Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Review - Love and Mr Lewisham

Happy 2012, readers! Felicitations, fireworks, champagne and all that. Indeed, I may have had too much of that - but now it is the 4th I can look life in the face again and tell you about the first book of my year, and the first book from my towering Christmas present pile, Love and Mr Lewisham.

I guess the good thing about getting through Love and Mr Lewisham first is that it leaves definite room for improvement as far as my reading material goes. I've already had the situation, with the new episode of Sherlock, where I sat down afterwards and wondered if anything could ever be that good again, and for that to happen with a book as well as with a TV show in the first four days of 2012 would be asking too much of the universe. 

Love and Mr Lewisham was - fine. It was perfectly good, and even quite sweet (which I found a bit weird, conceptually - you think H. G. Wells and you think of angry metal objects exploding violently while invisible people do experiments on animals in the background, rather than a story about two people falling in love and arguing about it, which is Love and Mr Lewisham's basic plot).

Actually, Love and Mr Lewisham is more technically relevant to my interests than anything else I've read by Wells. It's all about being young and poor in London, which I have vivid personal experience of, and also about being in love, which has happened to me too, whereas I have never personally travelled to the future or been shot at by an alien death ray. And yet, if you go into a novel expecting death rays and end up with 200 pages of people having misunderstandings about bunches of flowers you are going to feel slightly cheated, plot-wise, and so I did. Allegedly Love and Mr Lewisham is about spiritualism (another reason why I was interested in it, I love a good bit of chicanery and/or haunting), but it turns out that Wells just wants an excuse to have an ethical discussion about whether or not faking seances is cheating (yes), and if so whether or not that is wrong in the grand scheme of things (still yes), and that's fine, but to be brutally honest I prefer it when he writes about invisible people.

That's not to say I didn't get something from Love and Mr Lewisham. It proved to me rather neatly that 1) I should thank every power in the universe for the rise of women's education, because (all jokes about the earning power of English Literature graduates aside) it means that I can go out and earn cold hard cash rather than having to sit all day staring at the wall and being a drain on my (fictitious) husband, only for him to (fictitiously) come home and talk about things that I don't understand, like Science and Politics and Spelling. And 2) I am really glad that I did not get married aged 21 just because I wanted to cohabit with someone. It works for some people, of course, but it has the potential to go hideously wrong, especially if you are both poor and living in London, and so, in Love and Mr Lewisham, it does.

Things turns out OK in the end, in a sappy sort of way, but all the same Mr Lewisham and Ethel's trials and tribulations (will he choose his Woman or his Career? Will she escape her trickster father in law? etc) are just never going to be as interesting as a death ray. Maybe I'm shallow. Maybe I misunderstood the kind of book Love and Mr Lewisham is. But I have to say that if you're looking for a good (less famous) H. G. Wells novel, don't read this. Read The Island of Doctor Moreau, because that has insane conflicted half-human half-animal lab experiments in it, and it's also set on a desert island, and as I have said many times before ('m lying, I've never said this before but it's true anyway) a desert island setting means that things are going to be AWESOME. Also, you should watch Sherlock, because it was amazing.

Welcome to 2012.

Love and Mr Lewisham gets 2.5 stars.


  1. Saw Sherlock!

    You keep reading books from times when women were Oppressed. I don't think I'd like to read about Oppressed women. I probably should, just so I can feel guilty/grateful.

  2. It's because all the books I read were written before the 60s. Oppression, man, it was ALL OVER history. My reading material makes me grateful for 2012.