Room at the Top is a 1957 novel by John Braine. Braine was an English novelist who became known as one of the Angry Young Men of British Literature. His novels often concerned marriage, relationships and infidelity which drew on experiences in his own life.
Room at the Top is set in the 1940s. The protagonist Joe Lampton is a recently demobbed soldier of the armed forces. He was taken as a Prisoner of War and spent his incarceration studying for his accountancy exams. When the novel begins Joe, an orphan with no discernible family, is attempting to secure a future for himself that he can be proud of.
In the town of Warley, gets a job at the Municipal Treasury and takes lodgings with the Thompsons, an upper class family who live in the part of town known as T’top. This plot device is used symbolically to illustrate the social advancement Joe receives by being around the Thompsons, add to this the physical location of Joe’s lodgings – a room at the top of the house – and this status symbol is further strengthened.
The Thompsons introduce Joe to the local amateur dramatic society where he meets Susan Brown, the daughter of a successful local businessman. He also meets Alice Aisgill and is naturally drawn to her.
Joe begins a relationship with Alice, who he falls in love with, whilst simultaneously wooing Susan for his own advancement.
His decisions are shown to have tragic consequences for him and those around him…
A novel about the price of ambition, Room at the Top is a must read for anyone looking for writing about post-war Britain.