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Through a Glass Darkly: The Life of Patrick Hamilton [Paperback]

Nigel Jones
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 11.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

10 July 2008
Penetrating biography of a fascinatingly contradictory writer who, despite a privileged background and early and sustained success, became increasingly embittered with the world. Doris Lessing calls him ""a marvellous novelist"", Keith Waterhouse ""A riveting dissector of English life"" and Nigel Jones makes excellent use of Hamilton's own letters and notes as well as his own highly perceptive insights. The Literary Review called Through a Glass Darkly ""One of the most stimualting biographies for years"".

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Black Spring; Re-issue edition edition (10 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0948238399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0948238390
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Very Readable Biography 19 Feb 2010
By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This well written, excellent, biography by Nigel Jones covers all aspects of the complicated and self-destructive life of the novelist and playwright Patrick Hamilton. It tracks his early life in Hove and the contrasting relationship he had with his bullying, drunk, father and his over-close mother. Jones is able to demonstrate very clearly how Hamilton's life and interests were reflected in his novels and plays. The book tracks the clear arc of creativity from Hamilton's immature early work, through his most gifted and perceptive period of 'Twenty Thousand Streets' to 'Slaves of Solitude' and the plays 'Rope' and 'Gaslight', to his decline and the unsatisfactory 'Gorse' novels. Money and success enabled Hamilton to indulge in his two self destructive pastimes of drink and adulterous relationships and Jones expertly guides us through this sad decline. This superbly crafted work by Jones must stand as the definitive biography of Hamilton and will, undoubtedly, aid appreciation of this somewhat neglected author for many years to come. An excellent work recommended from all points of view.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, tragic story 26 April 2009
This is a wonderful biography of a writer who deserves to better known. The author had done some wonderful research and writes in a lucid style, showing a fully mastery of his subject. His analysis of both Hamilton's character and his work is superb, and the saga has an unbearable poignancy as Hamilton sinks into whisky-soaked decline. Magnificent.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light on a dark soul. 29 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This fascinating biography is in many ways as much the account of an extraordinary family as a chronicle of the rise and fall of an eccentric and driven literary talent. The bullying, boastful, but seriously insecure, Bernard and the long-suffering but suffocating Nellie raise three talented but damaged children. Neither Lalla nor Patrick shakes off the influence of these two very different, but equally powerful figures. Both pursue sexual pleasures as one route to escape and both become the victims of alcohol. Bernard, himself a heavy drinker with literary aspirations, continues to trouble Patrick and is never fully exorcised. He appears in many guises in the novels, most tellingly and loathsomely perhaps as the brilliantly realised sadistic bully Thwaites in "The Slaves of Solitude", a man of innate abilities in full flight from his inner terrors at the expense of any sensitive victim he can waylay, here the gentle and kindly Miss Roach.

The most extraordinary relationship is that with Patrick's elder brother, Bruce. Although based in Barbados for most of his adult life, Bruce is the one unrelentingly solid pillar in Patrick's unstable world. Himself a published novelist, Patrick's success and well-being remain his overriding concern. Despite long periods in which Patrick all but ignores him, lies to him and resents his moral shadow, Bruce never wavers in his support and admiration, negotiating his way through Patrick's neurotic need to nail his colours to whatever mast comes to hand, whether political - his not altogether convincing flirtation with communism, to his later shift to the right - and to his sexual infatuations and callous indifference to the feelings of his wives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Through a Glass Darkly 2 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating portrait of a talented author, whose reputation and works have been highly regarded but often been neglected when compared to other writers from the same era. It follows Patrick Hamilton’s life from the third child of a braggart and bully of a father and a possessive and adored mother to his decline and descent into alcoholism. Nigel Jones examines the family of Patrick Hamilton in detail, especially the relationship with his beloved mother and his older brother, Bruce. It is a fact that his family, although relatively wealthy and comfortable, were not all that they seemed and it is this discrepancy between the view shown to the world and the reality which highlights Hamilton’s distrustful and cynical nature, as well as his tendency to self destruct.

Another important event in Patrick Hamilton’s world view came through his family and their declining fortunes around the time of the first world war, which led to him moving into a series of boarding houses, cheap hotels and rented rooms, mostly with his mother. This insight into the world of genteel poverty and dispossessed, lonely people marked him as a writer, as did his reliance on alcohol and his time spent with streetwalkers and in public houses.

This book takes us through Hamilton’s life – his marriages, the road accident he had which affected him greatly and, most importantly, his work. This includes his early love of poetry, novels and plays. At times you feel that the author had so much information available from his brother Bruce that the relationship was given possibly more importance than it merited. However, this is a good assessment of his work, life and how his reputation has changed over the years. It is a shame that his works have been often neglected over the years, as was a powerful and important author. If you are interested in what made him the writer he was, then this is a good account of his life and work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through a life decently. 3 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I encountered Hamilton's writing many years ago and fell in love with what I read. Jones's biog is balanced, warm and readable and although some have complained that he was so reliant on his best source (Patrick's brother) that in his writing he was perhaps overkind to said brother I barely noticed this, even on a re-read. The two brothers were very close as children and young men although with some sibling rivalry.
As a (struggling) writer, and too close to the booze myself, I appreciated Hamilton's honesty about his life and his inability to stop alcohol eventually destroying his career. And what would a sober Hamilton have gone to write is, of course, a very reasonable question.
I feel that Jones has done a pretty good job as a researcher and scribe about the extraordinary life of such remarkable writer.
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