Wonderful. Anyone who decries the current trend of youngsters to binge drink need only to read this novel to know what a false "current" issue it is, and that it's been going on for years and probably always will. Saturday Night & Sunday Morning is a fantastic working-class manifesto which anyone stuck in a drab repetitive job, yearning for the reckless release of the weekend, regardless of class, will be able to relate to. A Love on the Dole for the fifties, a vernacular and cultural masterpiece. It's fun, it's eventful, it's charmingly written, and its protagonist is shockingly likeable. His pell-mell rush at life is admirable and charming, despite his caddishness (it even seduces his girlfriend to be, a sort I would have thought would be rather put off!). This is very enjoyable stuff. One of the best British novels of the century certainly: there aren't that many novels that define what exactly it is like to live in a certain class at a certain age in a certain decade in this country, but this is one of them. Viva British fiction!
on 6 October 2008
When Alan Sillitoe's hard-hitting chunk of working-class life in Post-War Nottingham opens with its antihero Albert Seaton reeling drunk in the local pub the scene is set for the rest of the novel: a saga of fists, fags and philandering. Young Seaton - truculent, selfish and immoral - works as a lathe operator in a local factory during the day and at nights is enjoying the favours of a colleague's wife while her husband is on the late shift. In a life empty of purpose other than easy gratification he continues to play around with married women, fake illness during National Service, drink himself stupid with his hard-earned money and to go fishing when he wants to decompress. It is a tale of a man without vision because there is no vision available other than that dictated by society - rigid, conservative and conventional - which has no appeal to him.
With its ribbons of sooty terraces and zinc baths Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is grimly realistic if somewhat anachronistic. Interesting as English social history it has that distinctly fifties feel when the suppressed anger and resentment against the continuation of inflexible class divisions after the War felt by working-class communities with their backs to the wall was beginning to be expressed in literature, theatre and film.
Alan Sillitoe's 1958 debut novel was a landmark in British fiction, providing a brilliantly realistic and visceral depiction of working class life in the North of England (Nottingham, to be precise). Of course, depictions of such UK life experiences had been common previously, in works by the likes of Charles Dickens, Jack London, Robert Tressell and Walter Greenwood (to name but a few), but Sillitoe's version was an outstanding tale covering life in post-WWII Britain - and, for me, is still unsurpassed, in terms of anything that I have read in this category. The novel was, of course, made into the equally groundbreaking 1960 film starring Albert Finney and directed by Karel Reisz.
SNASM charts the life and experiences of anti-hero and factory worker Arthur Seaton, as he struggles to come to terms with (or knuckle under) the authority figures in his life (father, foremen, police, army) and to resist the potential stultifying effects of being drawn into a long-term relationship (and even, heaven forbid, marriage) with any one of the loves of his life. Sillitoe's creation in Arthur ranks for me alongside other great post-WWII literary anti-heroes, such as J D Salinger's Holden Caulfield and Arthur Burgess' head droog Alex. Sillitoe's prose is a mix of raw, dialectical rants (frequently delivered by Arthur) and more studied, reflective passages, particularly where Arthur cogitates the meaning of his existence and his likely future. In telling his tale, Sillitoe is unflinching in his depiction of the prevailing political backdrop of the period, where women were expected to know their place and anyone from outside the closed community clique was viewed with suspicion, particularly if this involved a different skin colour. However, despite such views being on open display here, Sillitoe casts Arthur with a somewhat wider, and perhaps more considered, world view, and someone whose focus is more premeditatedly anti-establishment.
There are many marvellously evocative pieces of prose in Sillitoe's novel, and none more so than the concluding section in which Arthur's gradually reducing reluctance to become ensnared (perhaps 'permanently') by new girlfriend Doreen, is likened to his attempts to catch fish on a fishing trip. A fitting end to a compelling novel.
on 10 March 2001
Set in 1950's Britain, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning portrays the working class life of Arthur Seaton, a 21 year old, Nottingham factory worker . The reader should have an instant dislike to Arthur, he's a womaniser, lazy, and a liar. But like many of the "Angry Young Men" of the time, Arthur has a certain charm about him which makes it very easy for you to forgive his hedonistic lifestyle, even though it is clear to see the negative effects it has on everyone around him. Sillitoe spits the book into two: Saturday night, when the reader experiences Arthur's drinking, adultery and fighting, and Sunday morning, as the action of Saturday night catches up to Arthur. Sillitoe embodies in his lead protagonist, the serious effects that the Second World War had on a generation, giving an actuate portrayal of the mood of the young in post war Britain. Selfish, superficial and mercenary on the surface, Sillitoe skilfully adds extra dimensions to the character of Arthur through the quality of his writing, Arthur can be both a bastard and a philosopher at the same time. All in all, this is a interesting read into what life was like for a working class youth scared by the Second World War, although on the surface it's a brilliant fable about what can happen if you experience the excesses of life too much .
on 14 December 2010
As a resident of Nottingham, having lived here for almost 50
years it was a pleasure to read this book. The local vocabulary
is spot on and although the author has somewhat got a little confused
with his local geography, it was still a very accurate account of
what took place in and around the Raleigh Cycle factory in the early to
I would strongly recommend readers to include this in their collection
since it is almost autobiographical with Sillitoe placing himself in
the principal character's persona. A good read.
on 27 May 2004
Pity poor Arthur Seaton...slaving over a hot lathe at Raleigh Cycles in Nottingham all day in the late 1950's. Age 21 and full of raging energy he is a selfish, hedonistic archetype that some would have us believe did not come into being until the 1980's.
Alan Sillitoe has captured the old industrial Nottingham of the time and, within that context, the Arthur Seaton's are perfectly placed to give us a meaningful glimpse of 'what it was like' to grow up in the relative post-war poverty in that England. That Arthur is a rogue, albeit slightly loveable, highlights the division between spiviness and honesty - hard graft being offset by binges.
As a social document, 'Saturday Night & Sunday Morning'is rich in detail and this makes for a very enjoyable read.
on 2 October 2010
Alan Sillitoe was one of a number of young writers who emerged in the late fifties and sixties and who have become known as the "kitchen sink" school. (Other members of the group included the novelists Stan Barstow, John Braine, David Storey and Barry Hines and playwrights such as John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney). Their work was distinguished by a social-realist concentration on working-class life, often with a provincial setting.
"Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" from 1958 was Sillitoe's first novel, and probably the one for which he is best known today. (His other widely known work is the short story collection "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner", particularly the title story). It is set in the author's native Nottingham and tells the story of Arthur Seaton, a young worker in a bicycle factory. Although Sillitoe himself had worked in a factory and had given his hero his own initials, he always denied that the novel was autobiographical.
Reading this book, I was struck by the contrasts between it and another 1958 study of a young man from a working-class background, Colin MacInnes's "Absolute Beginners". MacInnes's nameless hero, a self-employed London photographer who lives in his own flat, is part of the new teenage subculture of the late fifties, a young man whose main interests are the latest trends in music and fashion. He is teetotal, more at home in coffee bars and nightclubs than in pubs. His self-description as an "absolute beginner" refers both to his youth and inexperience and to his desire for a world as different to that of his parents' generation as possible.
Arthur at 22 is only four years older than MacInnes's hero, but leads a much more traditional working-class life. He still lives at home with his parents and his main leisure interests (apart from chasing girls) are drinking in the pub and spending Sunday afternoon fishing, occasionally reading the "News of the World" or watching a football match. Rock-and-roll and modern fashions seem to have passed him by. In fact, it is much the same sort of life as his father might have led in the 1920s, and not all that different to the one his grandfather might have led a generation before that.
In many ways Arthur is not a particularly admirable character. He is a heavy drinker; the opening chapter is a description of a drinking bout in a working man's club one Saturday evening, which ends with him falling down the stairs drunk. He is also a womaniser with a weakness for older married women; he is conducting affairs with Brenda, the wife of a colleague at work, and Brenda's sister Winnie, who is also married. These illicit relationships, however, do not prevent him from courting Doreen, an innocent teenager who remains blissfully ignorant of Arthur's other affairs.
In his defiant attitude to all forms of authority and his self-centredness he has something in common with Smith, the criminal anti-hero of Sillitoe's "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner". In both cases their rebellion against authority is an individualistic one; both are Labour supporters by default, in that they come from backgrounds where it would be virtually unthinkable to support any other party, but neither has any belief in Socialism or in the idea that the working class can improve their lot through political action or trade union activity.
Yet in Arthur's own words (a quote later made famous by the Arctic Monkeys) "whatever people say I am, that's what I am not". It would be too easy to dismiss him simply as a drunken, rebellious troublemaker. The fact that a recreation as tranquil as fishing is one of his favourite pastimes suggests that there is a more peaceful side to his nature. Unlike Smith, he is smart enough to realise that if he fights the law the law will usually win, and although he occasionally engages in minor rowdyism he prefers to earn his living by honest labour rather than by criminal activity. The book ends with Arthur preparing to marry Doreen, having given up his two affairs after being beaten up by Winnie's soldier husband; the implication is perhaps that he has learned his lesson and is starting to take a more responsible attitude to life.
Unlike his father, who was frequently unemployed during the depression of the thirties, Arthur is fortunate enough to have come into manhood at a time of economic prosperity, a time when Britons were being assured by their Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, that they had "never had it so good", and is able to earn a reasonable wage by working hard. And yet, in Sillitoe's view, "never had it so good" was still not good enough. One of the themes of the novel is the way in which the class divisions of pre-war Britain still persisted despite the post-war economic boom. Arthur is clearly intelligent and articulate, yet has only received a basic formal education and is unable to find anything other than mundane and repetitive factory work. His anger and resentment against the "System" may stem from frustration at being unable to put his intelligence to more creative use.
Sillitoe stated in his introduction to the book that some of its chapters started life as self-contained short stories and even poems which were then fitted into the novel, and it may be that this method of working was responsible for occasional structural gaps. (For example, in the early chapters Arthur has two brothers, Sam and Fred, but Sam seems to drop out of the picture in the later ones and his name is given to another character). Nevertheless, with its strongly drawn central character and its striking, unsentimental picture of working-class Midlands life, "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" is a most impressive first novel.
on 18 January 2014
It was fascinating to revisit the 1950s through reading this book. It gave a clear depiction of lifestyles and attitudes of the era - interesing to contrast these with contemporary living. In particular, we may be surprised at the characters' apparent lack of ambition: a generous wage packet, pubs, sex and marriage was reward enough. "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" is a classic of its time - and superbly written.
One of the greatest novels of working class life ever, Alan Sillitoe’s best novel packs as much of a punch today as it did when first published in 1958. It’s the story of young Nottingham factory worker Arthur Seaton, who works hard and plays hard and is determined not to be beaten down by “the system”. But when he gets involved with a married woman his life is complicated in ways he could never have envisaged, and his hedonistic lifestyle is curtailed. It’s a vivid and authentic portrayal of 1950s working class life and of a rebel who takes on the establishment. The characters are multi-layered and sympathetic, and Seaton himself takes on a life of his own way beyond the confines of the book. A moving and unforgettable story.
on 10 October 2012
I really enjoyed this novel and found it very easy to read. It shows a good insight into the working class in the post-war period. I found the protagonist likable and "real." I'd recommend this book.