Tag Archives: WWII

Read With Me: The Slaves of Solitude

The Slaves of Solitude written by Patrick Hamilton in 1947 was first on my list of must read titles from Mr. Baxter. He chose this book for me to read first because my final assignment in his class used the setting of the 40s and attempted to highlight the abrasive relationships of catty women. I say “attempted” because though the story represented my best efforts at the time, it can certainly be improved upon now.(Cover redesign by me. ©2011)

Hamilton’s Slaves of Solitude is a quiet, subtle account of the life of an ordinary middle-aged woman taking refuge from the London Blitz in a small-town boarding house. Readers view all the happenings and events through the eyes of this woman, ironically named Miss Roach. The boarding house (called The Rosamund Tea Rooms even now, though tea has long since ceased to be served to passersby) hosts a plethora of fascinating characters including Miss Roach’s bitter nemesis: Mr. Thwaites. The story painstakingly reveals the torturous and verbally abusive relationship Miss Roach suffers with Mr. Thwaites.

Thames Lockdon had been “heaven”, then, with its dark, still nights, over which the sirens occasionally came yelling triumphantly forth, only to be gradually snubbed by the profound silence of the firmament, undisturbed even by the distant sound of guns and bombs, which followed. And she had been made a fuss of, then, a sort of heroine indeed, and given a fortnight’s holiday. And the town was “pretty”, and the food “very good”, and the people “very nice” – even Mr. Thwaites had seemed “very nice”.

But now, after more than a year of it, Mr. Thwaites was president in hell.

{page 8}

Miss Roach interacts with a “foreign woman” who causes her trouble, falls in love with a bumbling American solider and finds unlikely friends amongst the residents. Whenever I try to explain it to people I know, I fear that it comes off as depressing. It does have sad moments, but overall the story is much too fascinating to make you sad. It’s the kind of story that slowly reels you in with each gloriously worded paragraph, so much so that you don’t even realize how engaged you are until you try to take a break. What impresses me most about The Slaves of Solitude is the skillful sentence structure. Hamilton gleefully weaves the longest sentences ever to confront an unsuspecting reader, but in such a way that you plow straight through without being aware of the length until the end.

Though obscurely aware of this, his naïvety and freshness of belief remained unabated. Also, having the treacherous faculty, at certain intervals, of being able to hit the ball squarely off the middle of the club-head four or five times in succession, Mr. Prest would exhibit the curious caution (the caution of a madman) of packing up his clubs and going home only when such an interval had just occurred and remained unmarred by disaster, and thus enable himself during the rest of the day to embrace the pleasant belief that he had at last alighted upon the simple explanation of golf which had by the merest chance eluded him for so many years.

{page 81}

I read The Slaves of Solitude just a few months before moving into an apartment house myself. I like to think it prepared me a little for the adjustment. One of my favorite passages (which I cannot find now for the life of me) talks of homebody residents waiting for the wayfaring travelers to return at the end of each day. The simple gesture conveys a connection of camaraderie between the boarders despite their differences and idiosyncrasies. Now that I’m an apartment dweller myself, I unconsciously check off each of my neighbors as they return home from work at night. It’s comforting to know that everyone has made it back safely.

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Filed under Book Review, My Art, Read With Me

Movie Review: 2,000 Women

Before I go on and on about what an amazingly brilliant film 2,000 Women (1944) is (and I am going to do that, I promise), let me start by celebrating its availability on DVD.  You really can buy it both in the US and UK!  I’ll provide the links for you at the bottom of this post.  I feel like such a creep when I recommend a film and get everyone all excited about seeing it, only to break the bad news that it’s not on DVD.  Although, I don’t want to stop reviewing films that are not on DVD, since the interest we create in them with our blogs could very possibly push them down the DVD road.  Anyway, on to the review!

2000 women2,000 Women is a British made film starring Phyllis Calvert, Flora Robson and Patricia Roc, to name a few.  It tells the story of 2,000 British women who were interned in a French hotel by the Nazis during World War II.  The film focuses on a small tight knit group of women who are friends because they each have a highly determined personality.  Patricia Roc (sitting on the desk above, with the wireless transmitter to her ear) is the main character: a quiet, soft spoken girl named Rosemary Brown.  Phyllis Calvert (far left, sitting on the bed with a white shirt) is Freda Thompson, a strong, smart sophisticated woman.  Flora Robson (on the floor, listening to the wireless with her back to the camera) is Muriel Manningford, an old style English society woman who takes no guff off the Nazis.  There are many, many more women in the film but it would take ages to list them all and do them justice.

Rosemary and Freda become fast friends in the beginning of the film and end up sharing a room.  The film follows them as they get settled in, learn the ways of the hotel and meet the other inmates.  Amazingly, all the women in the film have incredible hair throughout it, which is a little hard to comprehend, since they had no access to a beauty salon.  The clothes are superb, too.  Lots of slim slacks and collared shirts.  And, in the final scene, all the gals have amazing evening dresses (particularly Phyllis Calvert).

The drama of this film is brought in by a group of RAF fliers who bail out of their plane in the vicinity of the hotel.  The men find their way to the hotel, barging in on several of the women in the middle of the night.  Our lady patriots band together to protect the fliers and try to help them escape.  It’s not an easy task, being that no one knows who to trust and the Nazis lurk around every corner.  There are several surprising plot twists when the ladies find out who their friends really are.  The pilot of the doomed plane, Jimmy Moore, splendidly played by James McKechnie, is the love interest of Patricia Roc’s character Rosemary.  I’m an awful sucker for love stories, and this one is touching, believable and a joy to watch.

You  may be wondering how I managed to see this lovely film.  It played on TCM on September 15, last year in the middle of the night…  Yeah, I just resurrected it.  It sat in my homemade VHS collection for that long.  It’s shameful, I know.

Okay, if you’d like to see this British gem for yourself, you’ve got two options:

Movies Unlimited

Movies Unlimited

The Movies Unlimited version is now on sale for 9 bucks! (House of 1000 Women is the US title)

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk (Region 2)

The Amazon.co.uk version can be bought new or used. I did check Netflix, and can’t find it listed there.  Although, you Netflix gurus may be able to find it.  I hope so!

I came across some terrific links while looking for photos for this post, so I’ll share them with you:

– A wonderful Patricia Roc fan site, complete with loads of lovely photos.

– The Britmovie page for 2,000 Women.

(There’s an Alastair Sim poll on the main page, for all his fans out there.  Kate – this means you. :) )

I highly recommend this film.  It’s fun, interesting, romantic, suspenseful and just plain enjoyable.  As my old pal Bobby Osborne said, it’s patriotic propaganda.  The patriotic propaganda films of the 40’s are some of the best films of that era.  2,000 Women is no exception.

**1/9/13 Edit – 2000 Women is now available on Netflix streaming! Thanks so much Ivan for pointing it out.**

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