Alan Sillitoe Sillitoe, Alan (Vol. 148) - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Alan Sillitoe 1928-

British novelist, short story writer, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and author of children's literature.

The following entry presents an overview of Sillitoe's career through 1998. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 1, 3, 6, 10, 19, and 57.

One of England's most prolific contemporary authors, Sillitoe is known for his candid and compassionate depictions of British working-class life. He is part of a generation of writers known as the Angry Young Men—including John Wain and Kingsley Amis—whose defiant male protagonists fight against the deprivations and injustices of Britain's stringent class system. Although Sillitoe often portrays disillusioned characters who are either unemployed or trapped in unskilled occupations, his works utilize a realistic prose style, allowing the emotions and concerns of his characters to appeal to a universal audience.

Biographical Information

Sillitoe was born in Nottingham, England, on March 4, 1928. His father, a tannery worker, was functionally illiterate and often unemployed. The family lived in poverty and at times went hungry. Sillitoe had to leave school at the age of fourteen to go to work in a bicycle factory. After several months he quit the factory to protest the low wages. A series of various industrial jobs followed until Sillitoe joined the Royal Air Force just before his eighteenth birthday. He served as a radio operator in Malaya for two years until he contracted tuberculosis and subsequently spent sixteen months recuperating in a military hospital. This extended hospital stay was the beginning of Sillitoe's literary life, as he immersed himself in reading. Sillitoe married American poet Ruth Fainlight in 1959 and relocated to France. Later, the couple moved again to the Spanish island of Majorca, where he studied the craft of writing, composing both fiction and poetry. Author Robert Graves was also living in Majorca at the time and greatly influenced and encouraged Sillitoe's work. Sillitoe returned to England in 1958. He has been a prolific writer, composing short stories, novels, screenplays, poetry, and nonfiction. Film versions were also made of his novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) and his short stories “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” and “The Ragman's Daughter.” He won the British Authors' Club Prize for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 1958 and the Hawthornden Prize for his short story collection The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1959).

Major Works

Much of Sillitoe's fiction revolves around working-class life in Nottingham, England. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning follows the life and loves of Arthur Seaton, a bored young factory worker whose daily existence is comprised of good wages, sexual adventures, and wild weekends at the neighborhood pub. His occasional fishing excursions and retreats to the countryside, as well as his rebellious nature and refusal to be worn down by an unfair system, save Arthur from embracing a wholly destructive lifestyle. Sillitoe's William Posters trilogy—The Death of William Posters (1965), A Tree on Fire (1967), and The Flame of Life (1974)—recounts the personal struggle of Mr. Frank Dawley. Reacting to signs marked “Bill Posters Will Be Prosecuted,” Dawley invents a character named William Posters, who symbolizes the proletarian struggle for equality. A Start in Life (1970), Sillitoe's picaresque novel, tells the story of Michael Cullen, an unskilled worker who breaks out of his middle-class life by obtaining a job in real estate. When Cullen enters the world of crime, the novel becomes a thriller, replete with a gold-smuggling ring, twists, turns, and a host of secondary characters. By the end of the novel, Cullen vows to reform, but in the sequel, Life Goes On (1985), Cullen returns to his criminal life—this time as a courier in a heroin-trafficking operation. Her Victory (1982) traces the escape of a woman named Pam from her troubled marriage in Nottingham. After an attempt to commit suicide, she is saved by Tom, another isolated soul, and the two try to forge a new life together in Israel. The protagonists of Last Loves (1989) are typical examples of Sillitoe's defiant male characters. In the novel, George and Bernard, who served in Malaya during World War II, return there in an attempt to find insights into their past.

In addition to his novels, Sillitoe has written several collections of short stories. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner is best known for its title story, which was adapted for film by Sillitoe himself. Set in a boys' reformatory, this piece revolves around a cross-country race. The story's adolescent narrator, Colin, seeks victory until he realizes that the race was conceived only to flaunt the reformatory's rehabilitation program to the region's governor. Although winning the race would gain Colin social acceptance, he intentionally loses and retains his self-respect. In the collection Men, Women, and Children (1973), Sillitoe explores issues of abandonment and betrayal. “Before Snow Comes” tells the story of Mark, a divorced man who falls in love with Jean, whose husband has deserted her. After he cares for her and her children emotionally and financially, she leaves him to reunite with her husband. Sillitoe has also authored several volumes of poetry, children's novels, and essays.

Critical Reception

Sillitoe has been a prolific writer of poetry, novels, and short stories, but he has not met with the same critical success in every genre. Sillitoe's poetry, for example, has not received wide critical acclaim; in fact, commentators complain that his poetry is filled with abstractions that can only be understood in the poet's own mind. In his review of Sillitoe's Collected Poems (1993), John Lucas argued, “Too many of these poems are muffled by dead language, inert rhythms and pointless stanza divisions, as though Sillitoe is determined to come on as a ‘poet,’ but has chosen to leave behind virtues that make him at his best a valuable writer of fiction.” Although his subsequent collections did not achieve the success of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, Sillitoe's short fiction is generally considered superior to his novels. Reviewers have found fault with Sillitoe's later novels in particular, often asserting that the plots “fumble” or “miss their mark.” Other critics maintain that Sillitoe can be too heavy-handed with his satire, especially when writing about white-collar characters, whom he tends to caricature. Several critics applauded Sillitoe's portrayal of a female consciousness in Her Victory, although many feminists felt the character of Pam capitulates at the end of the novel and lacks the emotional growth of a truly emancipated character. Most reviewers have noted that Sillitoe's ability to realistically evoke the world of working-class Nottingham is his greatest strength as a fiction writer. Despite the overwhelming bleakness of his literary world, critics continue to praise Sillitoe for his proficiency at finding beauty and hope in a world of despair. Walter Sullivan described it as Sillitoe's “ability to perceive the rare stroke of beauty in the midst of drabness, the butterfly—if I may be permitted this ancient image—perched momentarily on the pile of dung.”

Principal Works

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Without Beer or Bread (poetry) 1957

*Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (novel) 1958

*The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (short stories) 1959

The Rats and Other Poems (poetry) 1960

Key to the Door (novel) 1961

The Ragman's Daughter and Other Stories (short stories) 1961

Road to Volgograd (nonfiction) 1964

The Death of William Posters (novel) 1965

The City Adventures of Marmalade Jim (juvenilia) 1967

A Tree on Fire (novel) 1967

Guzman, Go Home and Other Stories (short stories) 1968

Love in the Environs of Voronezh and Other Poems (poetry) 1968

A Start in Life (novel) 1970

Raw Material (memoirs) 1972

Men, Women, and Children (short stories) 1973

The Flame of Life (novel) 1974

Storm and Other Poems (poetry) 1974

Mountains and Caverns: Selected Essays (essays) 1975

The Widower's Son (novel) 1976

Pit Strike (play) 1977

The Incredible Fencing Fleas (juvenilia) 1978

Snow on the North Side of Lucifer (poetry) 1979

The Storyteller (novel) 1980

The Second Chance and Other Stories (short stories) 1981

Her Victory (novel) 1982

The Lost Flying Boat (novel) 1983

Down from the Hill (novel) 1984

Sun before Departure (poetry) 1984

Life Goes On (novel) 1985

Tides and Stone Walls (poetry) 1986

Nottinghamshire (nonfiction) 1987

Out of the Whirlpool (novel) 1987

The Open Door (novel) 1988

Last Loves (novel) 1989

Leonard's War: A Love Story (novel) 1991

Collected Poems (poetry) 1993

Snowstop (novel) 1994

Life without Armour (autobiography) 1995

Alligator Playground (short stories) 1997

The Broken Chariot (novel) 1998

The German Numbers Woman (novel) 1999

Birthday (novel) 2001

*Sillitoe authored a screenplay adaptation of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 1960, and a screenplay adaptation of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner in 1961.

Neil Millar (review date 6 September 1968)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Fierce Burnings in Private Wildernesses,” in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 60, No. 240, September 6, 1968, p. 9.

[In the following mixed review, Millar asserts that Sillitoe shows great skill in A Tree on Fire, but that the novel fails as great art.]

Loud words shouted, soft words spat. A grunt in a mess of silence, a groan in a world's aching. A tree on fire, a house on fire, a nation on fire, a world not even watching.

A luminous fog of events. A glittering mist of words shot with little lightnings of epigram and swirled by sooty eddies of lust. The artist who despises those who don't understand him—and makes no effort to...

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Victor Howes (review date 24 February 1969)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Alan Sillitoe—The Novelist as a Poet,” in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 61, No. 75, February 24, 1969, p. 9.

[In the following review, Howes contends that Sillitoe focuses too much on specifics and not enough on life's universalities in the poems of Love in the Environs of Voronezh.]

George Bernard Shaw once subdivided a group of his plays into “Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant.” By almost anyone's critical standards, Alan Sillitoe's poems, Love in the Environs of Voronezh, would be classed as Poems Unpleasant.

Mr. Sillitoe employs an elliptical style, knotty, hard to unravel, like the speech of people who grudge their words...

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Virginia Quarterly Review (review date Summer 1969)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Love in the Environs of Voronezh, in Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, Summer, 1969, p. 96–97.

[In the following review, the critic maintains that Sillitoe's Love in the Environs of Voronezh exhibits “only flashes of authority.”]

The scant handful of successful poems in [Love in the Environs of Voronezh] is barely able to save it from a plunge into a totally monotonous performance. Too many of the poems are of the sort one finds monopolizing the worksheets of undergraduate poetry-writing classes, half-realized poems which neglect the possibilities of metaphor, dealing instead in uninspired abstractions, as in...

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Times Literary Supplement (review date 18 September 1970)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Naturalist No More,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 3577, September 18, 1970, p. 1026.

[In the following review, the critic argues that Sillitoe's A Start in Life is not as good as the author's earlier work.]

In the stories in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1959) and The Ragman's Daughter (1963) and in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which also began as sketches of life in Nottingham, Alan Sillitoe was able to recreate, in its own idiom, a whole vein of experience which had usually got into literature only as material for comic character stuff in the way of Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion or for...

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Victor Howes (review date 7 October 1971)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of A Start in Life, in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 63, October 7, 1971, p. 7.

[In the following review, Howes lauds Sillitoe's A Start in Life for its humor and comic characters.]

In the spill-a-minute world of the animated cartoon, the comic hero by turns falls off a cliff, is knocked flat as a tortilla by a steamroller, is exploded by a giant firecracker, and in the next frame—always jauntily intact and in the finest of fettle—embarks upon still another pratfall.

Alan Sillitoe's latest novel[, A Start in Life,] has a hero like that. Obedient to a formula as old as the novel itself, Sillitoe's rogue male...

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Russell Davies (review date 29 November 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Trouble at the Dacha,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 3795, November 29, 1974, p. 1336.

[In the following review, Davies provides an unfavorable assessment of Sillitoe's The Flame of Life.]

The Flame of Life completes a cycle which began in 1964 with The Death of William Posters and continued with A Tree on Fire. Bill Posters has been prosecuted far enough. Alan Sillitoe has taken some time getting round to this conclusion, but he is able to present, in an author's note, a certificate of diligence: during the progress of the new book “three other novels were written, two books of short stories, two film-scripts, and a volume of...

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Walter Sullivan (review date July 1975)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Erewhon and Eros: The Short Story Again,” in Sewanee Review, Vol. 83, No. 3, July, 1975, pp. 537–46.

[In the following excerpt, Sullivan discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the stories in Men, Women, and Children.]

. … The world of Alan Sillitoe and the characters who inhabit it are as different as they could possibly be from the glittering figures and the handsome landscapes of V. S. Pritchett. As readers of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning will remember, the sun seldom shines in Nottingham, and when it does break palely through the industrial haze, it illuminates crowded shabby houses, dripping gutters, weed-choked gardens. The people...

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Frederick H. Guidry (review date 4 August 1977)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sillitoe Novel Traces a Soldier's Growth and Switch to Civilian Life,” in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 69, No. 177, August 4, 1977, p. 22.

[In the following review, Guidry praises Sillitoe's use of the interior monologue in The Widower's Son.]

A military man is Alan Sillitoe's newest hero [in The Widower's Son], opening up for the author a wide range of metaphor having to do with campaign and strategy, attack and defense, victory and defeat, as applied to personal relationships.

William Scorton, whose experience is chronicled here from his teens to his early fifties, has a character that appears to have been as much reinforced...

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Daniel J. Cahill (review date Spring 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Second Chance and Other Stories, in World Literature Today, Vol. 56, No. 2, Spring, 1982, pp. 339–40.

[In the following review, Cahill explores Sillitoe's affinity for depicting ordinary people in the stories comprising The Second Chance.]

In a long and prolific career that goes back to the mid-1950s, Alan Sillitoe has proved himself to be one of the most incisive recorders of what life is really like for the working class of England today. His twenty-fifth book, The Second Chance, is a collection of short stories written during the past twenty years. All the stories have been previously published in various periodicals, but this...

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Joan Reardon (review date 21 November 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Complex People Plunge into Love,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 21, 1982, p. 6.

[In the following laudatory review of Her Victory, Reardon asserts that “Sillitoe has reached a new level of craftsmanship and a degree of resonance that will outdistance his earlier work.”]

Trendy novels of consciousness and change often seem “self-help” books with their persistent directive to open windows to new experiences. So, while Alan Sillitoe's latest book[, Her Victory,] might easily be read as a message “to reach out and touch someone,” the novel does, in fact, deliver much more than the plot promises.


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Sophia B. Blaydes and Philip Bordinat (essay date 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and Chariots of Fire,” in Film Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 4, 1983, pp. 211–14.

[In the following essay, Blaydes and Bordinat analyze the use of William Blake's “Jerusalem” in Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and Colin Welland's Chariots of Fire.]

The evolution of great literature into popular culture is vividly seen in the films The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962) and Chariots of Fire (1981) through their use of William Blake's lyric “And did those feet,” commonly known as “Jerusalem.” Written and etched about 1804–1808, the...

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Valentine Cunningham (review date 6 November 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Biggles and the Murks,” in Observer, November 6, 1983, p. 31.

[In the following excerpt, Cunningham provides a favorable assessment of Sillitoe's The Lost Flying Boat.]

Not all trite-seeming fictional packages disclose tosh when you unwrap them. A few sleuths actually turn out to be Grail-seekers, some ordinary Coral Islanders end up as Lords of the Flies. And the overt simplicities of Alan Sillitoe—this time a generous freight of boyish-looking adventure stuff—can prove most deceptive ones.

When Adcock, Sillitoe's wireless-operating narrator [in The Lost Flying Boat], meets Bennett, the ex-RAF bomber-pilot who's urgently...

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David Craig (essay date 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Roots of Sillitoe's Fiction,” in The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century,” edited by Jeremy Hawthorn, Edward Arnold, 1984, pp. 95–110.

[In the following essay, Craig traces the development of Sillitoe's fiction throughout his career.]

I've only to say I hate Nottingham, he thought with a silent ironic laugh, for all the years it's put on me to come into my mind as clear as framed photos outside a picture house.1

This sentence from Alan Sillitoe's third novel expresses the thoughts of a character, Brian Seaton, and not the author's own. Yet it does suggest Sillitoe's...

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Alan Sillitoe with Joyce Rothschild (interview date 24 April 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Growth of a Writer: An Interview with Alan Sillitoe,” in Southern Humanities Review, Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring, 1986, pp. 127–40.

[In the following interview, Sillitoe discusses his creative process as well as the primary influences on his work.]

Alan Sillitoe, recognized as one of England's foremost living writers, was born in 1928 in Nottingham, England, and grew up there in impoverished circumstances. His father was a tannery worker, often unemployed, who could neither read nor write. During the 1930s, in the worst years of the depression, the five Sillitoe children often went hungry, and the family moved from one overcrowded slum dwelling to...

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William Hutchings (essay date Spring 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Work of Play: Anger and the Expropriated Athletes of Alan Sillitoe and David Storey,” in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring, 1987, pp. 35–47.

[In the following essay, Hutchings examines the role of sports and the athlete in the work of Alan Sillitoe and David Storey.]

“At the same time that factory work exhausts the nervous system to the uttermost,” Karl Marx observed in Das Kapital, “it does away with the many-sided play of the muscles, and confiscates every atom of freedom, both in bodily and intellectual activity” (422). Nowhere has this observation been better exemplified than in the English novels of working-class...

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Judith Grossman (review date 20 March 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Jilted by His Fairy Godmother,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 20, 1988, p. 2.

[In the following review, Grossman offers tempered praise for Sillitoe's Out of the Whirlpool.]

Alan Sillitoe's favored theme, since his debut in 1958 with Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, has always been the quest of a disadvantaged hero for the magical key to a better life. In Out of the Whirlpool, a new short novel, he offers an unsparing reconsideration of the terrors and delights of the poor boy suddenly become lucky. In the process, Sillitoe revisits his own roots—in 1950s Nottingham, England.

Nottingham is also the home...

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D. A. N. Jones (review date 18 May 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Never Go Back,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4546, May 18, 1990, p. 535.

[In the following review, Jones considers the realism and tragedy of Sillitoe's Last Loves.]

As they grow older, men sometimes dream of revisiting foreign lands where they served as soldiers, when they were only twenty. The experience is likely to be disappointing and discouraging: it is a matter of nostalgia—the pain in a desire to return. [In Last Loves,] Alan Sillitoe has constructed a sombre story about two ex-servicemen, George and Bernard, revisiting Malaysia, where they fought against the “bandits” forty years ago when they were young hopefuls. Bernard is...

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William Hutchings (review date Spring 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Last Loves, in World Literature Today, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring, 1991, pp. 304–05.

[In the following review, Hutchings offers a mixed assessment of Sillitoe's Last Loves, contending that the novel lacks the “complexity and mythical resonance” of earlier works.]

Exactly forty years after their military stint in Malaya, George Rhoads and Bernard Missenden, lifelong friends who are the protagonists of Alan Sillitoe's Last Loves, return together to now-independent Malaysia on what is (at least initially) a sentimental journey, “a nostalgia tour to find out whether or not those faded black-and-white photographs stuck in the...

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William Hutchings (essay date 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Proletarian Byronism: Alan Sillitoe and the Romantic Tradition,” in English Romanticism and Modern Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Allan Chavkin, AMS Press, 1993, pp. 83–112.

[In the following essay, Hutchings delineates how “Sillitoe's characters are … in many ways the modern-day working-class counterparts of the Byronic anti-hero.”]

Camus came to the conclusion that, after all, the artist was a romantic. I began there. Where I am now I know exactly; but where I'm going I never shall know till I get there.

Sillitoe, A Tree on Fire, chapter 2


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John Lucas (review date 12 August 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Nurtured by the Wasteland,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4767, August 12, 1994, p. 24.

[In the following review, Lucas provides an unfavorable assessment of Sillitoe's Collected Poems.]

In the preface to this ample volume, [Collected Poems,] Alan Sillitoe explains that it contains fewer than half the poems he has published during his writing career. “Fat and gristle,” he calls the work he has discarded, adding that what he has chosen to include has been subjected to “extreme revision” and represents “the meat” of his achievement as a poet. It also “displays the emotional history” of Sillitoe's “heart and soul.” I don't...

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Edward Blishen (review date 7 July 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Life in Notts,” in Times Educational Supplement, July 7, 1995, p. 12.

[In the following review of Life without Armour, Blishen asserts that much of the information in the autobiography has been utilized in Sillitoe's novels and short stories.]

He was looking out of the window—for once not writing, he seems to remember [in his autobiography Life wthout Armour], being in a vacant mood—when he saw a youngster in vest and shorts trotting past. He scribbled on a clean sheet of paper what he took to be the first line of a poem: “The loneliness of the long distance runner …” But no second line came, so he put it away, and got on with a...

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Andy Croft (review date 21 July 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Don't Thee ‘Tha’ Me,” in New Statesman and Society, Vol. 8, No. 362, July 21, 1995, p. 39.

[In the following excerpt, Croft offers a positive review of Life without Armour.]

The first book Alan Sillitoe ever owned, given to him when he was nine by a kindly teacher, included an extract from The Count of Monte Cristo in which Dantes escapes from the dungeons of the Chateau d'If; soon afterwards, he bought a second-hand copy of Les Miserables. “Between them they lit up my darkness with visions of hope and escape.” One was a story of escape, the other of justice: “powerhouses buried in the heart which they helped to survive.” In the...

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John Melmoth (review date 18 August 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Crime as a Buzz,” in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4820, August 18, 1995, p. 22.

[In the following review, Melmoth underscores the realism and humanity of Sillitoe's autobiography and collected stories.]

Alan Sillitoe was never particularly taken with the “angry young man” label; more than thirty years later it still rankles. In fact Life without Armour reveals a bloody-minded aestheticism that has little to do with being famous for being fed up.

Many years ago, Sillitoe concludes, he faced up to the fact that it was not possible for him to work and live, and although his choice of work “was to be a mistake as far as my life...

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James Urquhart (review date 30 January 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Excess Cappuccino,” in New Statesman, Vol. 127, No. 489, January 30, 1998, pp. 47–8.

[In the following mixed review, Urquhart comments on strengths and weaknesses of the stories in Alligator Playground.]

Not much is left of Sillitoe's working Nottingham. The John Player tobacco factory has shut down, machine industries have relocated, pits have closed. But the social landscape holds some resonance of close-knit terraces and hard corner pubs fugged with beer fumes and noise; of large families with boorish, emotionally brutal men and their hard-bitten, enduring wives.

Sillitoe wrote of blue-collar Nottingham in his first novel,...

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Neil Powell (review date 16 October 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Nottingham Nights,” in Times Literary Supplement, October 16, 1998, p. 24.

[In the following negative review, Powell deems The Broken Chariot “a flawed novel.”]

In the opening pages of The Broken Chariot, Maud, a country vicar's daughter and the mother of the as yet unborn central character, is discovered reading The Old Wives' Tale. Since this is just before 1914, Arnold Bennett's novel would have been recently published, but the reference is not there merely to authenticate a historical moment; it reminds us that Alan Sillitoe—with his attentiveness to provincial life, his fidelity to traditional forms of fiction and his...

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Stephen Daniels and Simon Rycroft (essay date 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mapping the Modern City: Alan Sillitoe's Nottingham Novels,” in The Regional Novel in Britain and Ireland, edited by K. D. M. Snell, Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 257–89.

[In the following essay, Daniels and Rycroft discuss the importance of mapping and geography in Sillitoe's Nottingham novels, and how these novels portray the modernization of working-class neighborhoods during the first half of the twentieth century.]

As a literary form, the novel is inherently geographical. The world of the novel is made up of locations and settings, arenas and boundaries, perspectives and horizons. Various places and spaces are occupied or envisaged by the...

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Further Reading

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)


Levin, Martin. Review of Men, Women, and Children, by Alan Sillitoe. New York Times Book Review (22 September 1974): 40.

Levin praises the individual feelings evoked by Sillitoe's stories in Men, Women, and Children.

Maitland, Sara. “Worthiness.” Spectator 249, No. 8052 (6 November 1982): 29.

Maitland lauds several aspects of Sillitoe's Her Victory, but asserts that the work as a whole is flawed.

McCarthy, Tom. Review of Alligator Playground, by Alan Sillitoe. Observer (4 January 1998): 14.

McCarthy offers a generally...

(The entire section is 229 words.)