The 1939 - 45 World War left Britain and the British people exhausted and impoverished. Nowhere was the darkness and devastation more apparent than in London and its environs.
The meeting between a 39 year old spinster, living in respectable lodgings, and a young, brash American Lieutenant promised much but foundered in deception. A young woman of German origin was the catalyst for change. Among the fellow lodgers, Patrick Hamilton creates a monstrous character, Mr Thwaites, who causes pain and distress to all. Only an ex-Music Hall artist offers some sympathetic understanding, and that occurs only in his environment, entertaining children. A legacy enables Miss Roach to escape. Working for a publishing house promises continuity but little more.
Darkness pervades the book: black humour enlivens it. Silent hurts, small hopes, few expectations fill the characters' lives. Patrick Hamilton has created a picture of a grubby, damaged society, still clinging to its pre-war respectability and good manners; resilient after six years of war but with years to wait before the Swinging London and excesses of the 60s.
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