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on 30 April 2017
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on 25 March 2017
Very enjoyable to read.
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on 26 January 2001
This is an exquisite adorable tale of a theatre troupe travelling England in the first half of the twentieth century. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a soppy sentimental book, what I mean by my adjectives is merely that each character is so beautifully carved that they leap off the page and into your heart the instant you read of them. Again that sounds far more hideous than it is, in reality this is a nice book, one in which you truly wish each and every character well, and hold your breath in case anything nasty should befall them, but don't worry as in the best theatre traditions it'll all be alright on the night. Although very long I'm sure by the last page you will be wishing it was twice the length. In my opinion this book was Priestley's finest hour.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2012
The Good Companions has an excellent beginning. Three quite different characters all set out on a journey that culminates in their meeting up in Chapter 4. There is Jess Oakroyd from Bruddersfield (a northern industrial town) who decides to break free from his loveless marriage and heads south. Elizabeth Trant is meek spinster who is suddenly made free by the death of her father. She sets out by car to see parts of England she has never before visited. Young Inigo Jolliphant tosses aside his teaching job at an appalling minor public school and has no clear idea of where to go or what to do.

Via a series of adventures they meet up with a touring theatrical group who have fallen on hard times. Miss Trant decides to finance the group and takes over as manager. It is a sort of fairy tale according to the author but none the worse for that. It tells of the ups and downs of Concert Party life. The grimness of some of their digs, the dullness of the towns and the pathetic audiences are all brilliantly portrayed.

Priestley casts a Dickensian spell over the book with great sweeping descriptions of English towns and landscapes. The central characters are all well drawn and spring to life from the pages.

One criticism I would make is that The Good Companions is a bit too long. A modern editor would have given it a bit of a prune. But it is a charming, entertaining, old fashioned book.

The novels of Priestley seem to have gone out of fashion - a revival is long overdue!
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on 2 June 2010
The other reviewers have explained the appeal of this book very well. It is now a period piece. There can only be very few readers alive now who can remember the concert parties and pierrot troupes that slogged their way round the variety halls and end of the pier theatres of Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. I recall my late father telling me that he remembered concert parties of precisely the kind described by J B Priesltey coming to perform on Shanklin and Sandown Piers in the 1930s. He added that they were all uniformly absolutely hopeless and awful but let's forget about that.

This book is clearly set after the beginning of broadcasting and during a period of economic depression so I guess Mr J B Priestley intended readers who read the book when it came out (1929) to regard it as a contemporary story. It was a huge success at the time and when I first read it many years ago I became delightfully immersed in the lives of the three main characters and their nomadic temporary hosts (The Dinkey Doos/Good Companions). We meet well drawn good hearted characters who are fully prersented with all their many qualities and foibles affectionately painted by the author for the pleasure of his readers. As they traverse the England of the Great Depression these latterday secular pilgrims witness the gamut of English society as Priestley knew it. There is no venom in Priestley's social observations on this occasion (c.f. his later work)- although cinema owners get a mild moral drubbing. Here we are focusing on the whimsical and the comical and the absurd. Others will correct me if I am wrong but I think that just before writing The Good Companions J B Priestley undertook a journey all round the UK and produced a serious book of journalism/travel writing about the suffering and privations of the poor during the depression. In the Good Companions he uses the knowledge of the different cities and towns and regions of England that he gained on that journey but he uses it to a gentle and comic effect.

The book is in many ways a comic masterpiece and this handsome hardback edition contains well justified brief essays of praise for the book from contemporary comic writers. For some tastes the book may at times seem to have too rich a streak of sentimentality but for me at least the lightness of tone and the pace of the story telling never allows the book to become too sickly sweet.

I strongly recommend the book to one and all.

In finality I would just put a word in to whoever owns the rights to a 1980 TV musical dramatisation made by Yorkshire Television. You are sitting on a little gem of a TV series and whilst you will never get the DVD sales of a Lost or a Dr Who, you will do very respectably indeed if you issue the series on DVD.

PS written on 24th May 2013: Since writing this review nearly three years ago the TV musicial drama adaptation has become available on DVD. here is the link: The Good Companions - The Complete Series [ITV] - [Network] - [DVD]
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on 27 July 2010
J B Priestley's celebrated and immensely successful award-winning novel, first published in 1929, has recently enjoyed a new lease of life with its re-issue, in an enhanced format, by Great Northern Books; the first professional revival, by the BBC, of the 1974 musical version with songs by Andre Previn and Johnny Mercer; the launch of yet another musical version; and a recent repeat, on BBC Radio 7, of the 2002 BBC Radio 4 adaptation. Now comes this welcome, if abridged (although 7 hours long), audiobook version in which the reader is Bingley-born Rodney Bewes (of The Likely Lads fame). The novel recounts the adventures of a touring concert party, The Dinky Doos, which renames itself The Good Companions. But this is by way of being the backdrop to a tale about three disparate characters : Elizabeth Trant, a young-to-middle-aged spinster from a Cotswold village, Inigo Jollifant, a piano-playing schoolmaster from the Fen Country, and Jess Oakroyd, a joiner from the West Riding town of Bruddersford, who go 'on the road' to escape their stifling backgrounds and seek a new and liberating way of life. Although the overall tone of the novel is optimistic the darker side of England in the Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s is not forgotten. After a somewhat muted start Rodney Bewes quickly gets into his stride and takes on the many characters in the novel with aplomb. There are useful contributions from Tom Priestley, the author's son and President of The J B Priestley Society and a suitably 1920s-sounding dance tune as a recurring musical theme. The packaging leaves something to be desired, however : there is no accompanying booklet and not even a list of tracks, CD by CD, with narrative cues, such as would enable extracts to be accessed quickly.
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on 18 June 2011
I read this book in 1980, often to the smell of our next door neighbours burning their parquet flooring in their fireplace. The book was a very good read. The characters even inspired me to think up an imaginary cast using TV actors and actresses of the 1970s. The images cast by reading the book will stay with me. Tewborough, a literally toxic little town was very memorable and I would imagine the dignitaries of the town it was based on sueing for libel. Mrs Tarvin, a complete bully tucking into her creme caramel at the minor independent school while pupils and staff were fed on the cheap. The sumptuous tea laid on by the hellfire and brimstone church into which the congregation tucked after hearing a doom-laden sermon. Changing lorry number plates on the Great Northern Road and the evaporation of Mr Poppleby's 'uman line' when Mr Oakroyd cannot pay for his breakfast on discovering his money stolen. There a so many more fantastic images in this book. Read it...very soon
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on 14 July 2010
An excellent book. The characters are all so real. The are from different parts of England and from different social backgrounds and yet their stories interlink without effort. It is beautifully written and continually entertaining. There is a fascination in reading about England as it was only 70 years ago as it has changed so much in such a short period of time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 January 2017
The novel that established the author’s literary credentials, Priestley’s 1929 work remains a hugely enjoyable read. Funny, sad and gripping in roughly equal measure, well-observed throughout and painting authentic pictures of life as lived across the social spectrum in 1920s Britain, Priestley follows the paths of three unlikely 'companions’, dour Yorkshire tradesman, Jess Oakroyd, young teacher and budding songwriter, Inigo Jollifant, and the demure Miss (Elizabeth) Trant, pitching them together amongst a troupe of travelling entertainers (or 'Pierrot troupe’). Running to just over 600 pages, The Good Companions is a novel of epic proportions, but one which (for me) never loses its intimate feel, populated as it is with well-drawn, eccentric characters, as well as depicting the intriguing backdrop of the workings of music-hall theatre of the period. Whilst Priestley’s tale is probably most memorable as a celebration of the indefatigability of the human spirit across social divides, it is also set against the imminent onset of economic downturn, most movingly conveyed here through the experiences of broken family man, Mr Oakroyd. The offbeat characterisation and quirky sense of humour, plus the novel’s perfectly formed narrative arc, also called to my mind Dickens, thus almost guaranteeing a high recommendation. Similarly recommended are Priestley’s later, shorter works, 1965’s Lost Empires (another, slightly darker, take on 'showbiz’) and 1954’s The Magicians (which touches upon the supernatural à la An Inspector Calls).
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on 15 December 2011
Like all the best books I found this by accident. I knew Priestley was a playwrite and essayist, but didn't know that had written novels until coming across an old copy of The Good Companions in a dead relative's effects.

I can thoroughly agree with the other (positive) reviewers that this is a lovely book and that it was the opening chapter (itself somewhat theatrical) that had me hooked. It is reminiscent of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers: an early, light hearted humorous book from an author whose work became darker later.

There is something gloriously unhurried about it, a needed escape from our overhurried, ironic post-modern world. And it paints a fictional picture of England in the pre-depression inter-war years with more integrity, dare I say it, than P.G. Wodehouse (Priestley puts the backbone of the country - the lower-middle and upper-working classes centre stage here, not the landed gentry!) The book doesn't fasten itself to a date, but it would seem to be the early 1920s - it was first published in 1929.

The book may be slightly too long. A subplot introduced at the beginning of the last section takes so long to re-emerge I thought it had been forgotten about. The book seemed to falter a little at this point just as the Good Companions themselves are faltering. This cost it a star, but don't let that put you off if you can track down a copy. Recommended.
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