Through reading for class I have discovered one of the unsung greats of all of literature: The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton.
I’ll deal with the obvious question first. Why, if so great, unsung? Well, that’s because time and anthologies are cruel to all but Shakespeare, and to all in varying degrees, naturally. Hamilton has gotten the short end of the stick in my opinion, and if you want a more intellectual reasoning on this, get the version with the David Lodge intro and he’ll tell you all about it. He even gives spoiler warnings partway through the intro, isn’t that lovely?
This story is set in a boarding house during World War 2, a strange sort of place in the best of times, perhaps, but with all the people driven out of London by the bombings, there’s quite a cooky bunch gathered at the Rosamund Tea House (which is not, in fact, a tea house, but rather a boarding house). It’s pretty short, it’s hilarious, it’s profound…. I really can’t think of a reason anyone would NOT read this book other than not having heard of it.
My personal favorite character is Mr. Thwaites, the boarding house bully who’s so absurd that the reader at first wonders if such a person could exist. And then the reader calls to mind several such people, laughs out loud, and realizes that he’s so absurd he HAS to exist. I’ve gotten to the point where I laugh every time he’s mentioned, just on reflex. He’s a very Dickensian character. Actually, the whole thing is very Dickensian, apart from not being Victorian.
Maybe that’s why it’s so wonderful.
Seriously, check this out. ALSO for the rest of this week, you can get my ebook for $1.00. Just go to Smashwords, search for Charlotte Blackwood’s Those We Trust, and enter the coupon code REW75. ENJOY!