Book Review

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

excellent novel about a dickhead dicking about like a dick

Over the years, I’ve acquired at least two different pulpy paperback copies of books by Alan Sillitoe, but I’ve never read either (any – I likely have others in unpacked boxes). That’s an error, as even though Sillitoe has a humourous [insert adjective for “of feet”] name and these books look designed for people who got free university education to masturbate to, this one was actually brilliant and I enjoyed it so much I’ve already picked up the other book to read.


One of my favourite novels is the unpublished 2012/2013 raucous Catholic cocaine novel, White Lines /// Black Truffles, which – had its author, a floppy-haired mentally ill young naif curiously also named scott manley hadley previously read Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – is essentially a millennial retelling of the same text: tonally, ideologically and ethically. A bit of a dickhead goes around being a bit of a dickhead, feels some consequences to his being a dickhead but recovers from the consequences and looks forwards towards a future of being a bit of a dickhead forever. Perfect.

Instead of East London when I had hair and no dog, Alan Sillitoe’s novel is set in Nottingham in the early 1950s (or late 1940s?) and is about a young lad who works in a factory, shags around, loves to get wasted and gets into the occasional fight. He hates the government, he hates society, he hates national service, he hates paying tax, but he loves drinking tea, drinking beer, banging his colleagues’ wives and he loves buying spicy clothes.

It’s picaresque, but also kinda prudish, textual camera panning away and fading to black as soon as people share a kiss and panning back as people light cigarettes and get ready to walk back to the bus stop (there’s lots of shagging in copses).

Arthur Seaton (the name of the protagonist) seduces women with ease and only abandons them after their husbands beat him up; he gets drunk in the pub and vomits on strangers’ coats; he shoots a neighbour with an air rifle after she makes it clear she knows and disapproves of his philandering; he goes to the fair; he goes fishing; he works hard at the factory; he says some racist things; he makes friends with a man from Ghana who his cousin knows; he is kind to children; he’s a dick to older adults; he helps one of his girlfriends successfully induce a miscarriage with no repercussions like you’d expect in a novel from the fifties; he gets (lightly) knocked down by a drunk driver so flips over the car (I’m guessing they were a lot lighter then than now); he mocks the new-fangled television sets everyone is buying and obsessively watching, though doesn’t mind too much as their husbands watching too much TV is one of the things his married lovers often have in common…

It’s riotous, it’s of its time and its place and, yes, there is racist language and ableist language and such a robust and aggressive heteronormativity that the book is surprisingly absent of homophobia, but all of this contributes to a vivid and, yes, un-tasteful evocation of a person and a lifestyle and a life that was probably very prevalent in the years following the second world war and the advent of television and before the liberalising liberality of the 1960s.

Arthur Seaton is a dickhead, yes, but he’s meant to be a dickhead, he’s clearly a dickhead, but many (most?) people are dickheads at some level and to some extent, and this depiction by Alan Sillitoe of a dickhead is a very well-rendered one.

Abrasive, brash, brass, obnoxious, loud, yes, and vivid, engaging, outrageous, alive and fucking brilliant, though (yes) not an inoffensive novel.

More Sillitoe soon! is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

1 comment on “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

  1. Pingback: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe – Triumph Of The Now

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