The L-Shaped Room, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Lynne Reid Banks' compassionate first novel examines the stigma of unmarried motherhood in pre-pill, pre-Abortion Act Britain...While the social climate has changed drastically since publication, a transgressive frisson still crackles from the pages'.

The Guardian. 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.




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I really enjoyed this novel, and was surprised by how 'modern' it seemed, despite being published in 1960. Jane Graham, the narrator, gets knocked up after her first and disastrous love affair, and has to move into a grotty bedsit - the L-shaped room - when her father throws her out. Apart from the social reaction to Jane's condition, and a rather unattractive streak of passive racism, this could almost be a proto chick lit novel. The formula is there - career girl with an unsuccessful love life, various male friends, including (shockingly, for the time) a black man, eccentric relatives, and a happy ever after with the faithful lover. Even the standard combination of wicked humour - 'That's always the trouble with picking a husband. However much you like a man, it's never enough to last for life' - and sappy romance - 'The pool that had been so jarringly empty when I took my premeditated dive into with Terry, I fell into with Toby and found it full of champagne' - will be familiar to modern readers.Lynne Reid Banks tells a slightly cliched story with biting honesty, however. Jane's attitude to her black neighbour and her middle class snobbery fit the conservative insularity of the 1950s, whereas her independence is more a sign of the decade to come. Jane herself is selfish, stubborn and a host of similarly unlikeable qualities, but also smart and very funny. I loved her boss James, her elderly neighbour Mavis, and her wonderfully Wodehousian aunty Addy, but all of the characters are finely drawn, if not totally original.Definitely one of the classic novels of the era.