Stan Barstow, 83, a British author whose celebrated first novel, “A Kind of Loving,” was considered a literary breakthrough for its frank depictions of life and marriage among the working class of Northern England, died Aug. 1 in Britain, according to the Guardian newspaper. The cause and place of death were not immediately available.
Mr. Barstow, a coal miner’s son from Yorkshire, was one of the leading voices in a gritty style of writing that emerged from the working class and energized British fiction and theater in the 1950s and 1960s.
Mr. Barstow became part of a literary movement sometimes called “kitchen-sink realism” that included Alan Sillitoe (“Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”), John Braine (“Room at the Top”), David Storey (“This Sporting Life”) and Keith Waterhouse (“Billy Liar”). Together, they cast an unsentimental eye on little-known corners of British life, eschewing the genteel world of drawing rooms and clubs for factories and pubs.
“A Kind of Loving,” which was published in 1960, was a first-person account of a young man named Vic Brown trapped between sexual longing and the restrictive mores of his time. When his girlfriend becomes pregnant, he marries her out of obligation more than love.
“For a few seconds there’s nothing; I’m empty, not thinking, kind of not living nearly,” he broods after they have been intimate. “Then there’s a twinge of shame . . . I’m thinking straight and clear and it’s terrible, because I don’t love her and that’s the awful truth.”
A Washington Post reviewer wrote in 1961 that “the dual themes of love and maturation, handled as they are with robust humor and sympathetic sensitivity, give this work a quality of universal scope.” The book was made into a movie in 1962 directed by John Schlesinger and starring Alan Bates and June Ritchie.
Mr. Barstow went on to publish more than 15 books of fiction, including “The Watchers on the Shore” (1966) and “The Right True End” (1976), which were sequels to “A Kind of Loving.”
Critic and novelist Malcolm Bradbury wrote years later that “A Kind of Loving” was a transformative work that “amounted to a new postwar mapping of Britain and the detail of its ordinary lives.”
Stanley Barstow was born in Horbury, England, on June 28, 1928. His father worked in the mines but, his son once pointed out, found his greatest pleasure in playing the cornet in brass bands.
Mr. Barstow left school at 16 to become a draftsman in an engineering office. He began to write fiction at nights and on weekends, and turned to writing full time after publishing “A Kind of Loving.”
Before settling in Wales in his later years, he lived for most of his life in Yorkshire, proud, he once said, “to hoe one’s own row diligently, thus seeking out the universal in the particular.”
Mr. Barstow’s other novels included “Ask Me Tomorrow” (1962), “A Raging Calm” (1968), “B-Movie” (1987) and a trilogy about life in a Yorkshire town in the 1940s, “Just You Wait and See” (1986), “Give Us This Day” (1989) and “Next of Kin” (1991).
His memoir, “In My Own Good Time,” appeared in 2001, and he also adapted several of his novels and stories for the stage.
Once part of a literary generation called the “angry young men,” Mr. Barstow admitted in a 1989 interview that “I’m no longer young and promising. The angry young man is turning into a crusty old buffer, but I look back with a certain satisfaction on a pretty solid achievement.”
He added, “I have flashes of irritation and temper. The older I get, the more irritable I get. I am a bit volatile.”
He and his wife of 39 years, Constance Kershaw, were divorced the next year.
Survivors include his partner of 21 years, Diana Griffiths of Pontardawe, Wales; two children from his first marriage; and a grandson.
A new collection of Mr. Barstow’s short stories is scheduled to be published next year.