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Book review: Hangover Square 
27th-Nov-2009 03:46 pm
LondonEyevatar
Time for another of the freebie classics The Times was giving away a couple of months ago. One week's theme was "London" which was inexplicably colour-coded pink. Patrick Hamilton wrote the play Rope, which I'm going to see in January and which Hitchcock filmed. He must have had an interest in crime because his novel Hangover Square opens with a definition of schizophrenia, and then goes on to tell the story of large, graceless George Harvey Bone. He's a rather tangential member of an Earl's Court "set" that gravitates around the beautiful and bitchy Netta. George is utterly besotted with Netta, a fact that she openly takes advantage of for her own financial gain while frequently humiliating him; but every so often something "clicks" in his brain and all he can think about is murdering her.

Set in 1939 and leading up to the breakout of World War II, it's a satire of a certain type of socialite of the era, fecklessly spending money (usually other people's) and as the title suggests spending much of their time drunk. Not a lot happens but I still enjoyed it and got through it pretty quickly, with the black comedy offering a few chuckles now and again. It can be an uncomfortable read, I always find something upsetting in stories of people obsessing over someone who'll take advantage of them for it, and often found myself hoping George would get round to killing Netta and her sidekick Peter before he switched back to his more vulnerable personality. In the end it takes on an air of tragedy and overall gives you a strong impression of what it might have been like in that time and place, with the protagonists harshly viewed as seeing the oncoming war as little more than an inconvenience. And although Hamilton's understanding of Bone's mental condition feels a bit naïve, the book reads like a predecessor of the psychological thrillers which are more of a recent literary genre.
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