Written in 1957, but set a little earlier, this is the story of a shameless social climber.
Orphaned Joe was raised by his working class aunt and uncle in a grim northern industrial town. Whilst a PoW, he studied for accountancy qualifications and after the war moves to a more prosperous town. He lodges with a well-to-do middle aged couple, gets involved with the local amateur dramatic group ands sets about bettering himself (whilst ensuring he gets plenty of sex too - it was probably pretty racy for its time).
He considers the cost, quality and availability of everything, including women, with disarming honesty to the reader, though rarely to those he meets in the story. He is very manipulative and aware of the fact, yet despite this, there is enough charm to draw the reader into collusion.
*** SPOILERS BELOW ****
It is only as all his plotting seems to be coming to fruition that there is a glimpse of any remorse, and the only inkling of any unselfishness is just before that, when it looks as if everything is hopeless.
I feel a little guilty for enjoying this book as much as I did. Perhaps it's just as well I've never met anyone like Joe in real life?