This 1957 bestseller captures the very significant shift from Post War austerity to late 1950's economic growth perfectly, neatly depicting the economic and social opportunities that were now open to an ex-Service man such as Joe Lampton from a Northern Working Class background . The novel is an important piece of social realism. Unashamedly provincial settings. Extra-marital infidelity is openly described; Joe Lampton as a hero gets his fair share of sexual intercourse, boozing and a fist fight or two.
Joe Lampton is a great lead character. Robust, blunt speaking, masculine, ambitious living his life on his own terms until eventually conforming, he is also sensitive and compassionate.
The women Joe must choose between, Susan whose presented as being the innocent Daddy's Little Girl, and Alice, the worldly older married woman, at first seem like some sort of virgin and whore caricature. In fact the female lead characters are developed well as the novel progresses, and begin to become more complex and interesting than one first assumes.
The climax of the novel is superb. Joe Lampton has achieved what he wanted, but pays a tragic price