The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
Published in 1960 by Chatto & Windus
My copy: Second-hand copy
Pregnant by accident, kicked out of home by her father, 27-year-old Jane Graham goes to ground in the sort of place she feels she deserves – a bug-ridden boarding-house attic in Fulham. She thinks she wants to hide from the world, but finds out that even at the bottom of the heap, friends and love can still be found, and self-respect is still worth fighting for.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for many years and I’m glad I finally got round to it. Set in London in the late 1950s, Jane is pregnant and unmarried, and finds herself homeless when her father kicks her out of home. She faces prejudice from many corners – yet finds she is strangely accepted in the rundown boarding house in which she finds herself. She quickly makes some unlikely companions, and gradually comes to terms with her predicament and, in spite of her grubby surroundings, she manages to make the best of her situation.
There is a lot to like about this novel. I loved the setting of London in the 50s and the book gave a very vivid picture of some of the attitudes of the day, which now of course seem very dated. The characters are also fascinating; the boarding house is home to a real assortment of oddballs, and this adds real depth to the book. There is something very endearing about Toby with his chronic writer’s block, and even the mouthy landlady Mavis, who is open-minded enough to house a pair of prostitutes in the basement. It’s a very colourful book which is both sad and amusing.
Jane herself is also an interesting character. She can be frustrating at times, yet you do sympathise with her and I enjoyed the way her character developed and changed over the course of the novel. I also loved the descriptions of the ways in which she and her friends decorated her l-shaped room!
The book is the first in a trilogy, but I’m not sure if I will read the other two books or not. I really enjoyed this one but want to remember the characters as they were here. I would however really like to see the film of the novel that was made in 1962.
I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in reading about life in London in the 50s and likes books about unusual yet lovable characters.