In Craven House, among the shifting, uncertain world of the English boarding house, with its sad population of the shabby genteel on the way down – and the eternal optimists who would never get up or on – the young Patrick Hamilton, with loving, horrified fascination, first mapped out the territory that he would make, uniquely, his own.
Although many of Hamilton’s lifelong interests are here, they are handled with a youthful brio and optimism conspicuously absent from his later work. The inmates of Craven House have their foibles, but most are indulgently treated by an author whose world view has yet to harden from scepticism into cynicism.
The generational conflicts of Hamilton’s own youth thread throughout the narrative, with hair bobbing and dancing as the battle lines. That perennial of the 1920s bourgeoisie, the ‘servant problem’, is never far from the surface, and tensions crescendo gradually to a resolution one climactic dinnertime.