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Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Skyby Patrick Hamilton
Reading Group Guide
1. The three different volumes of Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky go over the same story from different points of view revealing the inner lives of the characters. Discuss this method of storytelling and how it adds to our enjoyment and understanding of each of the characters.
2. Hamilton's novels end without any redemptive vision. He refuses to allow his characters to have unrealistically happy endings. Discuss.
3. The most distinctive feature of Hamilton's fiction are the Dickensian narrative voice and dialogue. Discuss (you may wish to look at specific characters such as Bob, Ella, Jenny and Mr Eccles).
4. Hamilton's portrait of Jenny is not a sympathetic one, though it is not moralising or judgemental either. Ella, however, is an attractive character. She keeps her feet on the ground and shows herself to have moral integrity. Compare and contrast the two women and Hamilton's moral standpoint towards each.
5. 'She had never seen so many desperate buses and blocked cars, and swarming people, in all her life. In all the teeming, roaring, grinding, belching, hooting, anxious-faced world of cement and wheels around her it really seemed as though things had gone too far. It seemed as though some climax had just been reached, that civilization was riding for a fall, that these were certainly the last days of London'
The characters Hamilton portrays are lost amidst a civilization riding out of control. Look at each individual story as a quest for Ella, Bob and Jenny to attempt to find something that will give their life a sense of inner meaning and purpose against the solitude and anonymity of the increasingly industrialised city in which they live.
6. Look at Hamilton's portrayal of Bob's slide into despair and obsession. Is this a convincing depiction of someone falling in love? Could this have worked as well had Hamilton not told the story from Bob's inner viewpoint?
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