Hangover Square is centered around a group of young Brits drinking their way through 1939. It has a plot that slowly builds and eventually serves to expose the motives of all those involved. It recalls the tone created around liquor in The Sun Also Rises but with deeper character development (and as far as drinking goes- these guys are right there with that infamous group).
At its core is the book's main character, George Harvey Bone. George is obsessed with Netta Longdon for reasons that, I must admit, are completely unclear to me as she is one of the coldest and calculating women imaginable. A true femme fetale, really. She keeps punishing George and the poor sap just keeps coming back for more. In the midst of all this George has bouts with schizophrenia and 'moods' that severely hamper him and ultimately cause him to plot his revenge on everyone that he perceives as ever having wronged him.
Lots of novels have been written around drink with young drunks at their core, but nothing I've read has gone quite this deep into the allures of inebriation. However what really elevates Hangover Square is the manner in which the subtle charms and peaceful bliss of sobriety are also unearthed. One character sums it up by wondering if the hangover and the night before occurred in reverse chronology, would we even drink in the first place ? This inner calm of sobriety might be best exemplified by George's golf outing. It is an afternoon that proves to be both an escape from his mates and a confidence builder to be rewarded later by an 'in crowd', that opposed to his clique, actually possess some redeeming qualities. For the time being, he is validated.
I found Hangover Square in an odd way. I read a scathing review of a new novel by the book critic of The Atlantic wherein he blasted the new release that everyone else was raving about. His blanket negativity, in some weird way, fascinated me. So I looked into the guy and saw that he pretty much hated EVERYTHING. The web is a wonderful thing, so I took it on myself to find something- anything, that this critic found acceptable. Eventually I found something that he actually liked and it was Hangover Square, so I thought I'd read it. I am grateful that I did.
The journey is the reward here. 'Literary thriller' is an overused term, but here it is a very accurate description as plot, characterization and a life outlook all combine brilliantly. Patrick Hamilton's writing style is a direct one and a pleasure to read. The book grabbed me from the beginning. It covers all the bases and contains some wonderfully euphoric passages, but know that in the end it is a sad tale with a sad ending.
A great book - read it.