Author: Patrick Hamilton
Publication Date: 1941
Why did I choose to read this book?
I received this book as a Christmas present from my Mum. She’d read an interview with Charlie Brooker in which he’d recommended Hangover Square, and she thought I might like it. The book has been sitting on my to-be-read pile for the last five months.
Hangover Square is set Earl’s Court, London and the story takes place in 1939. George Harvey Bone is overweight, down on his luck and hopelessly in love with Netta, a beautiful, yet cruel woman who doesn’t reciprocate George’s feelings. George also suffers from ‘dead moods’, in which he undergoes a personality shift and sees the world through different eyes. The novel charts George’s attempts to deal with his feelings for Netta and negotiate his ‘dead moods’ by drowning his sorrows in the Earl’s Court pubs and bars.
Hangover Square is really dark. If you’re searching for an uplifting read, look somewhere else, because this is book of grimy Earl’s Court pubs, unrequited love, unfulfilled potential and madness.
George Harvey Bone is not an easy character to like. He’s maudlin, anxious and his love for Netta has completely taken over his life. It says a lot about Patrick Hamilton’s skill as a writer that such a downtrodden character managed to sustain my attention for the entire novel. At times I felt sorry for George, at times I was angry with him, and at times I was frustrated by him, but at no point in the novel did I stop caring about what was happening to him.
The way in which Hamilton describes Earl’s Court just before the start of World War Two is one of the main strengths of the book. The gloomy London pubs, clubs and hotels contribute to the bleak tone of the story, yet they also provide a welcome dose of nostalgia.
Reading the book felt like going out for the third night in a row when you’re older than thirty! I got through it, and really liked parts of it, but was left feeling tired, drained and hungover. I won’t be rushing out to find another book by Patrick Hamilton, but I may well read more of his work in the future – once the hangover’s worn off!
Rating: 7 out of 10