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1001 Book Review: Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton


Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
Published in: 1941
Literary Awards:
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: Modern Classics Hangover Square

Synopsis from Amazon:

A pitch-black comedy set in London overshadowed by the looming threat of the Second World War.

London, 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation. Netta is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in a drunken hell, except in his ‘dead’ moments, when something goes click in his head and he realizes, without a doubt, that he must kill her. In the darkly comic Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton brilliantly evokes a seedy, fog-bound world of saloon bars, lodging houses and boozing philosophers, immortalising the slang and conversational tone of a whole generation and capturing the premonitions of doom that pervaded London life in the months before the war.

Book Worm’s Review: Set in Earls Court London in 1939 this is the story of George Harvey Bone a mild mannered, pathetic drunkard who is obsessed with the beautiful but contemptuous Netta.

George seems to suffer from either split personality disorder or schizophrenia as he has 2 very distinct modes of life which he describes as he brain flicking a switch. In his normal life he is the stooge to Netta and her group of admirers while in his “dead mood” real life becomes like a silent film and George’s only purpose is to kill Netta, each life is separate and when inhabiting one he cannot remember the other until late in the book when things begin to cross over.

George is an unlikeable character because he is a drunk, because he is desperate for someone to love him and because he allows Netta and her group to walk all over him, however he is more likeable than every other character (with the exception of one) and so as a reader I found myself routing for him to allow the “dead mood” to take control and for Netta to get what is coming to her.

I enjoyed being inside George’s mind when he was in his “dead mood” and there are humourous moments where he views things that he has arranged as coincidence. I was curious as to how George would rationalize murder and how he would come up with a method as well as being confused by his belief that if he did kill anyone if he got to Maidenhead it would be alright.

This will appeal to those with a dark sense of humour as well as those who enjoy an insight into a single character’s state of mind.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Modern Classics Hangover Square

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for posting! I read Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky a few years ago and there seem to be similar themes – certainly a man being walked all over by a woman, and his reaction to it – which was pretty bleak and depressing. It was also very evocative of London at the time, which as a Londoner I loved. Hangover Square has been on my TBR bookcase for a while now so maybe it’s time to turn to it! Bronte


    March 20, 2016
  2. I’ve had this book recommended to me a few times, but nobody has properly explained why. They’ve just said I’ll like it. Your review makes me think I will. I like seedy underbelly type writing, and explorations of the human psyche.


    March 21, 2016
  3. Book Worm #

    Happy to help 🙂


    March 21, 2016
  4. normando1 #

    Odd that you would call this book a “comedy.” It is neither funny nor does it end happily. The character of George Bone is a sad and confused man afflicted with what is introduced as schizophrenia but is now more properly labelled as dissociative identity disorder.

    He constantly struggles with his obsession for the femme fatale Netta and his self-denigrating persona which tells him how useless he is and his only salvation is to kill her and get to “Maidenhead” where he once found peace, love and self-satisfaction. The internal monologue of his “dumb” side, when he is in his dissociative state, perfectly captures the mad logic of someone deeply lonely, alone and trying to find a way to a better place, using the simplistic, black-and-white reasoning a person with no outside validation finds themselves trapped in. When he is in his sober mind he seems to understand that his pursuit is useless and that he drinking companions are nothing but leeches. Still, he can’t make a break from them because of his futile adoration for Netta. The people he spends his time with are utter, manipulative, alcoholics who despise him but persist in using him as a butt for their predations, simply trying to get as much of the little money he has and then kicking him aside as they think of themselves so much better and smarter.

    The book is a character study which, in spite of its sordid setting, will have you feeling more and more sympathetic for George Bone, like his long-lost friend Johnnie, while knowing that you can never really help him see himself as the person he might become.


    April 17, 2021

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