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Up the Junction by Nell Dunn
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Up the Junction (1963)

by Nell Dunn

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everyone needs a bath. the men go to jail. the women have babies or abortions. it was a learning experience for me. but quite sad. ( )
1 vote mahallett | Nov 13, 2015 |
This book is, as it notes on both its front and back cover, "the remarkable 1963 cult classic." I think if one were to have come across it in the early 1960s, it would have seemed quite colorful, shockingly frank, and occasionally insightful. Forty-six years later, most of those impressions have been subsumed by representations in popular culture that are more vivid, virtually unrestrained, and still occasionally insightful. I wanted to like the book quite a bit more than I did, and I'm afraid that in my rush to finish it, I became frustrated and opted not to finish the last few sketches.

A good deal of my frustration came simply from the form in which Dunn wrote. Being sketches rather than more developed stories, they convey a place, a mood, or an incident, but they don't go much further. I was intrigued, but then I found the sketch at an end, and so my curiosity about these characters and their lives was left unfulfilled. There seemed a lot there worth noting, but the author did not place around the tales a structure that would guide me through it. I also wanted additional reasons to connect to the characters, to understand them and to get a deeper sense of their lives.

I also found that, given the form, the author often ran dialogue for seeming effect, a character's statements sometimes following one after another without segue. I expect the intended effect was that readers should understand that this conversation was mere filler, that they attached little meaning to it, that their observations were oft-recited comments spoken mostly to fill the silence. Similarly, dialogue was often difficult to attribute to the characters, because signifiers and attributions were missing, and while this contributed to an interesting imitation of the noise of conversation, I found it distancing. I wanted not to guess at who was speaking or what they might be reacting to. There were so many nice details and such well-preserved turns of phrase that I wanted them to be easier to enjoy.

The dialogue itself is worth reading, if only for a taste of the attitudes and manners of expression by working-class women at that place and time. The sense of place is strong, and the insights into lives most of us are lucky not to live are worth one's time. Both of these elements are strong enough in this book to make me with there were more here, that I could give more attention to a work that felt more fully developed. ( )
2 vote phredfrancis | Feb 8, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dunn, NellAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benson, SusanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henri, AdrianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We stand, the three of us, me, Sylvie and Rube, pressed up against the saloon door, brown ales clutched in our hands. (Out With the Girls)
I first met Nell Dunn on an Arts Council Writers' Tour. (Introduction)
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Book description
'We stand, the three of us, me, Sylvie and Rube, pressed up against the saloon door, brown ales clutched in our hands. Rube, neck stiff so as not to shake her beehive, stares sultrily round the packed pub.' The girls eye up the talent in the local. They work at McCrindle's sweet factory and on Saturday they go up the Junction, think about new frocks on the H.P., drink tea in the cafe, and talk about their boyfriends. Exuberant and uninhibited, these closely linked stories tell of life in the shabby corners of South London, where money is scarce and enjoyment something to be snatched at before time runs out. Up the Junction, first published in 1963, was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It was dramatised by the BBC, causing much controversy, and later filmed. 'Innocence in Battersea lasts as long as the flower remains unsooted by the power-station' - Sunday Telegraph
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860689891, Paperback)

The girls - Rube, Lily and Sylvie - work at McCrindle's sweet factory during the week and on Saturday they go up the Junction in their clattering stilettos, think about new frocks on H.P., drink tea in the cafe, and talk about their boyfriends. In these uninhibited, spirited vignettes of young women's lives in the shabby parts of South London in the sixties, money is scarce and enjoyment to be grabbed while it can.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:43 -0400)

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