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One of the greatest novels of working class life ever, Alan Sillitoe’s best novel packs as much of a punch today as it did when first published in 1958. It’s the story of young Nottingham factory worker Arthur Seaton, who works hard and plays hard and is determined not to be beaten down by “the system”. But when he gets involved with a married woman his life is complicated in ways he could never have envisaged, and his hedonistic lifestyle is curtailed. It’s a vivid and authentic portrayal of 1950s working class life and of a rebel who takes on the establishment. The characters are multi-layered and sympathetic, and Seaton himself takes on a life of his own way beyond the confines of the book. A moving and unforgettable story.
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on 10 October 2012
I really enjoyed this novel and found it very easy to read. It shows a good insight into the working class in the post-war period. I found the protagonist likable and "real." I'd recommend this book.
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on 17 March 2013
Alan Sillitoe is an example to anyone who claims to have had a rotten start in life. The son of an illiterate man, he read the books in his grandparents' house before leaving school at 14. And then he produced this classic of 20th century literature tracing a slice of the life of Arthur Seaton, factory worker, boozer and womaniser, who eventually finds a new direction through a girl he meets in a pub. I read this in the early sixties, and when I read it again recently I found it just as fresh and as brilliant. Highly recommended.
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on 5 March 2014
An interesting book I first read fifty years ago. How times have changed. Still an interesting read though.Worth trying for new readers.
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on 2 October 2010
Alan Sillitoe was one of a number of young writers who emerged in the late fifties and sixties and who have become known as the "kitchen sink" school. (Other members of the group included the novelists Stan Barstow, John Braine, David Storey and Barry Hines and playwrights such as John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney). Their work was distinguished by a social-realist concentration on working-class life, often with a provincial setting.

"Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" from 1958 was Sillitoe's first novel, and probably the one for which he is best known today. (His other widely known work is the short story collection "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner", particularly the title story). It is set in the author's native Nottingham and tells the story of Arthur Seaton, a young worker in a bicycle factory. Although Sillitoe himself had worked in a factory and had given his hero his own initials, he always denied that the novel was autobiographical.

Reading this book, I was struck by the contrasts between it and another 1958 study of a young man from a working-class background, Colin MacInnes's "Absolute Beginners". MacInnes's nameless hero, a self-employed London photographer who lives in his own flat, is part of the new teenage subculture of the late fifties, a young man whose main interests are the latest trends in music and fashion. He is teetotal, more at home in coffee bars and nightclubs than in pubs. His self-description as an "absolute beginner" refers both to his youth and inexperience and to his desire for a world as different to that of his parents' generation as possible.

Arthur at 22 is only four years older than MacInnes's hero, but leads a much more traditional working-class life. He still lives at home with his parents and his main leisure interests (apart from chasing girls) are drinking in the pub and spending Sunday afternoon fishing, occasionally reading the "News of the World" or watching a football match. Rock-and-roll and modern fashions seem to have passed him by. In fact, it is much the same sort of life as his father might have led in the 1920s, and not all that different to the one his grandfather might have led a generation before that.

In many ways Arthur is not a particularly admirable character. He is a heavy drinker; the opening chapter is a description of a drinking bout in a working man's club one Saturday evening, which ends with him falling down the stairs drunk. He is also a womaniser with a weakness for older married women; he is conducting affairs with Brenda, the wife of a colleague at work, and Brenda's sister Winnie, who is also married. These illicit relationships, however, do not prevent him from courting Doreen, an innocent teenager who remains blissfully ignorant of Arthur's other affairs.

In his defiant attitude to all forms of authority and his self-centredness he has something in common with Smith, the criminal anti-hero of Sillitoe's "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner". In both cases their rebellion against authority is an individualistic one; both are Labour supporters by default, in that they come from backgrounds where it would be virtually unthinkable to support any other party, but neither has any belief in Socialism or in the idea that the working class can improve their lot through political action or trade union activity.

Yet in Arthur's own words (a quote later made famous by the Arctic Monkeys) "whatever people say I am, that's what I am not". It would be too easy to dismiss him simply as a drunken, rebellious troublemaker. The fact that a recreation as tranquil as fishing is one of his favourite pastimes suggests that there is a more peaceful side to his nature. Unlike Smith, he is smart enough to realise that if he fights the law the law will usually win, and although he occasionally engages in minor rowdyism he prefers to earn his living by honest labour rather than by criminal activity. The book ends with Arthur preparing to marry Doreen, having given up his two affairs after being beaten up by Winnie's soldier husband; the implication is perhaps that he has learned his lesson and is starting to take a more responsible attitude to life.

Unlike his father, who was frequently unemployed during the depression of the thirties, Arthur is fortunate enough to have come into manhood at a time of economic prosperity, a time when Britons were being assured by their Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, that they had "never had it so good", and is able to earn a reasonable wage by working hard. And yet, in Sillitoe's view, "never had it so good" was still not good enough. One of the themes of the novel is the way in which the class divisions of pre-war Britain still persisted despite the post-war economic boom. Arthur is clearly intelligent and articulate, yet has only received a basic formal education and is unable to find anything other than mundane and repetitive factory work. His anger and resentment against the "System" may stem from frustration at being unable to put his intelligence to more creative use.

Sillitoe stated in his introduction to the book that some of its chapters started life as self-contained short stories and even poems which were then fitted into the novel, and it may be that this method of working was responsible for occasional structural gaps. (For example, in the early chapters Arthur has two brothers, Sam and Fred, but Sam seems to drop out of the picture in the later ones and his name is given to another character). Nevertheless, with its strongly drawn central character and its striking, unsentimental picture of working-class Midlands life, "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" is a most impressive first novel.
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on 9 November 2013
"Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" is an authentic portrait of fifties, Midlands working class life and that's all I really need to say about it. Also worth reading is the sequel, "Birthday", written years later.

My question for readers is, does Alan Sillitoe have a bit of a chip on his shoulder? I've read three of his books and his protagonists all have more than their fair share of aggression, or maybe it's bitterness. What do you think?
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on 4 January 2015
Maybe we have always had a thin veneer of civility and are always looking for the excuse to become violent. Men and women in this novel are quick to aggression, seemingly living in the moment one moment then hoping for stability the next. Maybe a post war reaction? There are some beautiful lines among the more brutal passages. I'm looking forward to reading The Birthday to see how Arthur develops.
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on 5 May 2013
lads have been the same down the ages,this book reminds me of my earlier years in a time long gone
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on 22 November 2010
Silitoe wrote two masterpieces, The Loneliness of the long Distance runner and Saturday Night and Sunday morning. Unfortunately none of his other later works matched this success. This book tells the story of a working class lad who lives sexually aggressive and dresses expensively as a form of rebellion against the live that has been mapped out for him. In the end he gives in and takes the quiet live with a boring girl. The rebellion is over and the system has swallowed him. Today, I find the working class part of the book actually rather offensive as the main character does not really have any dignity. His life is controlled by outside forces and he is a victim who does not even understand those forces. However, these days I find the book interesting from a different perspective. I do not see it so much as a book about class or specifically working class life. I see it more as a book that describes the universal experience of being a man in modern society. The man is seen as a provider whose path in life is pre-determined. The protagonist has affairs with the wives of his colleagues so the ultimatre iron ylies in the fact that the man as a provider actually bores his wife who then seeks pleasure elsewhere. But life is merciless and the young hero ends up the same way. For me, the book is really important for men who want to question their role in society.
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on 6 October 2002
Set in Nottingham, focusing on the life of a young jack the lad, Arthur, as he goes about his daily life, work, drinking and womanising. Brilliant from start to finish, especially interesting to anyone knowing Nottingham and in the film seeing
the old streets as they once were.
A must for any one.
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