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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb wartime classic
Bombed out of her London flat, Miss Roach, thirty-nine and alone, takes up residence at the Rosamund Tea Rooms at Thames Lockdon. Here we encounter an array of lost, rootless, lonely people, the flotsam and jetsam of the War - the slaves of solitude.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the shy, self-effacing Miss Roach, a woman whose natural decency stands in...
Published on 14 April 2006 by reader-in-the-Fens

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay
Not really my cup of tea, I didn't really like the author's style of writing, but the story was bearable.
Published 6 months ago by karen archibald


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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb wartime classic, 14 April 2006
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This review is from: The Slaves of Solitude (Paperback)
Bombed out of her London flat, Miss Roach, thirty-nine and alone, takes up residence at the Rosamund Tea Rooms at Thames Lockdon. Here we encounter an array of lost, rootless, lonely people, the flotsam and jetsam of the War - the slaves of solitude.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the shy, self-effacing Miss Roach, a woman whose natural decency stands in stark contrast to the casual cruelty of the people around her; her fragile sense of self-worth, constantly undermined by her back-stabbing friend, the odious Vicki Kugelmann, the drunken ineptitude of her American lover, Lieutenant Pike, but most of all, her humiliation at the hands of one of Hamilton's most grotesque fictional monsters, the repellent Mr Thwaites - bully, narcissist, and Fascist sympathiser.

Despite the apparent tragedy of Miss Roach's situation, the pathos is relieved by Hamilton's unique black humour and his ability to write perfect, utterly convincing dialogue, infused with waspish comedy. Ever-present is the War itself, robbing the characters of their little comforts, dictating their everyday lives. An underrated, enjoyable, entertaining read. Great to see this wartime classic back in print again!
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long overdue reprint of one of Hamilton's best, 16 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Congratulations to Michael Holroyd for using his influence to secure the re-issue of The Slaves of Solitude (and Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky). Hamilton's wartime England, viewed this time, not through the bottom of a glass, but through the eyes of a brave and decent woman who has been bullied all her life, is in my opinion his most moving work. A triumph from a writer who was himself sliding desparately downhill.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, witty, above all, humane, 14 Nov 2000
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Along with Hangover Square and One Thousand Streets Under the Sky, this is a tremendous novel. Hamilton writes beautifully about a cast of dreadfuls- the parochial bores, the bitchy backstabbing friends, and above all the boozers.
It is rare to read a book set in the 1940s which still seems so contemporary. The humour is biting and the depths and subtletys of character equal to Greene, Waugh and their ilk. Hamilton's writing brings to mind the Martin Amis school of tales from the London gutter, but his characters are achingly alive and never seem cartoonish.
Read all three...
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten masterpiece, 21 July 1999
By A Customer
This is without a doubt one of the greatest novels written about England in the Second World War - so why had I never read it until now? It's funny, cruel, compassionate, all the things that make Hangover Square, Hamilton's other major novel, such a joy. The characters - pitiful creatures in a suburban boarding house who bitch and drink their way through the War - are painfully vivid. The descriptions of sexual frustration, alcoholism and despair are spot on, and hilariously funny. I could rave on for the full 1000 words but I will say just one thing: READ THIS BOOK NOW.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, brutal, sad and uplifting, 6 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Slaves of Solitude (Paperback)
I was pressed hard by a friend to read the work of Patrick Hamilton, but that friend's fondness for all things dire and desperate had me worried. I'm so glad I read "The Slaves of Solitude" first; "Hangover Square" may be Hamilton's greater, darker work, but I prefer this slim novel. It has an emotional power, an outspreading empathy, a generosity of spirit, that I think George Eliot would recognise as having roots in her tradition, and which eclipse the more recognisably Dickensian black humour and characterisation.

Miss Roach, aimless spinster of a certain age, is suffering out the war in the quiet way that nobody ever talks about. Turfed out of a Blitz-hit London riddled with shortages, bans and insecurity, Miss Roach is in lodgings with a motley crew of similar people; elderly or middle aged, thrown together and merely existing in a grey suburban hell up the Thames. Dreary, dull, boring, and hopeless, Miss Roach's life is made almost unbearable by the torments of her fellow-lodger, the dreadful bully Mr Thwaites "by my Troth". Enter two characters who provide a change of scene and considerable excitement: an American lieutenant and one Vicki Krugelmann. I won't spoil enjoyment of the book by trying to describe all these people in detail: Hamilton, writing from Miss Roach's perspective, does it masterfully: this is what the book is all about.

The ending had me absolutely bawling: quiet, painful, sweet, unbearably sad and true, and not without hope. Just like poor Miss Roach. I can't recommend this book highly enough. A "shamefully neglected" author indeed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Slaves of Solitude, 5 Oct 2009
By 
Mr. George Stevens (Weymouth, Dorset, United Kingdom.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Slaves of Solitude (Paperback)
The 1939 - 45 World War left Britain and the British people exhausted and impoverished. Nowhere was the darkness and devastation more apparent than in London and its environs.

The meeting between a 39 year old spinster, living in respectable lodgings, and a young, brash American Lieutenant promised much but foundered in deception. A young woman of German origin was the catalyst for change. Among the fellow lodgers, Patrick Hamilton creates a monstrous character, Mr Thwaites, who causes pain and distress to all. Only an ex-Music Hall artist offers some sympathetic understanding, and that occurs only in his environment, entertaining children. A legacy enables Miss Roach to escape. Working for a publishing house promises continuity but little more.

Darkness pervades the book: black humour enlivens it. Silent hurts, small hopes, few expectations fill the characters' lives. Patrick Hamilton has created a picture of a grubby, damaged society, still clinging to its pre-war respectability and good manners; resilient after six years of war but with years to wait before the Swinging London and excesses of the 60s.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A window into Englishness..., 17 April 2009
By 
S. Gibbs "Steve Gibbs" (Carlisle, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Slaves of Solitude (Paperback)
Miss Roach is exquisitely reserved, dignified, and true to herself; and her character remains such throughout.

What a beautifully measured work; the intensity of the boarding house dining room captures the pain of some of our repressed upbringings where appearance and dignity outweigh common humanity. The daftness of these performances! I could smell the house, feel the dark wood absorbing the candle light. Suffocatingly sweet.

Wonderful wonderful, delightfully delicate Miss Roach; how we want to get beyond her caution. But she wouldn't and won't, as she can't... let us into her careful construction. But how we wanted to find a gap in her armour.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 1 Feb 2009
By 
J. H. Bretts "jerard1" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Slaves of Solitude (Paperback)
This is a classic , a great World War Two novel in which not a shot is fired. It shows what the 'home front' was really like without any sentimentality but goes beyond that. The characters - the nice Miss Roach, the monstrous Mr Thwaites, and others - are brilliantly drawn. Not a book that you'll forget.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hamilton's Masterpiece With the Isolated,Tormented Miss Roach, 20 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Slaves of Solitude (Paperback)
For a long time, this was my favourite novel, and I still think the 'dark comedy' in it wonderful, as is Hamilton's perception and espousal of human values and his witty exposure of the terrible tendencies towards facism in unremarkable bullies.

In this story - set during the dark days of World War Two- I believe, during the build up to the Normandy Landings and the turnabout of the war - we follow the adventures of Miss Roach as she defies supporters of facism in a Berkshire boarding house.

Miss Roach is lonely, but fiercly proud and indpendent. She has the misfortune to be unmarried at a time when that was a social disgrace, though she belongs to the generation where the majority of young men were killed off by World War One.

When the story opens she is working in London but bombed out of her rooms, has been staying at the ludicrously named 'Rosemund Tea Rooms'. There she has been selected as a special target by the elderly bully, the secret Hitler-admirer Mr Thwaites, who detests her quiet indpendence and support of democratic values.

When Miss Roach befriends Vicki Kugelmann, a German woman inexplicably stranded in wartime Henley (called Thames Ditton in the novel)she soon reveals herself as vain and vulgar, an eager accomplice of Mr Thwaites in his daily torture of Miss Roach. Man obsessed, she promptly sets to work to steal away Miss Roach's solitary admirer, the generous but 'inconsequent' and drunken American Lieutenant Pike...

In his own life, Hamilton's sexist views largly reflected the times, but his portrait of Miss Roach is a masterpiece of understated sensitivity, as is his
wonderful portrayal of all the characters in the book. His set pieces of comedy are delightful (the one where Mr Thwaites becomes ridiculously drunk is one of my favourites) and his use of 'Comic Capitals' (one of his favourite devices to emphasies a banal phrase) never overdone.

Without writing a 'spoiler' the end sentence sums up the reader's mood of compassion at the end of the story, and is justly famous: - '...God help us, God help all of us, each one, every one, all of us.'
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patrick Hamilton - The Slaves of Solitude, 2 April 2010
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Slaves of Solitude (Paperback)
After several disappointments, I knew I could rely on Hamilton to remind me how wonderful fiction should be written. And this tale of boarding-house during WW2 does the job perfectly. A fantastic, funny, moving, atmospheric book peopled with fantastic characters. You yearn for Miss Roach to break the mould of primness and really let fly at life, have herself a bit of fun, but she cannot and will not, and you just know it, and this is the inherent sadness of the entire book: the limits to which people are slaves not to solitude but to their characters, which in turn breeds solitude.

The Slaves of Solitude definitely is as good as his other work. He has a perfect attunement to eccentrities of character, and people's inner conflicts and ridiculousnesses. He conveys movingly the rituals of solitude that make a lonely life bearable. He is also very very funny (the dining room scenes are absolutely prefect, every time one cropped up I was smiling gleefully). I recommend this book, and all his others, without reserve. A genius.
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The Slaves of Solitude
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (Paperback - 24 Aug 2006)
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