Book Review: Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

Title: Hangover Square

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.

Summary

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.

Review

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

Book Review: The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Title: The Prince of Mist

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Publication Date: 2010 (English translation), 1993 (in Spanish)

The first of Carlos Ruis Zafon’s books to be translated into English was The Shadow of the Wind, but The Prince of Mist was his first published novel and it came out in Spain (as a young adult book) in 1993 as El príncipe de la niebla.

 

 

Summary

From Amazon UK:

1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver’s father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn . . .

Review

I have read and enjoyed both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game so I was really looking forward to reading The Prince of Mist. Unfortunately, I was a little bit disappointed by the book. The Prince of Mist is spot on in terms of atmosphere and tone, but I was never completely convinced by the plot. As I was reading the book I kept getting the feeling that Zafon was writing himself into a corner and didn’t really have a clear idea of how all the strands and threads of the storyline were to be tied up. The conclusion felt rushed and I was left feeling somewhat unfulfilled. I think the book would have benefitted from being about fifty pages longer.

It’s really obvious that The Prince of Mist was originally published before The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game. There are a lot of story elements in The Prince of Mist which reappear, in a more sophisticated and satisfying way, in his later novels. It’s almost as if Carlos Ruis Zafon’s used The Prince of Mist as a testing ground for his ideas.

The Prince of Mist is not a bad book by any means. Like all of Carlos Ruis Zafon’s books, it is very readable and atmospheric, and I thought the characters, particularly Max, were believable and well-written.  However, although I’m glad I read it, for the reasons discussed above, I did not enjoy it as much as his other books.

Rating: 6 out of 10