- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (1961)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00005XL4X
- Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 14.5 x 2.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,169,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The L-Shaped Room Hardcover – 1961
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Top Customer Reviews
Readers of the totally modern perspective might be shocked by how marginalised women were in Western society a mere coin's throw back in time. Illegitimacy carried a hideous stigma for both mother and child, and Jane's situation isn't helped by her refusal to wear a wedding ring and pretend widowhood, so as to spare either society or herself shame. Her great aunt tells her she'll have to legally adopt her own child when it's born in order to give it her name and make it 'quasi legitimate'. 'The law pretends it's a waif or stray and that you're doing it a favour, and all is forgiven. The child becomes officially your adopted child instead of irregularly your own.' At Jane's disbelief, her aunt adds, 'I know, I know. The law's an a** (word for donkey I don't think I can use here).'
Wish I'd discovered this wonderful book years ago.
This is the story of Jane, a 28 year old woman who finds herself pregnant and unmarried. Her father throws her out and she ends up living in a dingy l-shaped room in an equally dingy house in Fulham. Jane does her best with the room and ends up being quite fond of it, along with the other residents of the house: Doris, the landlady, Mavis, the nosy neighbour, John, the black jazz musician who lives in the next room, and most importantly, Toby, a writer to whom Jane grows close.
The book follows her pregnancy and how she deals with it. It was written in 1960 and so being unmarried and pregnant was still taboo, and it's interesting to read how people treated Jane then.
Being somebody who prefers a contemporary style of writing, I wasn't sure I would like this book, but I surprised myself by enjoying it very much. It's a pleasant and well written story, and it made me smile in places. I'll probably look out the next in the trilogy, and would also be keen to watch the film again now, to see how it compares.
The writer evokes brilliantly the humdrum drabness of suburban London in the late 1950's (the book was first published in 1960): the corner cafes, the shabby streets, the coarse surliness of boorish shopkeepers (surely not all of them were like that?)and the drudgery of life in a slummy bedsit. In addition, her knack for really smoothflowing dialogue is faultless (it's hard not to read the dialogue at normal `talking speed` as it's so natural).
But was life really like this in the late 1950's? Maybe it was normal then to mistrust Jews, maybe it was normal to be startled by blacks, maybe it was normal to be wary of gays, maybe it was normal to mock the Catholics, maybe it was normal for male bosses to be so patronising towards their female secretaries, maybe it was normal for doctors to be so stern and for matrons to be so prim? All these glimpses give an oddly skewed idea of life for the modern reader but the atmosphere throughout is terrific.
I do have to criticise the `Great Aunt Addy` connection, though. She appears as a lovable, no nonsense, practical, bossy, kindhearted `deus ex machina` at Jane's lowest point and her departure from the story is as irritatingly predictable as her entry was unpredictable. Her role feels like a contrived convenience.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I first read this in the 1960s and just accepted it as the way society was then. Reading it now has brought it all back, and in a book club with younger women it has highlighted... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Morwenna
I read this book when it was first published and reading it again all these years later was a real eye opener. How things have changed over the years.Published 1 month ago by Jane Trueman
A Wonderfully written novel, full of surprises until the last page. I can't wait to read more of thus author's work.Published 3 months ago by aekwright
Read this book in my teens, still a really good read, love itPublished 5 months ago by samantha richardson
A great book that you just cannot put down.....a classic!Published 7 months ago by kathleen bassett