We all know someone like Arthur Seaton don’t we? Or at least we’ve come across someone like that. It’s not an ‘angry young man’ per se, it’s a young man or woman whose body has matured well in advance of their brain. Someone who is so self-centred they cannot see beyond their own gratification. They’re not rebels, they’re not fighting for any type of cause, they’re just so wrapped up in themselves they think society is stupid …but they don’t know why; they believe themselves to be beyond societal rules. In my opinion, they’re just ignorant and immature. And sometimes they grow out of it, sometimes they don’t.
And Alan Sillitoe’s Arthur Seaton is a brilliant portrayal of that persona – a character that is just as relevant and prevalent now as it was when Saturday Night & Sunday Morning was published just shy of sixty years ago.
While it’s difficult to like Arthur, it’s quite hard to dislike him properly too – he’s just a bit of a dick to be honest. And there are still a fair few people like him about. His treatment of women is crass but, at times also considerate and some of the women in his life, let’s face it, are no angels themselves.
I love the way Sillitoe draws the characters without sympathy or excuses. It’s like he’s saying ‘it is what it is, draw your own conclusions’. Are they the product of their socio-economic status? Well, if they are some things haven’t changed. The area I live in has it’s drunks and its yobs, it has the families where the breadwinners go out and do a job they hate and live for the weekends, and it has the families with no breadwinners. It also has the area’s gossip… although I don’t think anyone’s shot her with an air rifle recently.
As a resident of Nottingham now, I enjoyed following Arthur around the town with the geographical references. I’m pretty sure I live in the ‘big council estate’ he went through to reach Strelley.
Sillitoe’s description of Goose Fair is glorious – I could see the lights, got caught up in the cacophony of the fairground, smell the candy floss. And as he slid down the helter skelter, I had a bird’s eye view.
I’ve heard the novel described as ‘gritty’; I would probably say it’s matter-of-fact. I think those who use ‘gritty’ to describe Saturday Night & Sunday Morning possibly have no direct experience of working class Britain. Because it hasn’t changed that much – except his depiction of women’s place in society and the fact there is no National Service any more.
It’s an honest novel that doesn’t seek to justify the shortcomings of the characters within it or explain them, it simply portrays them.
I enjoyed the colloqualisms throughout the book and the use of dialect – with one exception. The word my, whenever it was used in speech, I would have thought would have been spelt meh – just an observation.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read this classic. It was brilliant. I read it today, from start to finish, which is some indication of how much I enjoyed it. I want to read more – The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner maybe – but the pile of other books on the to-read list is enormous, so it may have to wait a little while.