The Life and Times of a Writer and Womaniser; Richard Edmonds Reviews a Biography Which Sheds Light on the Colourful Private Life of H.G. Wells
Byline: Richard Edmonds
When H.G. Wells left school at 13, there was little indication that he would achieve much.
Yet Wells became one of the greatest writers the world has ever known, with a list of works as long as your arm, including The History of Mr Polly (1910), The War of the Worlds (1898), Kipps (1905) - turned into the musial Half A Sixpence starring Tommy Steele, The Time Machine (1895), his first great work, and many more.
Wells once described himself as a first-rate, second-rate thinker, yet his vision of this planet and the horrors of an inter-galactic invasion was profoundly apocalyptic, which is not surprising when you remember that Wells was keenly interested in social reform and disdained social conventions, although he had a charmed marriage, along with the novelist Rebecca West as a dazzling mistress. In H.G.Wells - Another Kind of Life, by Michael Sherborne (Peter Owen, pounds 14.99), the point is made that it was not only in this country that Wells was making a stir.
"Wells is the most intelligent of the English," wrote Anatole France in 1922, although in the same year his self confidence had taken a bad knock when his Secret Places of the Heart was badly reviewed.
But Sherborne is a perceptive writer and along with his views on the women who may have contributed to Wells' reputation as a serial adulterer (including the writer West, who once attacked me at The Birmingham Post offices!), he also refers to Wells as a man who sided with Hitler's messianic delusions on Jewish culture.
In Joseph Roth's glorious novel The Hundred Days (Peter Owen, pounds 9.99) the sad tale of Napoleon Bonaparte's last snatch at glory is told through the eyes of his infatuated Corsican laundress, Angelina, and in all truth, more is revealed about the great man by the woman who washes his sheets and handkerchiefs than is dreamed of in related books of military history.
Roth's prose style has always been rich and makes compulsive reading, where jewel-like detail shimmers on the page. He wrote much like this in his novel The Radetzky March, set on the remote borders of the Austro-Hungarian empire, where a tired garrison has little idea that the First World War is about to destroy its world for ever. …