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England in the middle of World War II, a war that seems fated to go on forever, a war that has become a way of life. Heroic resistance is old hat. Everything is in short supply, and tempers are even shorter. Overwhelmed by the rigors of the Blitz, middle-aged Miss Roach has retreated to the relative safety and stupefying boredom of the suburban town of Thames Lockdon from which she commutes to a publishing job in London. She lives in a boardinghouse run by Miss Payne. There the savvy, sensible, decent, but all-too-meek Miss Roach endures the gaseous speechifying and weird dinner-table interrogations of Mr. Thwaites and relieves her solitude by drinking and necking with a wayward American lieutenant. Life is almost bearable until Vicki Kugelman, a seeming friend, moves into the adjacent room. That’s when Miss Roach’s troubles really begin.
Recounting an epic battle of wills in the claustrophobic confines of the boardinghouse, Patrick Hamilton’s The Slaves of Solitude, with its delightfully improbable heroine, is one of the finest and funniest books ever written about the trials of a lonely heart.
“Gritty, real, tough, and sardonic.... If you were looking to fly from Dickens to Martin Amis with just one overnight stop, then Hamilton is your man.” —Nick Hornby