A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow: Review
1960 - and England was changing
A Kind of Loving was published in 1960 - a time when English society was undergoing a huge change. Until that time,the arts and entertainment were largely under the control of the wealthier elements in society but Stan Barstow, along with others, was bringing the working people to the fore.
My customer, Mrs Barstow
When I had my health food store in Yorkshire, I had a regular customer called Mrs Barstow. She's been coming in and buying healthy breakfast cereal and other goodies for several months before I realized that her husband was the Stan Barstow, the author. I'd read several of his books and loved the fact that I had a 'celebrity' customer, even if it was by proxy.
The swinging sixties
The 'ordinary' working man was coming into his own. A good example is the Beatles. These weren't upper-class oiks with posh accents and boarding school backgrounds. They had strong regional accents, had been educated at the local schools and, in other words, were 'ordinary people'. The sixties might have been swinging away in London, but not in the north in those days.
This is why A Kind of Loving, along with other books of the 'kitchen sink' genre, were so groundbreaking - they concerned ordinary people doing ordinary things, written in what was referred to at the time as gritty and unsentimental. Often, they were set in northern England, as this book is, which was unusual at the time because everything (allegedly) happened in the south, especially London.
This book is interesting to us today as it shows a slice of ordinary life in an ordinary town during a period of time most of us can't remember. As such, it's fascinating in itself but the story of an ordinary young man, his love life, his marriage and its problems are equally so.
England in the early sixties. It's a bit scary to think that I was alive in those days, really. Was everything really all in black and white? That's how it must seen to people today when they see the movies and news footage from that time.
The video you'll see below is from the film that was made based on the book in 1962. Note the rows of terraced houses, along with bare patches of ground - probably created by bombing during the Second World War.
See laundry handing out in the fresh air. Not many people had driers in those days. These were days when kids could play in the streets, the days when locals women would gather around a church to get a glimpse of a bride in her finery.
Doesn't it seem like another world?
You could say that novels like these were almost the forerunner of reality TV. They showed life as it really was. For some readers, this book showed lives that until they read the book, they had no idea that this type of person - or situation- really happened.
For those readers, it was like eavesdropping into the lives of others and seeing a side of life and society that was normally not available to them.
For others, it was only too real. But for those people it was a relief to know that their lives counted too - that someone wrote about them.
Vic, the young man around whom the book centres, is aiming to improve his life by being the first in his family to be a non-manual worker.
In his office, he meets a young woman (you saw her in the first video) named Ingrid. They embark upon a relationship. Like many relationships in those days, Ingrid has her eyes on marriage whereas it's the furthest thing from Vic's mind.
In a situation that was all too familiar in those days, Ingrid gets her wish when she becomes pregnant and Vic offers to marry her.
That was quite commonplace in those days.
The problem really begins when they find themselves in a situation that was also very common - that of finding somewhere to live. Many young married couples in those days started their married lives living with their in-laws and that's exactly what happens to Vic.
You can see in the video below that this wasn't plain sailing...
© 2013 Jackie Jackson