21 November 2016

H. G. Wells at 150: A Lady and Her Husband by Amber Reeves

After something of a hiatus, I'm back at it reviewing audio dramas for USF. First up are two recent Torchwood releases, The Victorian Age and Zone 10.

Trade paperback, 341 pages
Published 2016 (originally 1914)

Acquired October 2016
Read November 2016
A Lady and Her Husband by Amber Reeves

I thought that A Very Dangerous Woman would be my last book related to a woman in H. G. Wells's life, but when reading Rachel Ferguson's Alas, Poor Lady in a Persephone Books edition, I realized that Amber Reeves, a young socialist with whom Wells had an affair and a child, had written a novel also republished by Persephone Books, so I decided to extend my Wells journey (now in its six month) with one more book. I said when I read Rebecca West's The Soldier that I felt guilty only reading her work because of Wells, so I was amused when Samantha Ellis's introduction to this book began, "I wish I had not found A Lady and Her Husband via HG Wells" (v).

A Lady and Her Husband opens with a young woman telling her mother she decided to get married, and I thought this book was going to follow her and be one of those late Victorian/early twentieth century novels about a young woman boxed in by her social limitations, much like the other two Persephone Books I've read. But actually this book is all about the young woman's mother, who for a couple different reasons decides to get more involved the running of her husband's business. She's not a feminist... but she soon finds herself morphing into one, now that she's allowed to move outside the tiny box she's been confined inside her adult life, and starts seeing the disconnect between the morality Victorian women were supposed to safeguard and the morality that actually went on in the world. It's an incisive book-- similar to a few others I could name, but with more original insight.

Reeves is really good on character. Not quite as good as George Eliot or Thomas Hardy (well duh), but she doesn't present any one-sided caricatures. Even when the husband of the title does completely awful stuff, you get why he does it and why it seems rational from his perspective. On the whole, a surprisingly good book. The daughter's socialism verges into the Wellsian at time, but otherwise (like with The Soldier and The Book of Catherine Wells), this book reveals a side to one of Wells's women that's completely unlike him. Thankfully.

Next Week: My anniversary celebrations of H. G. Wells finally end when I read his biography! Time to find out how truthfully he's been representing himself.

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