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Ann Veronica: A Modern Love Story by H.G.…

Ann Veronica: A Modern Love Story (1909)

by H.G. Wells

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Title:Ann Veronica: A Modern Love Story
Authors:H.G. Wells
Info:The Modern Library (no date), Hardcover
Collections:Your library

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Ann Veronica by H. G. Wells (1909)

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    The Rose of Dutcher's Coolly by Hamlin Garland (inge87)
    inge87: Both are semi-successful attempts at New Woman romance.

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[Ann Veronica] by H G Wells subtitled a modern love story
A grown up story about a young lady growing up in early 20th Century Edwardian England. When Ann veronica was published in 1909; Suffragette militancy had been a fact of life for the last five years, the first world war was still five years away and women would not get the vote on the same terms as men until 1928. The newspaper paper talk was of a sex war and Wells does not hesitate to plunge into this maelstrom of opinions with his story of Ann Veronica.

H G Wells' progressive, socialist views were well known to all his readers and it could be argued that many of his novels take on a sort of preachiness in tone that makes some of them disjointed, perhaps they are even used as an excuse for Wells to beat his readers over the head with his views. This is not the case in Ann Veronica, Wells had found a subject where he only had to give a true impression of a young unmarried woman's lot in life, and the difficulties that she faced to become independent, for him to demonstrate the follies of Edwardian social structures.

The story is told from Ann Veronica's point of view; we find her as a 21 year old woman living under the protection of her father in the suburbs of London. She is a bright, intelligent and attractive all of the things her father wishes she wasn't. He sees her role as looking after his household and caring for him. He is far too busy dealing with his work in the city of London to worry about Veronica. A crisis is reached when Veronica wants to go to an art school dance, her father forbids her to go and when she defies him he physically restrains her so that she cannot leave the house. Her only recourse is to run away, there is no one who she can turn to who can help her in her situation.

"“I want to be a Person said Ann Veronica to the downs and the open sky “I wii not let this happen to me, whatever else may happen in its place”

There is a note of desperation in her voice as she sees herself in a pit from which there is no escape. She escapes to London and manages to find a bedsitter, but she has no way of earning a living or continuing with her work at the Imperial college of science. She meets Mr Rammage who she knows form her home town, he is a successful business man and when she goes to him for help he suggests a business arrangement and makes her a loan of 40 pounds sterling. Rammage we understand is a lover of women, rather like Wells;

“A young man comes into life asking how best he may place himself” Ramage had said “a Woman comes into life thinking instinctively how best she may give herself.”

Rammage of course expects that Veronica will become his mistress and it is only when she narrowly avoids being raped by him that she realises the burden of debt that she is under. In desperation she turns her attention to the womens suffragette movement and volunteers to take militant action. She is involved in an attempt to disrupt Parliament for which she is unceremoniously arrested and sentenced to a month in prison. Wells' treatment of this suffragette raid is even handed, but told from Veronica's point of view it appears a desperate, frightening act, but one which she could easily view as her only course of action.

In jail she has plenty of time to think and comes to realise that the only course of action left to her is to return home to her father and negotiate the best deal for her independence that she can:

“I suppose all life is an affair of chances. But a woman’s life is all chance. It’s artificial chance. Find your man that’s the rule. All the rest is humbug and delicacy. He’s the handle of life for you. He will let you live if it pleases him."

She gets to continue her work at the Imperial College and there falls in love with her tutor (Capes). Veronica never makes easy choices however and she discovers that Capes is married, but separated from his wife, who will not divorce him. The love affair between Capes and Veronica takes up the second half of the novel, but there are tensions here as well. It is only when Veronica takes decisive action that these can be resolved.

The novel falls neatly into two parts, but both depict the difficulties of being an independent woman in Edwardian England. Veronicas struggles in the first part are totally absorbing and the suffragette raid is vividly depicted. There are also the tensions of the love affair in the second part, but when these are resolved the novel fades a little at the end to a depiction of a young loves dream. Well's novel caused a bit of a scandal in 1909, not because of his sympathetic depiction of the suffragette movement but because of Veronica's decision to become Capes' mistress. A leading critic John St Leo Strachey condemned the book as "poisonous" because it treated female sexuality and sex outside marriage, not as shockingly sinful but as natural behaviour. Wells had not made Veronica pay for her actions and this is what upset some of the critics. I think there can be no better testimony as to how difficult it was for a woman at that time, and Wells brings this out brilliantly.

I have now read over twenty books by H G Wells and Ann Veronica is one of his best. You are never going to get a finely judged well balanced novel from him because he was always so impatient to move onto the next thing, but this one is better than most and so a four star read. ( )
8 vote baswood | Dec 30, 2014 |
Produced by Charles Keller and David Widger
Release Date: March 18, 2006 [EBook #524]
Last Updated: December 10, 2012 ( )
  sharrya | Oct 17, 2014 |
I'd only read HG Wells' science-fiction, which all reek of their era, so this book was a surprise because it was published in 1909 but feels modern: the suffragettes, socialists and other trendy radicals that the heroine Anne Veronica gets involved with seem straight out of the late sixties/early seventies. Wells describes the confusion of Fabian meetings and the “inexplicable enthusiasm” of the suffrage movement, with its “incoherent cries for unsoundly formulated ends”. The trendy revolutionaries have difficulty agreeing on anything and many of them are crackpots. The now familiar feminist political theories are presumably obtained from the author's many (all very bright) girlfriends - “Women have practically NO economic freedom,” said Miss Miniver, “because they have no political freedom."

The atmosphere is modern even though there are still horse-drawn cabs, (along with electric lighting).

Anne Veronica wants to escape the prison-like restrictions imposed on her by her father, and runs away from home. She goes to suffragette meetings, but she can’t stand the thought of getting involved in demonstrations, badgering cabinet ministers and all the undignified consequences. The laboratory where she attempts to pursue scientific studies provides a retreat for her: she loves its relevance, everything in it is focused on pursuing and identifying biological structures. But she is not a wimpy Victorian woman (definitely not like most of Charles Dickens' females); she's a toughnut. When a neighbour, Mr Ramage (note, change the "m" to a "v" and you get the idea), tries to force himself on her, she beats him up. In reaction afterwards, she gets involved in a suffragette riot and spends a month in prison.

The end of the book drifts and gets soppy, as Anne Veronica runs off with her One True Love (a scientist) and they wander all over the continent, presumably screwing their bums off. It all ends in unlikely happiness when he turns to writing and makes a fortune. Nevertheless worth reading for the strange familiarity of this now more than one-hundred year old world.
( )
  AMcBurnie | Nov 27, 2013 |
I always list this book as one of my favorites and have re-read it many times. The truth is though, it’s been a good 15 years since the last reading and I have one of those brains that just does not retain detail well. Add to that the new filter of age (this being a coming-of-age story), I did have a few new impressions/opinions this time.

I know the history and context of when this novel was originally released and yes, I can see clearly why it was as controversial as it’s reported to have been. But the truly surprising thing is that the entire novel holds up far too well 100 years later and is startlingly contemporary (other than the specific political causes featured). This is mostly a coming of age story and entire swaths of the novel (covering adolescent temperament and rebellion, political movements, and the balance between morality and passion) read like they were written yesterday. Frankly, I found that utterly depressing. As a child borne of the Hippie movement of the 60s, and raised through one left-wing political moment after another, I found the environment created by Wells depressingly familiar (and just a little boring, having now found a more temperate path for myself in adult life). Replace Suffrage/Fabians/etc. with Women’s Lib/Leftists/etc. (no need to swap out the whole vegetarian thing) and the book reads like the autobiography of my young adulthood. Our rights and freedoms have changed so much from the work of these movements, but the movements themselves have changed so little. Wells is rather harsh about it all – The showboating, the self-absorption, the drama and fanaticism. And yet, he was deeply committed to the causes beneath the social scene and credits the accomplishments of the groups when due. I didn’t come from the middle-class background Ann Veronica did, but after she leaves home, her experiences and story felt intimately familiar.

The other thread throughout the story – the romance and sexual relations – Were also painfully familiar. While the antiquated societal rules that set up much of Ann Veronica’s romantic interactions are no longer in place, the story remains virtually the same 100 years later. How many Ramage’s have I had in my life? How many times have I had the “can we be friends” tussle? Yeah. Painful. And being an asexual in a culture obsessed with sex left me battling with many of the same frigidity/passion issues Ann Veronica did (albeit for different reasons) during my youth.

So, how do my perceptions change from reading this as a young adult (still in the midst of the story) and as an adult (well past the drama)? I think as a young adult I loved this book as a surprisingly contemporary, frank, mature story which matched my own. I thought it was really daring and I remember wanting to discuss it with my Grandmother – To ask her if it was really like this, or if this was just a reality TV version of the times (I don’t recall that I ever got an answer). As an adult, it makes me feel a little tired (but in a good way). I worked really hard to move on from the angst and drama of young adulthood and the society around me at that time. Things aren’t necessarily any better as an adult, but I must have found some sort of balance for myself because I look back at it all with a sense of boredom and feel relieved that that part of my life (hopefully) is over. I may not have any answers, but I’m a happier human being. You couldn’t pay me to be young again. Really.

What makes this a favorite book for me? Except for her childhood home/upbringing, I completely identify with Ann Veronica all through her coming of age and the woman she becomes. I love the observations and insights Wells makes about the political/social movements he highlights. I love the observations and insights Ann Veronica moves through in her relationships and her exploration of her ability/morals regarding love. I love how readable the book is and Wells’ prose. I love the historical context of the book and exploring what Wells put into it. I love the opportunity for dialogue the book has provided me over the years.

Ugh, this is the worst book report ever! I blame it on the fact that the book is just too personal for me to properly convey my feelings about it. And I’m writing this for myself, not some magazine or something, so take it or leave it (and don’t even *try* to lecture me about my spelling or grammar.)

The two surprise impressions/negative remarks I have this time through were minor:

I’ve started to lose faith in Wells’ endings. It seems as though all his social books have a certain pace and method and then, inevitably, speed up and change tone for the wrap-up portion. I’m never really satisfied by the endings. In the case of AV, the book works for me on every single level and progresses at a slower, in-depth pace, discussing a thousand political and social ideas. Then, all of a sudden in the last few chapters, I’m thrust into a shorthanded, uber-romantic, honeymoon romance. He never really even addresses some of the key plot threads to finish them off-he just chucks in a dismissive sentence that sticks out like a sore thumb.

I don’t remember the book having so much comedy in it. Or am I making it up that there is any? There were so many moments that seemed fairly straight on paper, but if one acted it all out on one’s head, played more like a Wilde play. If that was intentional, it was nice. If it was supposed to be serious... I’m confused?

Have something to say about my comments? Do it here: http://passionrulesme.livejournal.com/6076.html ( )
  SimPenguin | Sep 6, 2011 |
Not quite as good as the History of Mr. Polly, but nevertheless well worth reading. I think of it as D.H. Lawrence light, not entirely a bad thing. Ann Veronica is looking for life with a capital L and is living in a world that offers women life with a decidedly lower case l. She rebels against her father, moves to London on her own, and then interacts with three men. Capes she loves, but he's already married (though unhappily, and wishes for divorce). Ramage would like A.V. as his mistress; he thinks he's rather obviously proposing and arranging this; she's too naive to see what he's up to. Sexual assault scene at a private restaurant is really well-written and gripping. Manning is the bland man in the middle, the husband her world would like her to take. She'd like to take him too, only she doesn't love him. A previous generation wouldn't have cared; Ann Veronica does care. The descriptions of living life to the fullest, of the value of love, etc. are Lawrence without the fire. Unlike Lawrence, they're never over the top--that's both their virtue and their flaw. ( )
  cdeuker | Jul 7, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
H. G. Wellsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drabble, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schutt, SitaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One Wednesday afternoon in late September, Ann Veronica Stanley came down from London in a state of solemn excitement and quite resolved to have things out with her father that very evening.
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From the back cover: She was vehemently impatient - she did not clearly know for what - to do, to be, to experience. All the world about her seemed to be in wrappers, like a house when people leave it in the summer. And there were no intimations that the blinds would ever go up or the chandeliers, that seemed to promise such a blaze of fire, to be unveiled and furnished and lit'

Ann Veronica Stanley wants to work and she wants to love. Above all, she wants to be 'a Person', free of the futile obligations of life in a respectable London suburb at the turn of the century. A young girl of unusual spirit and intelligence, she reluctantly defies her beloved father and leaves home, determined to study - and to be her own woman.

In an England awakening from the constraints of the Victorian age, she encounters a world of Fabians, suffragettes, free love. But when she falls passionately in love with Capes, a married man, she confronts what her new freedom really means...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141441097, Paperback)

Twenty-one, passionate and headstrong, Ann Veronica Stanley is determined to live her own life. When her father forbids her from attending a fashionable Ball, she decides she has no choice but to leave her family home and make a fresh start in London. There, she finds a world of intellectuals, socialists, and suffragettes - a place where, as a student in Biology at Imperial College, she can be truly free. But when she meets the brilliant Capes, a married academic, and quickly falls in love, she soon finds that freedom comes at a price.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:29 -0400)

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Twenty-one, passionate and headstrong, Ann Veronica Stanley is determined to live her own life. When her father forbids her from attending a fashionable ball, she decides she has no choice but to leave her family home and make a fresh start in London. There she finds a world of intellectuals, socialists, and suffragettes. A place where, as a student in biology at Imperial College, she can be truly free. However, when she meets the brilliant Capes, a married academic, and quickly falls in love, she soon finds that freedom comes at a price.… (more)

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