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A Man of Parts [Hardcover]

David Lodge
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: £18.99
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Book Description

31 Mar 2011

'The mind is a time machine that travels backwards in memory and forwards in prophecy, but he has done with prophecy now...'

Sequestered in his blitz-battered Regent's Park house in 1944, 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 by readers and depressed by the collapse of his utopian dreams.

He recalls his unpromising start, and early struggles to acquire an education and make a living as a teacher; his rapid 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 story, David Lodge depicts a man as contradictory as he was talented: a socialist who enjoyed his affluence, an acclaimed novelist who turned against the literary novel; a feminist womaniser, sensual yet incurably romantic, irresistible and exasperating by turns, but always vitally human.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (31 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846554969
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846554964
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 15.3 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 334,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Lodge's novels include Deaf Sentence, Changing Places, Small World, Nice Work, Therapy, Thinks... and Author, Author. He has also written stage plays and screenplays, and several books of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction, Consciousness and the Novel and, most recently, The Year of Henry James. Formerly Professor of English at Birmingham University, David now writes full-time. He continues to live in Birmingham.

Product Description

Review

"Extraordinarily rich, wide-ranging and hugely entertaining." (Daily Mail)

"Excellent... scrupulous and scholarly... It bounds along terrifically." (Nicholas Lezard Guardian)

"As protean, elusive but compelling as it's hero, David Lodge's bio-novel about HG Wells breaks all the rules but still grips the reader - like Wells himself." (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

"As scintillating, engaging, and multidimensional as the man whose life and character it faithfully animates." (The Atlantic)

"This is his best book in years: sprawling, funny, touching, a near-perfect fusion of story and scholarship." (Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

A moving, funny and masterful novel about the life of H.G. Wells - writer, thinker, lover and man of genius.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The man of parts in question here is HG Wells in this fictionalised biography. He was indeed a man of many talents and interests, although the parts that most exercise the interest of David Lodge are the great author's private parts. You see, not only was HG a prolific writer of fiction that incorporated a staggering amount of visionary ideas (tanks, airborne warfare and atomic bombs) - although admittedly some of his ideas have yet to come to pass such as time machines and Martian invasion - but he was also something of a political philosopher and idealist, being a central figure for a while in the Fabian movement, and an ardent practitioner of the concept of free love.

There are almost as many biographies and collections of correspondence on Wells as there are of HG's own works, and there is no doubt that Lodge has been meticulous in his research. So what then, does a fictionalised biography add to this? Well, the main thing is imagined conversations that make it a much more interesting read than the dryer, factual works. I confess I always have mixed views of this style as it is neither one thing nor the other, but more often than not they are entertaining and interesting and this is no exception.

One trait that the genre tends to have is that there tends to be, as here, a strong indication of life informing the literary works. This is exactly what Sebastian Faulks has railed against in Faulks on Fiction. However, Wells clearly put a lot of autobiographical content into his fiction and frequently used fiction to promote his political ideas of utopia and a socialist, world government. Often you find that the author falls into the literary equivalent of Stockholm syndrome with his subject and is uncritical of the manifest faults.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I am probably never going to read one of the more comprehensive biographies of H G Wells and I came to this book with a degree of confidence that although "fictionalised", David Lodge would have made a good job of presenting a rounded and fairly accurate picture of Wells and having read the book I have no reason to doubt that this is the case. The acknowledgements section at the end shows that Lodge read very widely about Wells and also the wide circle of his friends and contacts. As I read the book I got the impression that Wells had been Lodge's constant companion for some time, even to the extent of enabling him to conduct mock interviews with him (if you were spiritually-minded you might even think he'd been channelling Wells!).

These little interviews with Wells keep popping up at key points of Wells life and enable David Lodge to chalenge the great man on his behaviour. They can seem a bit hectoring at times but on the whole they work well.

Wells' behaviour was often so outrageous in how he treated young women that you almost wish Lodge had been able to conduct these "interviews" in person. In today's world we are so much more aware of the potential abusiveness of a wealthy, powerful man taking advantage of an adoring fan. And it wasn't just "having a fling" - Wells seemed to bind these young women to him over a number of years and in the case of Amber Reeves and Rebecca West, actually got them pregnant.

The mystery of course is how his wife Jane was able to cope with these affairs. She herself was unable to satisfy Wells sexually (or perhaps vice versa!) and at a relatively early stage of their marriage the couple entered into an agreement whereby he could more or less do what he wanted so long as he continued to provide for his family.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of a comet 9 May 2012
By Lendrick VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I'd not read any Lodge for a while,and seeing this in a shop was intrigued enough to buy, I know little about HG Wells beyond having read The War of the Worlds. The novelised biography is a curious concept, while Lodge provides evidence of copious references there is always the suspicion that he might have let his imagination get the better of him at points. However, by the end I was convinced he had provided a credible version of HG.

While the format is a little clunky at times - e.g. when HG cross-examines himself - but for the most part it's an engaging tale. There is no pretense at an objective view - we get HGs view of the world (or at least Lodges impression of it). So the reader is very much left to make up their own mind about HG and his life, and what a life it was.

The most eye popping aspect is of course his love life which we get in copious, though not explicit, detail. There is a lot of it, and there was a point about 2/3 of the way through when affair after affair became a bit tiresome. But there is much more, his political ideas and of course his novels ( confess I skipped over some of the descriptions of the later not wanting to spoil reading the actual book.)

Despite his flaws I came to like HG, a man ahead of his time in many ways, and who I felt always meant well. There is no way I would ever have picked up a lengthy biography of him, so Lodge has hopefully introduced many of us to a writer well worthy of reconsideration.

An enjoyable read, and an informative one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive and thorough analysis of the person that was HG Wells.
Not probably what everyone would expect from David Lodge, yet this fictionalised biography has much to its credit. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hugh Scantlebury
5.0 out of 5 stars Man of Parts
David Lodge brings it off again, this latest offering a sort of intimate biography of H G Wells with fictional bits mixed in here and there. Read more
Published 2 months ago by PJB
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written
The loves of H G Wells. The book seems researched very well and keeps your interest as his life unfolds in quite intimate detail. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bluebell
3.0 out of 5 stars Hit and Miss
I loved Deaf Sentence, by David Lodge, so I had high hopes for this biographical work about H.G. Wells. The reader is given an insight into the various aspects of H.G. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Em
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable biographic novel
I am a fan of David Lodge so as soon as his latest work was published I had to read it. What a remarkable book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Martin G. Sexton
4.0 out of 5 stars THE OTHER SIDE OF H G WELLS
The book appealed because of who had written rather than the subject material./ I am a great lover of David Lodge,and I have always found his previous novels witty and amusing. Read more
Published 15 months ago by bibliophile
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging book.....
I have never been a great fan of H.G. Wells but I bought this book because I always enjoy anything by David Lodge. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Wynne Kelly
2.0 out of 5 stars A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT
I love the writings of David Lodge (see my reviews of Deaf Sentence etc.) so I looked forward to this one. How disappointed I was!! Read more
Published 16 months ago by Alexander Bryce
4.0 out of 5 stars Great educational read
It took a while to get in to this book, but once started it is a real history lesson. I learned more about the early part of the 20th century in this book than I ever did in... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Andrea Malyon
3.0 out of 5 stars A Man of Parts
Havinf read about half of David Lodge's novels I found this one less enjoyable eindeed I struggled to finish it.
Published 19 months ago by Leslie Dan Ellis
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