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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 August 2012
I can't say how delighted I am that Faber are republishing these out of print works of Hamilton's (I'm reliably informed that an edition of Monday Morning is just a matter of time away...) I'd thought that with 20,000 Street and The Slaves of Solitude I'd about seen the peak of Hamilton's work, but this comes very very close too; I loved this. Not quite as grim as some of the others (but still a bit so!), but it retains that humorous wink-in-the-writing. The characters are loveable, their endeavours admirable, their dialogues realistic, and Hamilton's authorly tone is perhaps the most amusing I've come across. He's the funniest English writer I've read, certainly (though not overtly, of course; he's not trying for gags, of course). I love this drab, desperate tale of actorly aspirations. He's my favourite 20th century English writer, hands down.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 July 2013
I adore Patrick Hamilton's "Hangover Square" (1941) - my favourite novel of all time; "Slaves Of Solitude" (1947) is superb; I also really enjoyed the first two Gorse novels - "The West Pier" (1952); and "Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse" (1953); and "Craven House" (1926) (the book that preceded this one). I would also heartily recommend the biography of Patrick Hamilton, "Through a Glass Darkly: The Life of Patrick Hamilton" by Nigel Jones. Since reading "Hangover Square", I have been working my way through all of Patrick Hamilton's work.

"Twopence Coloured" was published in 1928, two years after "Craven House" which had been well received by both critics and the reading public. "Twopence Coloured" was out of print, and all but forgotten, until the Faber Finds reissue in 2011. This does not surprise me as "Twopence Coloured" is the least successful and pleasing book that I have yet read by Patrick Hamilton. I was dismayed that, after the wealth of disparate characters that appear in "Craven House", he wrote this baggy, meandering, overlong and slight tale. With the light of hindsight, we know this was a blip in an otherwise upward trajectory, and he was to hit form again with "Rope: A Play", and then "The Midnight Bell", and then onwards to the peak that was the sublime "Hangover Square", via the "Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky" trilogy.

There are three main reasons why "Twopence Coloured" is far less successful than "Craven House", and the books that were to follow:

1) It's too long. For the first time ever reading Patrick Hamilton, I felt occasionally bored and was tempted to skip ahead. The tale is slight and could have been effectively told in a short story.

2) The lack of social context. "Craven House" managed to tell an interesting story that highlighted the broader generational conflicts after WW1, along with the social tensions during that era. "Hangover Square" and "Slaves Of Solitude" were to even more perfectly marry social and political comment with compelling drama and wonderfully observational writing about pubs, boarding houses, personal relationships, addiction, love and obsession.

3) Uninteresting characters. The book's two main characters, Jackie Mortimer and Richard Gissing, dominate the story, and yet I felt I never got to know much about either of them. Given the well observed, and perfectly described, characters in Patrick Hamilton's other books, this seems odd and anomalous.

Despite these flaws, the book still has much to recommend it. This is Patrick Hamilton after all. He drew on his experience of working in theatre, and seems to perfectly capture the theatrical milieu - both in London's West End, and the provinces. As always with Patrick Hamilton, the dialogue and humour ring with authenticity, and I have no doubt that much of what is stated in the book was originally heard by Patrick Hamilton.

Despite its unnecessary length, "Twopence Coloured" has much to enjoy for readers who have come to know and love Patrick Hamilton's work. Newcomers should start with "Hangover Square" and "Slaves Of Solitude", and then work through the many other highlights of his bibliography before tackling "Twopence Coloured".

I'll finish this review with two pieces of trivia associated with the book:

1) Mark (at The Patrick Hamilton Appreciation Society on GoodReads) informed me that UK theatre-goers in the early twentieth century could purchase miniature paper replica model kits of the stage set and the characters, and - once home - re-enact the play for friends and family. These model sets were typically available in two versions - black and white and full colour . The vendors would cry, "Penny Plains! Twopence Coloured!". Now you know.

2) Jackie and Richard dine at Booth's Restaurant in Brighton on a few occasions. As a resident of Brighton and Hove I wondered where this establishment used to be. I had not heard of it before. It was surprisingly difficult to find information, however after some intense searching I discovered that Booth's Restaurant aka Edwin Booth & Sons, Pastry Cooks and Confectioners, was located at 69-70 East Street in Brighton from 1870 until at least 1950. The beautiful double fronted Victorian building is still at 69-70 East Street and, at the time of writing, is a hairdressers.
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on 9 June 2015
Very early Hamilton, and while it's nowhere near as accomplished as his more famous works it's got a great deal to recommend it. Hamilton's inside knowledge of the world of second-rate theatre - boarding houses, landladies, rail travel, agents' offices and so on - makes it a wonderful document of its time, and while the protagonist's story is a bit trite it's still very enjoyable. There's a tendency to overwriting and use of Capital Letters For Emphasis at the beginning but it settles down pretty well in the second half. Stands up pretty well in that sub-genre of English theatrical novels that includes Priestley's amazing Lost Empires.
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on 6 September 2015
A very interesting, lesser known Hamilton novel from his early career. What it lacks in social bite it certainly makes up for in humour - the sending up of the theatrical classes was most amusing and I would assume based on the author's own experiences. You can see early signs of the piercing satire to be found in his later work 'Impromptu in Moribundia'.
Overall though I think the novel falls a little way short of his classics such as 'Hangover Square' and 'Slaves of Solitude' and indeed of the previous work 'Craven House', all of which I would recommend above 'Twopence Coloured' for anyone looking to read Hamilton for the first time. The characters are rather thin and uninteresting - we find out very little about the heroine's early life or the context in which she decides to become an actress. She seems to fall in love with the first man she meets and then everything else is a little too convenient. Hamilton's characters usually offer up far more depth and sympathy to the reader, and I am left with the impression that this novel was really just a vehicle for Hamilton to pour his scorn on the theatrical profession. Which to be fair he does very well and with extreme humour..
(Interesting to note that even a writer of Hamilton's stature can make the common error of confusing the meaning the word 'infer' with that of 'imply' - maybe that's why the book was taken out of print - embarrassment!)
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on 22 December 2015
It's not bad but I would say the ending is a bit tame, it's more for those who obsessively want to read through Patrick Hamilton's works (like myself). My suggestion for PH would be: start at Slaves of Solitude, then 20,000 streets and then the Gorse trilogy (why don't people tend to like that 1!?), then whichever you fancy really
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on 9 November 2015
I love Patrick Hamilton's books for anyone who likes reading about pre and post war Britain and the pub life they are wonderful.
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on 13 February 2015
Hilarious. I love his use of Komic Kapitals and this book is teeming with them. I laugh out loud on almost every page.
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on 6 October 2011
Not the very best of the author's output - not so essential and immediate as "Slaves of Solitude", for instance - the texture waxing thick with a degree of overwriting here and there, but the sense of lived life does come through compellingly..... Hence the five stars, for PH fans won't be deprived of their dose.
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on 29 February 2012
As a big PH fan, I had high hopes for this book. And it didn't disappoint. However, it just didn't hit all of the spots of Hangover Square, or indeed Slaves of Solitude. The grimey underworld and dark humour just wasn't there. Good for the die-hard fan, but I would suggest reading his others first.
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on 14 January 2012
I bought this for my husband and he was very pleased to see it back in print and it was an excellent read just as he was expecting it to be.
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