A Man of Parts

A Man of Parts

David Lodge’s latest novel, A Man of Parts, truly displays his academic intellect and his light-hearted, down-to-earth, and often humorous style of fiction. Following the life of the writer H. G. Wells from beginning to end, A Man of Parts is a great read for everyone, regardless of whether you are interested in literature or not. Lodge’s passion for this era, also shown in Author, Author which follows the life of Henry James, is combined with his easy-to-read style and makes the 500 pages fly by.


Having just learned that he is dying, H. G. Wells is on the brink of exhaustion after his turbulent and scandalous life, spanning both world wars. He turns to the solace of his memories and, with the help of Lodge’s narration, we go on the journey through his life with him. What really makes this a good piece of fiction rather than just an academic biography is Lodge’s innovative use of a journalistic interview that Wells imagines himself having, and large chunks of the novel are told like this. Although Lodge’s admiration for H. G. Wells becomes progressively clearer during the novel, the “interviewer” doesn’t just question Wells about his life but often openly subjects him to scathing and humorous criticism. These sections are, for me, the strongest parts of the novel and really make for an engaging read.


What I would say, however, is that at times A Man of Parts can become a little too dense with novel extracts. Whilst the aim of Lodge is clearly to create a biography of Wells, he is also aiming that biography at a market which reads fiction, and some of the denser paragraphs detailing Wells’s political actions or his plethora of published works can be alienating. Wells’s lectures during his association with the Fabian Society, which worked towards establishing socialism in Britain, may be fascinating for an academic, but do little for readers wanting fiction.


Having said that, the end of the novel is worth waiting for. Being a biography, it is obvious what the end is going to be, but Lodge’s sudden switch to another character’s viewpoint, namely Wells’s former mistress Rebecca West, really creates an empathetic ending. H. G. Wells may have had his share of scandals and may not be the most celebrated of literary authors, but Lodge’s A Man of Parts gives Wells the space that he clearly deserves and acts an eye-opener to the general public – as well as being a great novel.

by Julia Molloy

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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