This 1914 political novel "of 12 months in hell, told by one of the damned" caustically depicts the plight of English workers, whom the author views as unwittingly complicit in their own exploitation. It's more heartfelt polemic than literature. Blind to their situation, these inadvertent "philanthropists" argue endlessly about it with confrere Frank Own, a clear-eyed socialist. Narrator David Timson excels at the regional and working-class accents the novel calls for. Perhaps of greater importance, he delivers the dialogue and frequently sardonic narrative with the fervor and outrage of a concerned eyewitness. A historically important novel enhanced by a fine oral performance.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is the classic working-class novel. It was written in 1906 by an impoverished house painter, Robert Tressell, and within its framework contains a manifesto for socialism. It tells of the appalling working conditions of a group of painters and decorators and their struggle to survive at the most basic level. It is moving, grimly humorous, and tragic. It has sold over six million copies worldwide since it was published, and it has the power to change lives.
This allegory is amazingly flawed. I was hoping for something to give me a socialist perspective. I was very disappointed.