The L-Shaped Room, By Lynne Reid Banks

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The Independent Culture

First published in 1960, Lynne Reid Banks' tale of a young woman, Jane Graham, who is pregnant and unmarried and has been thrown out of her father's home, seems like a relic from an unrecognisable age, when landlords could hang up signs saying "No blacks, no Irish", and women could be sacked from their jobs for having a baby.

Jane finds herself in a bug-infested flat in Fulham but soon makes friends with the black jazz player next door, and falls in love with the Jewish writer in the room below. All outsiders for reasons of race, gender or class, and thrown together by a narrow-minded society, they bond and care for one another, until, of course, respectability comes calling, to forgive them and give them another chance.

This is an angry tale in many ways, with an inextinguishable fire of authenticity. Reid Banks' journalistic style, as well as her eye for detail, is perfectly suited to the theme, and a documentary feel rather than a poetic register strengthens the impact of her message.

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