Hangover Square Paperback – January 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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Hangover Squares hapless protagonist is one of the great tragic fools in modern fiction. -- The Villiage Voice
Makes almost all other hard-boiled writing seem phoney once read, it becomes forever after a part of your experience. -- The Boston Phoenix
- ASIN : 1933372060
- Publisher : Europa Editions; First Edition (January 1, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 280 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781933372068
- ISBN-13 : 978-1933372068
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.3 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,094,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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That was all background to this story of artists and other unemployed people in the gritty Earl's Court area of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The story is truly noir and reminds me of some of the early motion pictures directed by Sir Alfred Hitchcock, though this story is not a mystery. Even in the reading of this book, the scenes that I imagined were in black-and-white. As I read this book, I was continuingly reminding myself that it was published in 1941 though the main theme of the plot involved a medical condition which I had not realized was really identified that early. In this case, the main character, George suffers from a condition of "near" schizophrenia. He only has a single personality, but there are times when he shifts into another reality.
I enjoyed the book, though at times, I was not sure that I would. The talent of this author and his way of building his plot and manufacturing his story structure was fascinating to me.
This is a book which had gone out of print some time ago but Europa Editions chose to bring it back into publication in 2006. That run was successful for a second reprinting in 2009. I am certainly glad that they did.
Most of the people surrounding Bone have fun at his expense, including Netta. George does recognize this, but he has no willpower to break out of this situation, so he keeps suffering, and this mental suffering probably contributes to his schizophrenic spells, during which he nurses murderous thoughts.
This book brings to mind both Idiot and The Insulted and Humiliated by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and this is not too huge an exaggeration: Hamilton does create very powerful and gripping characters, narrative and social scenery, so comparison with Dostoevsky at least gives one a proper framework to place both Hangover Square and The Slaves of Solitude.
Lots of details, very clear and powerful language - this book deserves to be much better known than, say, "The Collector" by Fowles, but... when they asked Beethoven why his 8th is much less popular than his 7th, he replied: "But it's so much better, that's why!"
The plot takes the characters from London to Brighton and back as well as between two sets of friends. The drinking companions of George and Netta the object of his fixation who are equally cruel to George, take him for granted and use him comprise one group. This is contrasted with a group that revolves around an old school friend of George's whom he meets by accident and through him has a moment of reprieve and clarity as he is suddenly around people who see his Netta for who she really is and tell him.
Hamilton's writing is crisp and the ominous sense that all of this will end badly is established early in the novel. This is the second book if Hamilton's that I've read and he has quickly become one of my favorite authors.
Top reviews from other countries
Hangover Square was one of his most iconic novels. Set primarily in London on the very edge of, and then just at the start of, the Second World War, this follows the fortunes (pretty well unstoppably downwards) of George Harvey Bone, a not quite impoverished, weak willed man with a severe drinking problem, some undiagnosed dissociative mental health problems, and a dangerous 2 year infatuation with a hard, vicious untalented actress.
Bone is an unlikely subject to capture a reader's compassionate interest, yet he does, because despite the fact that he is someone of a definite wasted life, a bit of a bumbling, naïve and pathetic character, he is nevertheless like a lost and vulnerable puppy, possessed of great sweetness of temperament, despite his irritating flaccidity of purpose
Netta, the object of his adoration, is a beautiful and completely amoral, woman, without any charm, wit, intelligence, talent or likeability. Her one asset is her extraordinary beauty, which is clearly barely even skin-deep. Whereas Bone is a marshmallow, ineffectual, likeable drunk, Netta, and her closest crony, louche, spiteful Peter, are hard, aggressive, deeply unpleasant drunks.
The trajectory of the story is George Bone's worsening mental health problems, and the hopeless infatuation with Netta, who is completely uninterested in George, in any way, except as someone to sponge money from, and exploit.
This should be an unbearably depressing book, but instead, there is a kind of gentle humour in George, a puppyish enthusiasm and a potential for excitement and joy which carries the reader along, despite the awareness of the grim background of war on the horizon, the predictable and nasty leanings towards Fascist sympathies espoused by Netta and Peter, and George's inability to free himself from the nest of vipers he can, in some ways, clearly see.
Perhaps Hamilton's ability to make us feel George from the inside, and care about him, too, comes in part from what must have been a certain self-identification in the writer, as Hamilton himself had a disastrous relationship with alcohol, child of an alcoholic father, he died in 1962 of liver cirrhosis. He was a writer who definitely identified with the underdog, the marginalised, and the powerless in society.
J.B. Priestley in his introduction to the the Penguin Classics edition of Hangover Square, describes Hamilton as one of the best `minor novelists' writing in the interwar and beyond years. And lest that seems like damning with faint praise, it is I think fair, admiring praise.
However.........I should caution anyone who gets this edition, with the Priestley introduction to AVOID reading that introduction if you have never read Hangover Square, as foolishly, in the closing paragraph of his otherwise pertinent and interesting introduction, he reveals one of the major spoilers.