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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Slaves of Solitude
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2011
I loved this story and finished it in 2 days. It was an easy read and a thoroughly enjoyable story.
There are some really funny scenes, often cringingly embarrassing at the same time, mostly those involving Mr Thwaites, the unbearable old bully/bore (he's extreme but believable - we ALL know someone a bit like him!!).
As well as being a great story, it gives an interesting insight into the changes brought to these people's lives on by World War 2, especially the attitudes to what was acceptable social behaviour, particularly for women.
The author describes the (blameless if a bit naive) heroine's feelings perfectly as she becomes embroiled in a horrid situation with her fellow boarders, and the outcome (which I wont give away). Great stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the first book by Patrick Hamilton that I have read. This book, first published in 1947, is set during 1943, in an England feeling the pinches of the War. The characters are in the main inhabitants of or visitors to the Rosamund Tea Rooms, despite its name a boarding-house for gentlefolk in Thames Lockdon out of London. The main character whose actions we get to read about is Miss Roach, a thirty-nine year old woman who works at a publishing house in London. Feeling afraid to continue to live in London under the bombings and air-raids, she has moved to Thames Lockdown and taken up residence at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. There she finds herself the victim of underhand bullying tactics by another resident Mr Thwaites, who sounds a most unpleasant man. Unable to put him down verbally, Miss Roach's life has become something of a misery. Other residents, Mrs Barratt, Miss Steele and Mr Prest, are visible yet largely silent characters at the boarding-house for much of the book.

Catalysts arrive to change the way of life at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. American servicemen offer a new injection of society into the town, and Miss Roach's championing of a German woman Vicki Kugelmann offers her a hope of a fresh approach to life. What happens next is more than anyone could have imagined.

This is a brilliant novel; sharp, biting, cynical, written in a mix of short conversations and long sentences, the world of Thames Lockdon and the smaller world of the Rosamund Tea Rooms is brilliantly laid open before the reader. We feel immediate sympathy yet some impatience with Miss Roach, abhorrence at the antics of Mr Thwaites, and you can't help but wonder how you would react yourself should you find yourself in these circumstances. We really want Miss Roach to find some happiness in her life, yet as the lives of all the people in Thames Lockdon unravel wildly, you begin to wonder if anyone is ever going to be happy again.

The novel is a compelling read, the story an enthralling one, and the author's style draws you in and won't let go as you race through the pages. I found this totally and wonderfully enjoyable in a desperate, maddening and saddening way and read it avidly. I look forward to discovering more works by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the first book by Patrick Hamilton that I have read. This book, first published in 1947, is set during 1943, in an England feeling the pinches of the War. The characters are in the main inhabitants of or visitors to the Rosamund Tea Rooms, despite its name a boarding-house for gentlefolk in Thames Lockdon out of London. The main character whose actions we get to read about is Miss Roach, a thirty-nine year old woman who works at a publishing house in London. Feeling afraid to continue to live in London under the bombings and air-raids, she has moved to Thames Lockdown and taken up residence at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. There she finds herself the victim of underhand bullying tactics by another resident Mr Thwaites, who sounds a most unpleasant man. Unable to put him down verbally, Miss Roach's life has become something of a misery. Other residents, Mrs Barratt, Miss Steele and Mr Prest, are visible yet largely silent characters at the boarding-house for much of the book.

Catalysts arrive to change the way of life at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. American servicemen offer a new injection of society into the town, and Miss Roach's championing of a German woman Vicki Kugelmann offers her a hope of a fresh approach to life. What happens next is more than anyone could have imagined.

This is a brilliant novel; sharp, biting, cynical, written in a mix of short conversations and long sentences, the world of Thames Lockdon and the smaller world of the Rosamund Tea Rooms is brilliantly laid open before the reader. We feel immediate sympathy yet some impatience with Miss Roach, abhorrence at the antics of Mr Thwaites, and you can't help but wonder how you would react yourself should you find yourself in these circumstances. We really want Miss Roach to find some happiness in her life, yet as the lives of all the people in Thames Lockdon unravel wildly, you begin to wonder if anyone is ever going to be happy again.

The novel is a compelling read, the story an enthralling one, and the author's style draws you in and won't let go as you race through the pages. I found this totally and wonderfully enjoyable in a desperate, maddening and saddening way and read it avidly. I look forward to discovering more works by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the first book by Patrick Hamilton that I have read. This book, first published in 1947, is set during 1943, in an England feeling the pinches of the War. The characters are in the main inhabitants of or visitors to the Rosamund Tea Rooms, despite its name a boarding-house for gentlefolk in Thames Lockdon out of London. The main character whose actions we get to read about is Miss Roach, a thirty-nine year old woman who works at a publishing house in London. Feeling afraid to continue to live in London under the bombings and air-raids, she has moved to Thames Lockdown and taken up residence at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. There she finds herself the victim of underhand bullying tactics by another resident Mr Thwaites, who sounds a most unpleasant man. Unable to put him down verbally, Miss Roach's life has become something of a misery. Other residents, Mrs Barratt, Miss Steele and Mr Prest, are visible yet largely silent characters at the boarding-house for much of the book.

Catalysts arrive to change the way of life at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. American servicemen offer a new injection of society into the town, and Miss Roach's championing of a German woman Vicki Kugelmann offers her a hope of a fresh approach to life. What happens next is more than anyone could have imagined.

This is a brilliant novel; sharp, biting, cynical, written in a mix of short conversations and long sentences, the world of Thames Lockdon and the smaller world of the Rosamund Tea Rooms is brilliantly laid open before the reader. We feel immediate sympathy yet some impatience with Miss Roach, abhorrence at the antics of Mr Thwaites, and you can't help but wonder how you would react yourself should you find yourself in these circumstances. We really want Miss Roach to find some happiness in her life, yet as the lives of all the people in Thames Lockdon unravel wildly, you begin to wonder if anyone is ever going to be happy again.

The novel is a compelling read, the story an enthralling one, and the author's style draws you in and won't let go as you race through the pages. I found this totally and wonderfully enjoyable in a desperate, maddening and saddening way and read it avidly. I look forward to discovering more works by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the first book by Patrick Hamilton that I have read. This book, first published in 1947, is set during 1943, in an England feeling the pinches of the War. The characters are in the main inhabitants of or visitors to the Rosamund Tea Rooms, despite its name a boarding-house for gentlefolk in Thames Lockdon out of London. The main character whose actions we get to read about is Miss Roach, a thirty-nine year old woman who works at a publishing house in London. Feeling afraid to continue to live in London under the bombings and air-raids, she has moved to Thames Lockdown and taken up residence at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. There she finds herself the victim of underhand bullying tactics by another resident Mr Thwaites, who sounds a most unpleasant man. Unable to put him down verbally, Miss Roach’s life has become something of a misery. Other residents, Mrs Barratt, Miss Steele and Mr Prest, are visible yet largely silent characters at the boarding-house for much of the book.

Catalysts arrive to change the way of life at the Rosamund Tea Rooms. American servicemen offer a new injection of society into the town, and Miss Roach’s championing of a German woman Vicki Kugelmann offers her a hope of a fresh approach to life. What happens next is more than anyone could have imagined.

This is a brilliant novel; sharp, biting, cynical, written in a mix of short conversations and long sentences, the world of Thames Lockdon and the smaller world of the Rosamund Tea Rooms is brilliantly laid open before the reader. We feel immediate sympathy yet some impatience with Miss Roach, abhorrence at the antics of Mr Thwaites, and you can’t help but wonder how you would react yourself should you find yourself in these circumstances. We really want Miss Roach to find some happiness in her life, yet as the lives of all the people in Thames Lockdon unravel wildly, you begin to wonder if anyone is ever going to be happy again.

The novel is a compelling read, the story an enthralling one, and the author’s style draws you in and won’t let go as you race through the pages. I found this totally and wonderfully enjoyable in a desperate, maddening and saddening way and read it avidly. I look forward to discovering more works by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Slaves of Solitude is set in 1943 in a suburban boarding house, in `Thames Lockdon' (loosely modelled on Henley-on-Thames) There is a seedy, penny pinching respectability, a po-faced rather right-wing sense of little-England righteousness which stalks the pages and the mean, soulless little rooms of the `Rosamund Tea Rooms'. Rosamund is no longer a tea-room. The economies of war have turned the tea rooms into a boarding house, where those of more than slender means have found possibly their final resting places - several of the residents are quiet elderly spinsters or widows.

The central character is Enid Roach - how she hates both her names, and the spiteful sobriquet of Roachy, or even worse, Cockroach, which were hers as a not successful teacher. Miss Roach is teetering on the edge of 40. She is a refugee from London, where she still works as a publisher's assistant, though to be honest, more of her work involves accounts and clerical duties than reading manuscripts. Bombing flattened her rented accommodation in London; hence she has shored up here, commuting daily.

She is far less grey and nondescript and irretrievably spinster than she thinks. Various onlookers (some of them the elderly ladies and gentlemen in the boarding house) like her ability to be more free-thinking and less petty and insular than many. For example, she leans towards sympathy with Russia, and does not automatically assume that every German is a Nazi. She also has a certain something `a rather nice face' which makes some men see her as not quite past interest.

Unfortunately, the boarding house also contains a horribly blustering and opinionated bully in the person of Mr Thwaites, who embodies everything about little-England righteousness, and an unerring instinct to attack the tender and kind, who don't have the killer instinct to lash back. His victim, on a daily basis in the nasty boarding house dining room, is Enid.

Two other major movers of the novel's dynamic are a kindly, heavy-drinking American, one of the `over paid, over-sexed, over-here's, Lieutenant Pike, who has some designs on Enid, and a further nemesis, in the hands of Vicki Kugelmann, a German woman who has lived in England for well over a decade, and has been taken under Enid's kindly wing, in part because of her degree of being ostracised for being German, but, also for representing, like the Lieutenant, a wider world.

Hamilton captures, beautifully, the narrow world, the thinking processes, the pettiness and the glories of his characters. Although in many ways this is a dark, sad book, echoing Enid's sad cry:

`at last she put out the light, and turned over, and adjusted the pillow, and hopefully composed her mind for sleep - God help us, God help all of us, every one, all of us'

it is also horribly, viciously comic in its exposure of the nasty, small-minded petty tyranny of the Mr Thwaites of the world, who imagine their spiteful drivel and their pompous utterances against their fellows is `bluff humour' instead of the wearing, pointless savageness of its true nature:

`You know', said Mrs Barratt, I don't think you really like the Russians, Mr Thwaites. I don't think you realise what they're doing for us.' ....

Mr Thwaites was momentarily taken aback by this unexpected resistance, and there was a pause in which his eyes went glassy.

`Ah' he said at last. `Don't I?....Don't I...Well, perhaps I don't...Maybe I thinks more than I says. Maybe I has my private views....'

Oh God, thought Miss Roach, now he was beginning his ghastly I-with-the-third-person business. As if bracing herself for a blow (as she looked at the tablecloth), she waited for more, and more came.

`I Keeps my Counsel.' said Mr Thwaites, in his slow treacly voice. `Like the Wise Old Owl, I Sits and Keeps my Counsel.'

Hamilton is clear where his loyalties lie, and where he wants ours to lie. `Thwaiteness' is not the glittering crime-against-humanity which fills the news, which `the silent majority' may look at, and tut at, in horror, but it is instead, a relentless small spitefulness and viciousness, on a daily basis, which arises out of those small lives, as much as, on the other side, daily small kindnesses may arise from the lives of the nameless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2013
I've been a fan of Patrick Hamilton for a couple of years now ever since first reading 20Thousand Streets. There is a certain Dickensian quality to his writing particularly his observation, analysis and depiction of character that I find utterly compelling. |

His two most memorable characters (for me) are Mr Eccles in 20 Thousand and the perfectly hideous Thwaites in Slaves of Solitude. It appears that the author drew heavily upon his overbearing fathers' character in building the composite of Eccles/Thwaites. But whereas Eccles is merely pitiable Thwaites is more or less loathsome.

Much of the action in this book is set in the dining room of the Rosamund Tearooms (converted into a boarding house) during World War 2. Here the hideous Thwaites holds court dominating and presiding over the conversation during mealtimes. The other guests comprise little old ladies, a couple of American servicemen and the solitary Mr Prest. As the eldest guest Thwaites has assumed control of proceedings and gives forth with his own bewildering dogma on the conduct of the war, Americans, Russians and anything else that crosses his crazed mind.

Thwaites's particular target (for reasons unclear) is the plain spinster Miss Roach. The author takes us inside the mind of the hapless Miss Roach as she feebly tries to fend off the endless stream of vindictive scorn, sarcasm and general sniping from the dining room bully.

The 20 Thousand trilogy was great. Slaves of Solitude is wonderful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This excellent novel is set within the confines of a boarding house in the fictional location of Thames Lockdon; said to be on the river and some miles beyond Maidenhead. It is December 1943 and Miss Enid Roach, a spinster in her late thirties, has been living in the Rosamund Tea Rooms for a year after being bombed out of her flat in London. Miss Roach is a gentle, kind woman, whose initial thankfulness at finding a safe place to live has turned into a living 'hell'.

Patrick Hamilton does a wonderful job of showing us how besieged Miss Roach has become. Surrounded by notes pinned up in the boarding house about the lights and the water and the use of electricity, by notices outside with more orders and warnings, by the darkness of the blackout and the lack of anything in the shops, by restrictions and crowds and war, she is suffering the effects of years of wartime Britain. Small things make life worthwhile - her job in the city, which gets her out of the house, and 'her' American, Lieutenant Dayton Pike, who brings a little excitement into her life. However, the war outside the boarding house is brought inside, by both Miss Roach's 'friend' the odious German girl Vicki and by the almost comic bully, Mr Thwaites, who makes her mealtimes a misery. As Christmas approaches, and the residents of the Rosamund Tea Rooms battle their little failures and isolation, there is a 'war to the death' between Miss Roach and Vicki.

The author creates a perfect little world in the inhabitants of the boarding house. Mealtimes are almost painful to read about, with Mr Thwaites holding court (who has not met a Mr Thwaites in their life?!) and Vicki's spiteful behaviour. The verbal attacks in the dining room, the actor who longs for another chance, the elderly ladies who do their best to protect Miss Roach, vicous innuendo and the level of drunken behaviour by Lieutenant Pike, all combine in a novel that leaves you feeling profoundly moved by the last page. I have never read anything by Patrick Hamilton before, but I am glad I have discovered his work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 September 2012
It is good to see that Patrick Hamilton is once more in favour. By chance I read this novel immediately before Pat Barker's "Toby's Room". Pat Barker is another writer I rate highly but here I think she has to give way to the more penetrating and engaging story unfolded in "The Slaves of Solitude". Where PB's novel is set amongst the rural upper-middle class before and during the First World War, Hamilton's is concerned with the London lower middle class clientele of a guest house during WW2. We are always at a distance here from the worst of the suffering the war brought, whereas PB confronts us with the horrors of the trenches as admittedly many have done before her - in prose and in verse. Nonetheless, suffering there is. Miss Roach, the charmingly self-effacing heroine of the novel - and I think "heroine" is the right word - for all her modest claims and antipathy to being at the centre of a drama. She is also the lens through which we feel the palpable reality of London during the air raids and deprivations. Her strength lies in her simple kindness and moral decency - values no longer so dearly cherished. Her nemesis, the sly, persecuting Thwaites is himself a masterpiece of characterisation, escaping his own inadequacies in tormenting others - the focus of his venom Miss Roach. He is no fool, but has built a fortress for himself behind which all guns are blazing to keep at bay his own terror. A wonderfully subtle and compassionate book with a heroine and guide who triggers our own better instincts.
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