Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

A man of parts by David Lodge

A man of parts (original 2011; edition 2011)

by David Lodge

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2551544,916 (3.6)12
Title:A man of parts
Authors:David Lodge
Info:London : Vintage, 2012.
Collections:Your library
Tags:novel, fiction, fictionalised biography, english authors, victorian england, pstats

Work details

A Man of Parts by David Lodge (2011)



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 12 mentions

English (14)  Hebrew (1)  All (15)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Great fun. I'm an H. G. Wells fan. This is novel about H. G.
  idiotgirl | Dec 25, 2015 |
too many words ( )
  mullerd | Dec 31, 2013 |
This kind of "biographical novel" is a bit of a risky exercise: at one extreme it can be hard to see what added value over the biographer's scholarship is provided by the novelist's freedom to invent where the evidence is silent, and to attribute motives; at the other, you have to ask yourself why the writer has bothered with the constraint of using the names and known circumstances of real people. Lodge, of course, is both a literary scholar and a novelist, and his account of H.G. Wells tends very much to the biographical side of the equation. The text is full of bits of dialogue and description unmistakably drawn from Wells's own works (I'm amazed how much I remembered of them: I don't think I've looked seriously at one of his novels since about 1980, but clearly they made an impression.) and quotations from actual letters. Lodge scrupulously identifies in his afterword the few "documents" he had to invent for the story to work.

Where the novelist takes over is in his freedom to hold imaginary dialogues with Wells, in which he challenges him to defend his ideas and actions, and to follow him into the bedroom — given the scale and complexity of Wells's love-life this is not just prurience, but a key part of Lodge's analysis of his character. I think in this case, it is a worthwhile exercise to add a novelist's insight, particularly since there's already so much conventional biographical material on Wells. Lodge does seem to capture a lot of the contradictions and ambiguities in Wells's character, and to push the reader to think a bit more about him rather than just filing him away as a socialist writer we read when we were young.

I'm not sure if the book fully answers either of the big questions about Wells: is it still worth reading him as anything other than an entertaining social commentator and pioneer of science-fiction? Did his political ideas actually change anything for the better? Lodge evidently thinks that at least the early novels and stories are of some literary value, but that Wells was something of a failure in persuading people to follow his political ideas. Either he was saying the right thing at the wrong time, or he undermined his political message by avoidable personal squabbles and scandal (e.g. by having affairs with the young daughters of two of the senior figures in the Fabian Society). The opening and closing sections of the book show the elderly author against the background of London in the closing years of World War II, the cataclysm that Lodge clearly means us to see as both the ultimate expression of all the things Wells had been warning the world against and the clear signal that no-one had listened to him. I'm not so sure: for me personally, growing up during the Cold War, Wells was one of the writers who really seemed to be saying something relevant to idealistic young people (even if he said it half a century earlier). Looking back, some of his ideas seem naïve and even irresponsible, and there was all that unfortunate elitism, racism and belief in eugenics which I somehow didn't notice when I was 16. If Wells could go on making young readers think about inequality, injustice and the misuse of science many years after his own death, surely he must have had some influence for good?

For all that wartime gloom (no doubt informed by Lodge's childhood in wartime London), it's often a surprisingly funny book: Lodge has taken the Kipps/Mr Polly side of Wells into account, and he enjoys the element of bedroom farce that frequently seems to have played its part in Wells's life.

The English literary scene in the early 20th century is not exactly uncharted territory for historical fiction, and there are interesting overlaps with quite a few other novels here, not least Lodge's own Author, Author! which shows us the other side of Wells's friendship and quarrel with Henry James, and A.S. Byatt's recent The Children's Book, which is much more a work of fiction than Lodge's, but centres around a family recognisably based on that of the writer E. Nesbit (Lodge takes Wells's affair with the daughter Rosamund Bland as one of the key elements of his story).

I have a passing interest in Odette Keun, having more or less accidentally come across a couple of her books, so I was a little disappointed to find that she only plays a very marginal role in this book: Lodge isn't really all that interested in Wells after the First World War, and he dismisses her in a couple of paragraphs that didn't add anything to what I already knew from her books. The only one of the later mistresses to get much attention is Maxim Gorky's sometime secretary, Moura, who met Wells in Leningrad in 1920, and was subsequently said to have been a KGB agent. ( )
  thorold | Nov 3, 2013 |
A Man of Parts is a fictional biography of author H.G. Wells. I did not go into this book knowing anything about H.G. Wells, except for his having written quite a few novels and his being one of the founders of the genre of science fiction. Given that, I cannot assert with complete assurance that the events related in Lodge's book are all faithful representations of the author's life, but I suspect they are. The extensive acknowledgements certainly suggest that Lodge did his research before writing the book, not that I would expect less.

Why, then, is this written as a novel, rather than a biography? My suspicion is that it is simply much more fun to write historical fiction than a strictly correct biography. Why? Because, had he written this as nonfiction, he would have been unable to put words into the mouths of the characters, and would have had to rely solely on, instead, the literature, letters and speeches of Wells. While that does a lot, it does not give the same freedom that the label of fiction does.

This is my second experience with David Lodge, although my only successful one, as I gave up on the first book of The Campus Trilogy quite swiftly. I found the opening pages not at all to my liking and decided to move on. Lured by the interesting subject matter here, I could not resist requesting a copy of A Man of Parts. Thankfully, I found myself much more drawn to the book than I ever expected. The writing is excellent and what I learned completely shocking. Impressed by this one, I will definitely be giving The Campus Trilogy another go, especially since Penguin was kind enough to give me the new, completely gorgeous edition containing the whole of the trilogy with this book.

You may wonder why I found the contents of the novel so entirely shocking. That's because it turns out that H.G. Wells was one heck of a horndog. Seriously. He spent all of his time that was not devoted to writing pursuing sexual intercourse with various ladies, most of whom were many years his junior. Many of these sexual partners were authors like himself.

Honestly, the descriptions of Wells' social life and his completely nutty (and hypocritical) opinions on sexual relations were the most intriguing part of the book. Wells espoused a belief in free love, although he did (mostly) attempt to only sleep with women he cared for, although, given the opportunity, any relatively good looking woman would do. (On one occasion, he even slept with a woman with a shriveled hand.)

At the same time, Wells fervently believed in the institution of marriage. He married twice (the first, which was to his cousin by the way, ended in divorce, since he wanted to marry his second wife, Jane). Both marriages were passionless, which increased his straying. Jane seems to have been okay with it, although certainly not thrilled. I imagine she was not as pleased with the arrangement as Wells seems to have believed. Despite his constant straying, Wells was remarkably constant to Jane, and never really wanted to leave her. Of course, his affairs also had other consequences, like babies and scandal. It's funny how this is never the part of history that you get to learn about in school.

Lodge largely uses a pretty straightforward narrative style (third person, mostly following Wells' viewpoint). However, he occasionally switches to a very strange style, wherein H.G. Wells responds to some sort of interviewer. I'm not entirely sure what to make of these sections, but they did tend to be fascinating, since the voice really liked to probe Wells about the subjects he least wished to discuss. I suspect that this was either employed solely as a narrative device or, perhaps more likely, was used to depict Wells' dementia at the end of his life, as he tried to account for his behavior.

While I did enjoy the novel, I will warn that it is not an especially quick read, or, at least, it was not for me. Nonetheless, I found it to be well worth the time, and, if you ever want to have your illusions of a classical author shattered, this is definitely the way to go.
( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Professor David Lodge is a graduate and Honorary Fellow of University College London. He is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, where he taught from 1960 until 1987, when he retired to write full-time.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, was Chairman of the Judges for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989, and is the author of numerous works of literary criticism, mainly about the English and American novel, and literary theory. He is also the author of The Art of Fiction (1992), a collection of short articles first published in the Independent on Sunday.
David Lodge is a successful playwright and screenwriter, and has adapted both his own work and other writers' novels for television. His novels include The Picturegoers (1960), The British Museum is Falling Down (1965), Changing Places (1975), Therapy (1995), Thinks... (2001), and his most recent, Deaf Sentence (2008).
He lives in Birmingham.

I never read a book by H.G. Wells. I do know about his works but they are not really books I would pick up for a fun read. After reading several pieces in this book I knew I was right. Still when I saw this book on the shelves in the bookstore I got intrigued and decided to buy it.
I am in doubt if that was a good or bad decision. This really is a book going from one place to another. Parts are brilliant others are long. It is clear Lodge gathered a lot of information on Wells to build a frame of facts filling the big holes he left on purpose with the story.
As Lodge did a brilliant job in mixing those up it is hard sometimes to separate the facts from the fiction and you just have to take that for granted. This did disturb my reading experience at points.
The characters in the book really come to life. You can easily imagine them in the various places. And combined in truth and fiction the character Wells does not really deserve a nice description, but lets keep this civil. For a man taking position for woman rights he has a weird way of dealing with them. The simple example that he can have multiple relations and his wife has to deal with it but the woman in his life should be loyal or he will be jealous. In the brain of a woman that is a one way ticket to the dislike corner for a man.
Written in two styles the story starts in the last years of Wells life where he reminiscing about the decisions he made in his love life. Parts of the story are written while he is being interviewed by his own conscious and though some of the questions he is asking himself are funny I found these parts difficult to read. I did enjoy the other parts better where the story was "being told".
Overall I experienced the read as bumpy disturbing my experience of the story making it hard for me to decide on the star rating. I am afraid I will have to give this book two stars, cause I will not even consider reading it a second time. Still I think people can easily enjoy this book or experience it different depending on how a person reads. Meaning.. if you are interested find a copy and read two pages to see if you can handle the bumps if yes the story offers enough entertainment to read it, if not do not pick it up cause it will keep you busy. ( )
  Ciska_vander_Lans | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
"...you might conclude, as Lodge does in his smart, engaging novel, that Wells was “a man of parts.” Lodge quotes a dictionary definition as an epigraph: “Parts. Plural noun. 1. Personal abilities or talents: a man of many parts. 2. short for private parts.”
added by LiteraryFiction | editNew York Times, Christopher Benfey (pay site) (Sep 16, 2011)
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
To Jim Crace

who guessed the subjecty of this book
before I had written a word of it.
First words
In the spring of 1944 Hanover Terrace, a handsome row of Nash town houses on the western perimeter of Regent's Park, is looking distinctly war-torn.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

Presents a story inspired by the intimate relationships of H. G. Wells, who at the end of his life evaluates his professional, political, and romantic successes and failures before achieving a greater understanding of himself.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
2 avail.
9 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.6)
2 5
3 14
3.5 4
4 19
4.5 1
5 6

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 116,172,192 books! | Top bar: Always visible