Cover Image: A Kind of Loving

A Kind of Loving

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A classic book such a fabulous nostalgic read, and still relevant today. Brilliant
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I enjoyed this book and found it refreshing. It is based in a simpler time but the issues faced in the novel are universal and timeless.
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A Kind Of Loving arrived in bookshops in 1960 at the same time as Coronation Street launched on Granada TV. Writers from the English midlands and north were finally finding a voice outside their local areas. Fiction with working-class themes was revitalizing a moribund publishing industry.
A Kind Of Loving ignored the censorship still applied to literature with its outspoken views on sex. Today it provides a very important cultural reference to what life was really like in the West Riding of Yorkshire sixty years ago.
Although times have changed this novel can still pack a powerful punch.
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"I know I'll be lucky if I find a girl as nice as [my sister] Chris to marry. I'm always kind of half-looking for this girl I'm going to find one day. She'll be everything you could want in a girl: talking, laughing, sharing, making love, and everything...And now I begin to think about Ingrid." "I'm as presentable as the next bloke and I don't see why Ingrid shouldn't think the same way."

"Living and loving and laughing together, every day. It must be wonderful if you can hit it right. You'll have to wait an' see about that till he turns up. How'd you know he hasn't turned up already?" These are Ingrid's thoughts about possible marriage to Vic.

"Vic and Ingrid's bleak dilemma is as compelling today as it ever was..." 1954. Cressley, England. Twenty year old Victor Brown worked as an engineering draughtman weekdays/salesman for TV and gramophones on weekends. He was "one of the lads"...insecure, but cocky. Vic was infatuated with Ingrid, a typist at his office...but...could he initiate a conversation with her? Riding home from work on the same bus, Ingrid provided the necessary fare for an embarrassed Vic whose pockets were surprisingly empty. The needed ice breaker to converse began. Two young, inexperienced young people, started to meet at night in the park.

Ingrid was truly in love. In Vic's case, fascination faded while temptation continued to flame. All it took was one night to turn their world upside down. Vic made his bed, now he chose to responsibly handle the consequences. He felt trapped, the life he planned was on the skids. In the 1960s, unlike today, choices were limited. This reader feels that "making the best of it" was more common. Victor Brown, as narrator, is an unlikeable chap. He relates a compelling story, a work of literary fiction, somewhat dated, that still resonates with readers today! Highly recommended.

Thank you Parthian Books and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved Stan Barstow's realistic gritty books when I read them in the 1960s and 70s and it was fascinating to re-read this one again in today's world. Vic is a man of his time, forced into a shotgun wedding with Ingrid, and both ending up miserable. Probably very realistic. It is good to know most men have changed their attitudes since, and the ones who have not are not flavour of the month. However, unhappy marriages and partnerships seem still common, but now, thankfully, it is OK to part ways. Barstow's writing is very good and as such is an important voice to read today in order to try and understand how everyday working class British folk felt back then, products of their times. It is sad to think that while many of us have updated our attitudes and behaviours as our circumstances have improved dramatically, we are still managing to destroy our planet and wage horrific wars. My 4 star review reflects this as a fine book from the past.
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A powerful look at the way things used to be.  Just as engaging as when I read it many moons ago. Full review on my blog at
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I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in Vic's mind; Barstow manages to capture the whole range of his emotion and convey the asphyxiation, internal and external, both he and the youth in general experienced in the socio-political climate of the '60s.
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This look at the life of a young working class man in 1960 in Northern England is hard to read yet hard to look away from. It’s narrated by Vic, he’s casually sexist (all women are bints) but he’s not that unusual for the time and could be a lot worse (he’s not a violent drunk for instance) but being inside his head for the whole novel is pretty bleak. He works hard, he has a nice family (I really liked the parts of the novel set in the family home). It starts with his sisters wedding, a happy counterpoint to the disaster that will be his ‘forced’ marriage to Ingrid. Ingrid works at the same place as Vic and he fancies her straight away, his honest narration makes it quite clear the attraction is all physical after a while, he really has nothing in common with her. The second half of the book is darker and sad in a way, everything just goes downhill in such an inevitable way. Ingrid’s mother is such an awful woman! It ends with a possibility of some hope, but unlikely, making life look pretty miserable. Poor Vic, I feel sorry for him!
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Stan Barstow published this novel in 1960, just after the trial for obscenity of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and just before the swinging sixties got properly going. There’s no jiving or rock ‘n’ roll at the Gala in Chessley, where the story is set. Plenty of what would have been regarded as obscenity at the time, though, set in the austerity of post war northern Britain.

Barstow was in his early thirties, one of a group of young, gritty, northern male writers, who transformed English literature during the early sixties, and it was the best book he wrote. Chessley’s social classes with their minute but significant distinguishing signals are ruthlessly captured in vernacular prose by our immediately trustworthy narrator, Vic Brown. Unlike the afterword writer, I liked Vic. He tells us what he thinks. People may not say these things now but I’m not sure too much has changed

Of course it is a book of its time and perhaps very few these days would find their immediate circle so lined up behind a love lacking life sentence and, even if they still saw ‘responsibility’ in terms of a marriage, it’s inevitable if protracted breakdown would not inspire close family to encourage prolonging the agony.

That apart, it’s astonishing how modern the book feels sixty years on. Perhaps it’s the unusual honesty of our narrator. His conclusion on life at the end of the book, which would have read almost scandalously bleak when it was written, strikes me as a fair result of his alienation.

This is a book well worth reading for the first and even more worth reading for the second time.
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Meet Vic Brown. He's young (about twenty) and lives at home with his coal miner father, mother and teenaged brainbox younger brother in late 1950s Yorkshire. Vic works as a draughtsman and has eyes for Ingrid, a pretty young woman who also works in his office. But when Ingrid becomes pregnant, both her and Vic's lives are transformed forever.
A Kind of Loving was first published in 1960 and was quickly made into quite a famous film starring a young Alan Bates and other rising stars of the time such as Thora Hird and James Bolam. It is very much a book of its time and fits in neatly with other kitchen sink dramas of the Macmillan era such as the plays, Look Back In Anger by John Osborne, A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney and the novels and stories of Alan Sillitoe and others figures often broadly categorised as "angry young men."
Vic Brown's  world thus now seems very old-fashioned. He routinely refers to women as "bints," seems sexually naive by 21st standards and does not seem to even have a phone in his house, let alone a mobile. His views on race and immigration are, however, remarkably liberal for a young working-class man of the time even if the language he uses to express them isn't.
Despite the passage of over sixty years, however, the book holds up pretty well. Vic Brown isn't always a very sympathetic or likeable narrator: I'm not sure he was ever supposed to be.. Nevertheless, through him, Barstow has left us with a valuable snapshot of the thoughts and attitudes of a  Britain slowly edging its way forward from the time of "you've never had it so good" towards the age of the Beatles, the permissive society and the Ready, Steady, Go era of the 1960s.
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Sure it's a product of its time but why are we reissuing a book with questionable racist and sexist language on every other page?

It's a shame because I quite enjoyed the writing style.
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A Kind of Loving was first published in 1960 and is now being re-published by Parthian Books. I read it for the first time in the nineteen seventies and it seemed slightly out of date even then. Reading it now, it is as you might expect, terribly old- fashioned. The story is an age-old one, that of the pursuit of sex and love. Vic, the narrator is a young man of 20 who fancies himself in love with Ingrid but once the chase is over he finds he doesn't like her much let alone love her. When she finds herself pregnant after only having full sex once they 'have to' get married. The marriage that follows is a farce, not helped by them living with Ingrid's mother, who is a misogynist's dream of a mother-in-law. 

I can't remember what I thought of Vic when I read it back then, but today I find him very much of his time and pretty repugnant in his attitude towards women. No doubt there are young men like that around today but thankfully none of the men I know, old or young, are like him. He refers to women as 'tarts' and 'bints' and the only female character he respects is his sister Christine. His mother is 'the old lady' and as for his mother-in-law, well let's just say there's no love lost there. I didn't find him a sympathetic character but I did find him believable. The style of Barstow's writing is very direct and you do get right inside Vic's head even if you don't much like what you find there. It's tempting to dismiss him as misogynistic (and at times, racist) but he is a more complex character than that. He has an idealistic view of love and he does show some empathy towards Ingrid. He has dreams and aspirations but these are thwarted by the mores of the day. 

In an excellent afterword, David Collard does a great job of putting the book into its historical and social context. Society changed greatly in the 1960s and it's almost impossible to imagine two people being forced into marriage in the way Ingrid and especially Vic are. But that is the way it was and I knew several people who 15 - 20 years later than this, were forced into shotgun weddings. Whether they were as unhappy as Vic and Ingrid I don't know. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.
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This is a classic "kitchen sink drama" book written by arguably the foremost of the Northern working class voice novelists. The book is written as if Vic (the protagonist) is actually speaking to us, giving a running commentary on his life and insights into his thinking. It chronicles a kind of life that has now totally changed and is interesting from a social history perspective (it was published in 1960). I have to say I found Vic pretty repugnant.  Young women are constantly referred to as "bints" and "pieces". Vic is obsessed with their cleanliness, remarking several times how girls that smell of cooking and gravy make him gag and are disgusting. Women seem to be a seperate not altogether human species in his mind.  His object of desire is a blonde typist in the company where he is a junior draughtsman. He seems to mostly be enamoured of Ingrid because she is clean and smells of perfume and is a careful dresser like himself. The phrases he uses to describe black people are also revolting (although I do remember them being used by bigots in the late 60's and 70's when I was a child). It really is a book of its time and it does capture that Jack the Lad bravado mingled with sexual inexperience  well. It also captures the community feeling well with life lived in a small area where there is school, church, a job in a local firm, dances and bars where all the same people gather, living at home until marriage etc. that has since become fragmented. The story really is from a man's point of view. We are never privy to Ingrid's thoughts or feelings, she is never fleshed out. It is well written and there are two sequels carrying on the tale of Vic's life and of course the famous film of the book.
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"A Kind Of Loving” was a “kitchen-sink drama” classic in its day, its reputation bolstered by the celebrated film starring Alan Bates. The novel returns in a brand new edition from Parthian Books - which is fitting because author Stan Barstow lived in South Wales in later life until his death - but does this slice of Northern life have any relevance today? 
It is, without doubt, somewhat dated, with characters and attitudes very much of their time; the language, for example, will surprise a modern reader, and it is not a novel that is likely to be a feminist “Book of the Month Club” pick - this is very much a book for men, with much talk of “bints” and other even less savoury epithets. Although Vic Brown is not a hero, or even an anti-hero; he’s just as flawed and human as any young man. 
Barstow makes Vic a likeable narrator despite his faults, and gives him some breathtakingly beautiful turns of phrase in his inner monologues which counterpoint the “bloke-iness” of the character. Vic’s rather awkward and fumbling pursuit of Ingrid is endearing, and there is a very funny section where Vic reads Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from “Ulysses” and can’t believe such sexual frankness is allowed in print. He is also a bit of a snob in his occasional scorn of certain Northern working-class traits; always restless and wanting something better. His treatment of Ingrid, (a character who is, by accident or design, not as well drawn as Vic, but she engenders sympathy from the reader) seems callous, and when he admits to himself that he doesn’t truly love her, it comes as a quite a shock. 
The story is timeless, but, more than anything, the novel, originally published in 1960, is a vivid snapshot of early ‘60s Britain, the North of England in particular. The politics and class divides of the time are prominent, especially in the factory where Vic works. Bus fares cost threepence, there are jobs for life, men work in coal-mines and go to the football on Saturdays, while their wives run the house. There is much talk of a “boom” in industry and business during the novel’s time period, and whether it can last. 
Stan Barstow was a very skilled and naturalistic writer, with a gift for observing the realities of life. The characters’ journey is one that virtually anybody can relate to. Ultimately, “A Kind of Loving” is an immensely readable, honest and captivating story from an era when you could have a red-blooded male as a hero without incurring a jail sentence, and the story itself can be enjoyed, with an open mind, on its own terms.
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I jumped at the chance to read the new edition of ‘A Kind of Loving’ by Stan Barstow having never read the original. This is a simple story of by meets girl , gets her pregnant by accident and the consequences. What makes this novel stand out however is that the writer has captured the events I. A way that was very forward thinking for the time (1960s). Told from a male perspective is a very wise novel and is still relevant today. I absolutely loved this book.
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This book offers an interesting look into the young male psyche. This book felt so REAL. It’s kind of like the British version of “The Catcher in the Rye”.
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