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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sex, class and post-war Britain, 30 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Room At The Top (Paperback)
First let me say that this book is worth every minute spent reading it. It's a short novel written in an easy to read style and throws you right into the plot from page one - class and ambition.

I was born and brought up in a town much like Dufton, the depressed and depressing northern town that the anti-hero Joe Lampton is trying to escape from, so the novel strikes a cord straight away. Joe and his friend call the various town hall functionaries in Dufton 'zombies' - moving but not really alive. As the story develops you realize that for all Joe's desire to escape from Dufton to the middle-class valhalla of Warley (or its like) he has really only move geographically, but he still very much a product of his class and his birthplace.

Joe Lampton has three driving forces in his life: ambition, class consciousness and a liking of women. These all play an important part in the story and weave together to drive Joe up the social ladder but also towards heartbreak.

Much of the story revolves around his affair with Alice Aisgill, an older women who is an independent spirit - within the society of the time she acted with the independence of a man and wasn't afraid to make it clear that she wasn't anyone's chattel (though her freedom depended on the loveless marriage to a rich man). Joe is torn between Alice and Susan Brown. Susan is only 19. and the pampered virgin daughter of a rich and worldly-wise businessman. Joe falls for her at first sight (before he knows that association with her could help him up the greasy pole, or prevent it forever). Susan is rather childish and shallow, and the perfect catch for Joe's working class view of man and woman, but Alice is more than his equal.

Some of the glimpses of post-war Britain (e.g. rations and the central role of the town hall) are fascinating and included in the story in such a way as to be as natural as air. They are written by somebody for whom it was simply a part of life, rather than with the curiosity of a spectator looking back.

The copy I read (a Penguin orange cover) was printed in 1959 and the paper was going a bit brown. This added to the sense of looking into that world - the book was almost as old as when the story was set.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Dec 2012 14:01:36 GMT
Dan Smith says:
That's a bit windy; write more and talk less.
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Location: Macclesfield, UK

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