Authors: John Braine

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Room at the Top, 1957

The Vodi, 1959 (also known as From the Hand of the Hunter, 1960)

Life at the Top, 1962

The Jealous God, 1965

The Crying Game, 1968

Stay with Me till Morning, 1970 (also known as The View from Tower Hill, 1971)

The Queen of a Distant Country, 1972

The Pious Agent, 1975

Waiting for Sheila, 1976

Finger of Fire, 1977

One and Last Love, 1981

The Two of Us, 1984

These Golden Days, 1985

Nonfiction:

Writing a Novel, 1974

J. B. Priestley, 1978

Biography

John Gerard Braine was born to Fred and Katherine Braine, who were lower-middle-class Catholics and therefore part of a distinguishable minority in Yorkshire, England. Braine’s mother had great expectations of her son, which as a student he began to fulfill. Braine’s formal education began at the state-run Thackley Boarding School, where from 1927 to 1933 he was exposed to a predominantly Protestant, working-class atmosphere. After graduating with honors in 1933, he attended St. Bede’s Grammar School in Bradford for five years and then took a variety of jobs. He served as a librarian from 1940 to 1957, work that was interrupted from 1940 to 1943 by his work as a telegrapher in the Royal Navy and from 1951 to 1953 by work as a freelance writer in London. Between 1952 and 1954, he suffered intermittently from tuberculosis. In 1957, after having had his first novel rejected five times and experiencing the death of his mother, his novel Room at the Top was published to great acclaim. After its appearance, he devoted himself to writing and travel.{$I[AN]9810000235}{$I[A]Braine, John}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Braine, John}{$I[tim]1922;Braine, John}

Critics identified him as one of the most important of the new generation of writers that appeared after World War II and became known as Britain’s Angry Young Men; the group’s approach to life is similar to that of its American counterpart, young postwar writers whose work is sometimes called the Cult of Brutality. In both England and the United States, young writers were expressing their anger at human callousness and cruelty. Braine’s writing is frank and vigorous, and he handles his topics with gusto.

Room at the Top follows the career of a poor but ambitious young man who wishes to rent a room and finally engages one. The room, it turns out, is located in a house on the Top, a hill inhabited by the town’s wealthy and representing a sordid world.

Braine wrote twelve additional novels, which met with varying critical success. He was praised for his smooth and sophisticated style, narrative power, and compassionate insights into human suffering, though there were those who criticized his work for self-conscious hedonism, sentimentality, and ambiguity. His most autobiographical novel, One and Last Love, was commended for its vivid and provoking portrayal of people and places, past memories and present experiences. Throughout his life, Braine was capable of surprising his readers, and he is distinguished by stubborn integrity and craftsmanship.

BibliographyAllsop, Kenneth. “The Neutralists.” In The Angry Decade: A Survey of the Cultural Revolt of the Nineteen-Fifties. 1958. Reprint. Wendover, England: John Goodchild, 1985. Considers the works of Kingsley Amis and John Wain before examining Braine’s Room at the Top. Also provides biographical information on Braine and evaluates his goals as a writer.Carpenter, Humphrey. The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950’s. London: Allen Lane, 2002. Entertaining book discusses Braine, Kingsley Amis, John Osborne, and the other writers dubbed the Angry Young Men. Carpenter maintains that the supposed movement of angry young men in literature and drama was a creation of the media.Fjagesund, Peter. “John Braine’s Room at the Top: The Stendhal Connection.” English Studies 80, no. 3 (June, 1999): 247. Points out similarities between Braine’s novel, published in 1957, and Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le noir (1830; The Red and the Black, 1898). Compares the protagonists of the two novels and argues that these men are responding to similar dilemmas within their respective historical periods.Hewison, Robert. “All the Rage.” New Statesman, January 23, 2006. Presents a historical overview of the Angry Young Men and the cultural revolution they unleashed in Great Britain in the mid-1950’s. Describes how the work of Braine, Harold Pinter, John Osborne, and Alan Sillitoe was a reaction to their family backgrounds and was heavily influenced by the modernism of 1950’s Europe.Karl, Frederick R. “The Angries.” In A Reader’s Guide to the Contemporary English Novel. Rev. ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972. Attacks the writers associated with the Angry Young Men movement, maintaining that their novels are poorly executed and their heroes boring. Karl reserves his harshest judgment for Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim and derides Room at the Top and The Vodi as trite and formulaic.Laing, Stuart. “Room at the Top: The Morality of Affluence.” In Popular Fiction and Social Change, edited by Christopher Pauling. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984. Well-rounded article traces the novel’s critical success and analyzes historical, social, and political changes in postwar Britain that are reflected in the novel’s themes and the relationships between characters.Lee, James Ward. John Braine. New York: Twayne, 1968. Provides a good overview of Braine’s work, beginning with an introduction that considers Braine in the context of other authors categorized as Angry Young Men. Devotes a chapter to analysis of Room at the Top and three later novels. Includes a brief selected bibliography.Salwak, Dale. Interviews with Britain’s Angry Young Men. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1984. Braine recalls how he got started as a writer and comments on some of the values in his work, his mother’s influence on his success, themes in some of his novels, and a work then in progress, the novel One and Last Love. He also provides some perspective on his being grouped with the Angry Young Men.Salwak, Dale. John Braine and John Wain: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980. A guide to two writers labeled Angry Young Men. Includes indexes.Schoene-Harwood, Berthold. Writing Men: Literary Masculinities from Frankenstein to the New Man. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. Traces how masculinity has been depicted in literature from the nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth century. Part 2 contains a detailed analysis of Room at the Top.
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