Synopses & Reviews
A riveting novel about the remarkable life—and many loves—of author H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells, author of The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, was one of the twentieth century's most prophetic and creative writers, a man who immersed himself in socialist politics and free love, whose meteoric rise to fame brought him into contact with the most important literary, intellectual, and political figures of his time, but who in later years felt increasingly ignored and disillusioned in his own utopian visions. Novelist and critic David Lodge has taken the compelling true story of Wells's life and transformed it into a witty and deeply moving narrative about a fascinating yet flawed man.
Wells had sexual relations with innumerable women in his lifetime, but in 1944, as he finds himself dying, he returns to the memories of a select group of wives and mistresses, including the brilliant young student Amber Reeves and the gifted writer Rebecca West. As he reviews his professional, political, and romantic successes and failures, it is through his memories of these women that he comes to understand himself. Eloquent, sexy, and tender, the novel is an artfully composed portrait of Wells's astonishing life, with vivid glimpses of its turbulent historical background, by one of England's most respected and popular writers.
"Lodge's (Thinks) meticulously researched but disappointingly tepid 'docu-novel' opens in 1915, with Henry James on his death bed, and quickly establishes the context of this take on the great Anglo-American writer's life: James's conflicted jealousy about his friend George Du Maurier's success with the now virtually forgotten novel Trilby, his chaste relationship with the American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolsey, and the fateful evening of January 5, 1895, when his play Guy Domville premiered in London and James was humiliated by the booing from the cheap seats. Why does a man who believes that the theater was noteworthy for 'its vulgarity and aesthetic crudity' aspire to be a playwright? For the banal reason that 'it was for an author the shortest road to fame and fortune.' It may be Lodge's point that James sublimated his desires for love or sex into a longing for acclaim and wealth, but the James of this novel the second this year to deal with his theatrical career, after Colm Tibn's The Master is petty, priggish and egocentric in the extreme (his reaction to the apparent suicide of Woolsey: 'what he really dreaded was finding some evidence that she had done it on account of him'). Even if this portrayal is accurate and given the author's scholarly credentials, there's no reason to doubt it it makes for a singularly undramatic story. Agent, Emilie Jacobson at Curtis Brown. 4-city author tour. (Oct. 11)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Lodge's vital interpretations of James' close ties to the Punch artist turned best-selling writer George du Maurier, and more problematic relationship with the popular American writer Constance Fenimore Woolson, that infuse this smart novel with its satisfyingly piquant insights into a seminal, and persistently enigmatic, literary genius." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"One obvious difficulty involved in writing a novel about Henry James is that unlike, say, Stendhal or Dostoevsky or Fielding, his immaculate style will have a way of embarrassing your fallen one....Lodge does not mean to be James...but his prose, never more than serviceable, is clothed in clichés and cast-offs, a style so banal as to shake one's confidence in the author's right to novelize the Master." James Wood, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review
Framed by a dramatic and moving account of Henry Jamess last illness, Author, Author
begins in the early 1880s, describing Jamess friendship with the genial Punch
artist, George Du Maurier, and his intimate but problematic relationship with fellow American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson. At the end of the decade Henry, worried by the failure of his books to sell, resolves to achieve fame and fortune as a playwright while Du Maurier diversifies into writing novels. The consequences that ensue mingle comedy, irony, pathos, and suspense. As Du Mauriers novel Trilby
becomes the bestseller of the century, Henry anxiously awaits the opening night of his make-or-break play, Guy Domville
. This event, on January 5, 1895, and its complex sequel form the climax to Lodges absorbing novel.
Thronged with vividly drawn characters, some of them with famous names, Author, Author presents a fascinating panorama of literary and theatrical life in late Victorian England. But at its heart is a portrait, rendered with remarkable empathy, of a writer who never achieved popular success in his lifetime or resolved his sexual identity, yet wrote some of the greatest novels about love in the English language.
About the Author
David Lodge is the author of twelve novels and a novella, including the Booker Prize finalists Small World and Nice Work. He is also the author of many works of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction and Consciousness and the Novel.