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HANGOVER SQUARE by Patrick Hamilton: Golden Oldies

What a sad, sad story about dysfunctional lives in pre-World War II London.  What a terrific read.

Hangover Square takes place in a seedy area in the down-at-the-heels Earl Court district of the city.  George Harvey Bone is a twenty-something man with mental illness, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say mental illnesses.  He suffers from schizophrenia, alcoholism, and an obsession which manifests itself only when he is in his schizophrenic state.  During his non-schizophrenic time, George is both fascinated and repelled by Netta Longdon.  During his schizophrenic episodes, his all-consuming desire is to kill her.

In his normal state, George is utterly besotted by Netta.  When he sees her the day after Christmas, he is struck again by her looks.  “Although she was not made up, untidy and not trying,” she bewitches him “with…unholy beauty….”  In his functional state, his wish is to marry Netta and have children with her; in his schizophrenic state, he plots to kill her.  In each state, he has no memory of the other one.

Netta is the leader of a small group of extremely unpleasant people.  She is a wanna-be film actress but is unwilling to put any effort into learning her craft.  Actually, it’s not so much that she wants to act, she wants the money and glory that would come with being in that profession.  But, being too lazy to improve her skills, she hasn’t gotten any further than a couple of small movie roles.

In many ways, the relationship between George and Netta is similar to that between Phillip Carey and Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage In each novel there is a sad, lonely man who falls in love with a sadistic and uncaring woman.  Both Netta and Mildred use George and Phillip, respectively, only for monetary reasons.  They show no warmth, feeling, or compassion for these men, only scorn and distain for the way the men allowed themselves to be treated.

Hangover Square is a hard read.  One goes back and forth in George’s disturbed mind, and both of his states are hard to deal with.  When he appears normal, his obsession with Netta allows her to treat him dreadfully, and although he sometimes recognizes this, he is so enthralled by her he is unable to break the cord that binds them.   When he’s in his schizophrenic state and plotting murder, it’s equally hard to read.

Hangover Square is considered Patrick Hamilton’s finest novel.  He also was a poet and the author of two successful plays:  Rope, which was made into an Alfred Hitchcock film starring Jimmy Stewart, and Gaslight, later to become a movie starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.

You can read more about Patrick Hamilton at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.







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