One of the most atypical of Patrick Hamilton's novels (and perhaps the most beloved of them), THE SLAVES OF SOLITUDE takes place in a suburban boarding house in 1943 where the heroine Miss Roach--intelligent, lonely, and on the cusp of middle age--has moved to escape the dangers of the Blitz. Commuting from the publishing house where she reads manucsripts in London, she spends her nights wandering the deserted unlighted streets, necking in parks with American soldiers, and being bullied at dinner by the sly and pompous autocrat of the dining room, Mr. Thwaites, another lodger at the Rosamund Tearoom where most of the action is set. This beautifully constructed little novel perfectly captures the mood of its time. It also anticipates the fascination with the alienation common among shabby-genteel boarding houses and pension-hotels that emblematizes the dilapidated middle-class culture of the UK in the twenty-five years after the war (as in Terrence Rattigan's SEPARATE TABLES or Elizabeth Taylor's MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT). The novel is in many ways exploring the nature of war itself on a figurative level, but it also first and foremost a comedy. Miss Roach's boarding-house nemeses, the sinister and German-born Vicki Kugelmann and the splenetic Mr. Thwaites, are so memorably awful and unpleasant they win the reader's heart immediately; Mr. Thwaites, in particular, is so beautifully drawn as to equal the best comic secondary creations of Dickens or Austen. The novel touches upon all kinds of tricky ideas about paranoia and consciousness that a clever reader might be interested in teasing out further, but simply as a comedy of manners this novel is a pure tonic.