A Man Of Parts
UK & Canada Harvill Secker (April 2011, Ed. Geoff Mulligan, 496 pages)
US Viking (Ed. Paul Slovak)
Sequestered in his blitz-battered house on the rim of Regent’s Park, as the second war he has lived through moves into its final phase, the ailing Herbert George Wells, “H.G.” to his family and friends, looks back on a life crowded with incident, books, and women. Has it been a success or a failure? Once he was the most famous writer in the world, “the man who invented tomorrow”; now he feels like yesterday’s man, deserted or disparaged by readers, and depressed by the collapse of his utopian dreams for mankind.
He recalls his unpromising start in life, and early struggles to acquire an education and make a living; his meteoric rise to fame as a writer with a prophetic imagination and a comic common touch, which brought him into contact with most of the important literary, intellectual, and political figures of his time; his plunge into socialist politics; his belief in free love, and energetic practice of it. Arguing with himself about his conduct, he relives his relationships with two wives and many mistresses, especially the brilliant student Amber Reeves and the gifted writer Rebecca West, both of whom bore him children, with dramatic and long-lasting consequences.
Unfolding this astonishing life story, David Lodge achieves a riveting portrait of H.G.Wells, a remarkable man who embodied as many contradictions as he had talents: a socialist who enjoyed his affluence, a Darwinian evolutionist imbued with religious idealism, an acclaimed novelist who turned against the literary novel; a feminist womaniser, sensual yet incurably romantic, irresistible and exasperating by turns to those who knew him personally, but always vitally human.