences of Emanuel Litvinoff's childhood and teenage years; plus an appendix of two essays and two poems.


Here's another review, this one from Amazon UK...

This is a re-issue, as a Penguin Modern Classic, of a book first published in 1972. In twelve short chapters Litvinoff wonderfully evokes his childhood and adolescence in the crowded inter-war Jewish East End. While bringing out the poverty, squalor and stench in which the immigrants from Eastern Europe lived, there is a rich and vibrant community life, and his observations of characters and situations are mostly humorous - though the chapter on his experience of coarse antisemitism from staff and fellow-pupils at a trade school for shoe-makers is too grim for humour. He did not seem to show much promise as a youngster and had a series of dreary and humdrum jobs. At the very end of this memoir, when he was 19, a poem suddenly came to him, and "things would never be the same again."

He would of course not be the only upwardly mobile Jew coming from that unpromising setting, but, as in all these cases, each such ascent seems like a small miracle.

There follows an appendix of two essays and two poems. The first essay, here published for the first time, was originally written just after the War. It is a powerful, slightly over-written story about a solar eclipse; but it shows the progress he had made as a writer in the dozen years since that first literary effort. The memoir itself, written a quarter of a century later still, is not over-written at all: by that time his style had become worthy of being a classic.

The second essay, originally published in 1967, sets out his views of what it has meant to him to be `A Jew in England'. That theme is further elaborated by the 35 page introduction to the book. Written by Patrick Wright, it sets Litvinoff's memoir into the context of his whole remarkable life, and is a small masterpiece in itself. Litvinoff's reflections on his experiences as a Jew have varied over a long life-time: how he relates and has related to his background, to his Englishness, to Communism, to the Soviet Union, to Zionism and to Israel.

His last book was published a quarter of a century ago, and none of his novels are currently in print. See my Amazon reviews of The Faces of Terror; Blood on the Snow; The Face of Terror; The Man Next Door). He is now 92; and it must be gratifying for him that this memoir at least has been re-issued, and as a classic at that.

I hope that tempts a few of you to read this interesting BYT era book.

His recently reissued novel 'The Lost Europeans’ is great too. It's the story of two Jewish men, Martin Stone and Hugo Krantz, seeking answers and closure in 1950s Berlin. Martin Stone returns from London to Berlin, the city of his birth, to claim financial restitution for his father, whose bank was appropriated by the Nazis. His older friend, Hugo Krantz, also fled Berlin for London in the 1930s, after enjoying success as a celebrated theatrical writer. Hugo has since returned and resettled in Berlin, but he cannot rest until he has discovered whether his lover, who betrayed him to the Nazis and then became an SS officer, survived the war.

It's a stunner....

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