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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review = John Braine's ROOM AT THE TOP

The story set in 1921 takes me right back to my favourite era - just post World War and everyone is very sure that a change will come about. Joe Lampton born on the wrong side of the tracks to good middle class folk, seeks to improve his lot - he wants the easy going, fast, moneyed life of the upper middle class and to this end is willing to sacrifice/make up to anyone who will help him achieve this end.

Joining the Town Hall with very good prospects, Joe is not one of those willing to plod along or to go on the path travelled by his friends. He wants the quickest way to the top. Enter the ladies.

One is Alice - a married woman who is available and falls for Joe - the feelings seem mutual until he decides that though Alice is good for a fling, it is Susan with her father's money behind her who is his star attraction. Unwilling to give up on either, he manages to hang on to both with much subterfuge but when found out is willing to drop Alice immediately.

Eventually Joe achieves his ambition of marrying Susan. Alice in drunken remorse drives her car to her death and though Joe initially is struck by despondency he shrugs these feelings off and gets on with his own life.

The book is an embodiment of the British obsession of the time with society, class and how to better oneself. For Joe it was to marry money. There was no other way up for him. He was not one willing to work for his bread and butter and improve his lot by sheer dint of hard work. He wanted it all and he wanted it now!

You do not like Joe Lampton at all - neither could I admire his sheer determination to go on the upward mobile path but the book is a good indication of what life was like in Britain at the time.

My blogging has been sporadic this week. I have been out of Colombo twice - we are having a problem with staff on one property which has to be sorted out soon. Worrisome details of daily life. On a nice note, we attended a lovely wedding today - the bridegroom was Singhalese and the bride Tamil. I believe that more marriages like this bode well for our country. So much division and separation - this is one way forward to tolerance and living peacefully together.


  1. I am currently read Tender is the Night also set in the years right after WWI-interesting book0I enjoyed your post a lot and wish you luck with your staff issues

  2. Hi there, I don't think anyone will read this comment but having just read 'room At The Top', I feel the need to state that the narrative takes place after the second world war in the 1950s.