The History Of Mr Polly: With an introduction by Giles Foden Hardcover – 30 Dec 2010
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H.G. Wells is often cataloged as a pioneer of science fiction (which he was) . . . but he was also a great Edwardian writer of immense fame and influence who deserves to be remembered as a major literary figure (GUARDIAN)
A delightful comedy of everyday Edwardian England that draws inspiration from its author's own life . . . The story - still strikingly modern - is a comedy about a midlife crisis . . . a comedy of ordinary, provincial life, rooted in the everyday, with countless brilliantly observed details . . . The History of Mr Polly has a special charm as a novel in which, for once, Wells became carefree and relaxed, and described the thing he could never find for himself - peace of mind (Robert McCrum Guardian)
'The History of Mr Polly (1910) is a disturbing comic masterpiece . . . a more gently satirical and masculine counterpart to Flaubert's Madame Bovary . . . a classic of radical existentialism, and, after 100 years, still amusing, unsettling and powerfully contemporary ' (Washington Post)
Widely considered to be Wells's most perfectly-formed novel, this comic idyll is the story of a henpecked, unsuccessful, desperately frustrated small shopkeeper who bungles but survives a suicide-and-arson attempt, and becomes master of his fate under another identity (David Lodge GUARDIAN)
Wells's recently televised tale of mid-life crisis and self-reinvention.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Mr Polly is a typical H.G.Wells character, being disaffected with his lot, living a mundane, married existence as a proprietor of a small drapery shop in a quiet town on the South coast. A background familiar to Wells, and about which he writes with entertaining detail.
Polly subsequently embarks on a foolhardy scheme to relieve himself of his predicament; this, of course, goes entertainingly wrong. He finally escapes from his "prison" and goes on a long hike to eventually find himself in a situation, and company, more to his liking. However, as always in Mr Polly's life, there are obstacles to overcome and, in this case, dragons to slay. His rather weak character is finally tested as he reaches a point in life of no return.
In the meantime, what has happened to Miriam, his wife, after all this time? Mr Polly has a crisis of conscience and decides to go on a journey home to find out....
This is a gentle and entertaining read evocative of a lost Edwardian era at the turn of the century. If you enjoy rediscovering some of the English classics, but want to avoid anything too ponderous, this is a great choice. Also watch out for the beautifully made film with John Mills as Mr Polly. It is one of those films that blends successfully with, and enhances, the book, or, vice versa.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story takes place in Edwardian England and certainly has modern overtones, since it involves the life of a man, Alfred Polly, starting from his birth, who eventually concludes that his life has become meaningless and sterile. It is written from an omnicient viewpoint, so HG Wells feels free to add many acrid observations about English culture at that time. Mr Polly's solution to his existential despair is both shocking and fascinating and I won't spoil your enjoyment by revealing it.
I will say that Well's known respect for Buddhism permeates this novel although there is nothing explicitly said about it. Let me just say that the writing is saturated with mindfulness and respect for the present moment. It is easy to see why several films and TV adaptation of it were produced. Enjoy.
This is a story about a discontented shopkeeper; an Englishman of middle age, middle class, a dreamer with untenable ideals who is letting life just happen to him. However, he finds a way to alter his humdrum existence. This is where the fun begins.
The atmosphere was like that of a Dickens novel, but some of the downbeat sections reminded me of Mr Nabokov. Certainly an appealing blend.
I really enjoyed the fact that the author invented words for this work and his clever use of malapropisms – as a character trait for the protagonist – served all the better with regards to the comical aspect.
I hadn't read any literature by Mr Wells for at least twenty years and I had forgotten what a master he is. His descriptions are some of the best. The way he brings the English countryside to life is wonderful. An excerpt from his text:
"Mr Polly sat beside the fat woman at one of the little green tables at the back of the Potwell Inn, and struggled with the mystery of life. It was one of those evenings, serenely luminous, amply and atmospherically still, when the river bend was at its best. A swan floated against the dark masses of the further bank, the stream flowed broad and shining to its destiny, with scarce a ripple – except where the reeds came out from the headland, and the three poplars rose clear and harmonious against the sky of green and yellow."
This novel is actually a social commentary, which is as far afield from what the author is actually known for, that of science fiction. Because of that, for me, this book is all the more brilliant than it already was.
I found it a quick and easy read.
Beware, you will need to have some relative understanding of the time period the action takes place (1903). But it is certainly worth the effort.
As I started to listen to this story I was thinking this is not much of a story. Where is the science fiction? Where is the action? Who knew that Mr. Wells wrote social commentary literature? But I continued to listen, and I was entranced.
The story starts as mentioned above, then you read of his history, his schooling and first job, he parents, etc. His story is one of normal English lower middle class at the turn of the century. He was nothing special and had no drive to excel at anything, and skated by as best he could with as little effort as he had to put forth. He was also one to not rock the boat. I would have to say he was trying to be a good guy, but he failed at that, as it turns out, miserably.
He grows up, starts working, looks to change jobs, his father dies, leaving him some money to start his own shop with, and he gets married, on and on. At this point Mr. Wells inserts his social commentary – some middle class people get a chance to better themselves, but make a hash of it, partly because of the way society is arranged and partly because they are not capable of doing it right for one reason or another. These poor souls spend their inheritance trying and then have to just get out and do whatever to survive, ending up poorer in soul and wallet. This is the fate of Mr. Polly, but he makes mistakes that leave him a bit better off, but still bothered and unsatisfied, so he goes off walking and this saves him. He wanders into the life of a simple woman trying to keep her granddaughter and run an inn. He settles down and his life becomes the best he could hope for. He is not a Buddha, but living by the river and helping with the inn, he absentmindedly enjoys his life.
I was surprised to feel that this was a really good story, mundane, for sure, but really rather enjoyable.
It's a case study of serendipity in the face of adversity. How to move on in times of change.
When things change, accept the change, move on and look for other opportunities.