Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Man Of Parts by David Lodge

David Lodge's latest novel is a sympathetic portrayal of the life of H.G. Wells, the novelist who gave us such books as War Of The Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine.  Desirious of a world more equal and supporting of all men, Wells used his novels to show his vision of a utopian existence where men and women were equal and science made life better for all.

But Wells did not start out as a cornerstone of society.  He was born into a poor family, his father a shop keeper and cricket player while his mother was in service as a housekeeper for a wealthy family.  For many years, his parents lived apart as she had to be available at all hours in the manor she worked in.  Wells grew up "downstairs", education being his saving grace.  He fought for an education and his brilliant mind was recognized, winning him scholarships that allowed him to move into the wealthy class.

Wells was a contradiction.  Socialist by nature, he made no bones about enjoying his wealth.  A feminist by nature, he indulged himself with numurous affairs and dalliances.  He was married twice and had several long-term relationships.  Several of these were with women barely out of their teens when he was middle-aged and beyond.  His private life always threatened to disrupt his public life.  While his novels were not considered literary triumphs, he was a very successful writer, influential in the way that a successful novelist can be in shaping public opinion. 

This book is a departure for Lodge, and it is a success.  His tone is light, and he moves quickly but throughly through Well's life, showing his work and love interests as well as his desire to affect lives around him.  His friends, novelists such as Shaw and Henry James, are also highlighted, giving the reader a complete feel for this strata of society in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Wells survived through WW II.  Lodge's novel is a fitting tribute and an interesting exploration of a complicated man's life.  This book is recommended for all readers who have heard of Wells but don't know much about him and his life. 

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