A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The first biographical novel about Dorothy Richardson, peer of Virginia Woolf, lover of H.G. Wells, and central figure in the emergence of modernist fiction
Dorothy exists just above the poverty line, doing secretarial work at a dentist’s surgery and living in a seedy boarding house in Bloomsbury, when she is invited to spend the weekend with a childhood friend. Jane recently married a writer who is hovering on the brink of fame. His name is H.G. Wells, or Bertie as he is known to friends.
Bertie appears unremarkable at first. But then Dorothy notices his grey-blue eyes taking her in, openly signalling approval. He tells her he and Jane have an agreement which allows them the freedom to take lovers, although Dorothy is not convinced her friend is happy with this arrangement.
Not wanting to betray Jane, yet unable to draw back, Dorothy free-falls into an affair with Bertie. Then a new boarder arrives at the house—striking unconventional Veronica Leslie-Jones, determined to live life on her own terms—and Dorothy finds herself caught between Veronica and Bertie. Amidst the personal dramas and wreckage of the militant suffragette movement, Dorothy finds her voice as a writer.
I’d never heard of Dorothy Richardson prior to reading this book but knowing it was historical in nature and featured H.G. Wells I was intrigued. I found Treger’s writing to be easy to read, gripping for the most part and emotionally charged. I was able to relate and connect to Dorothy though I wasn’t fond of her choices. H.G. Wells was an intriguing character and his relationship with Dorothy was frustrating yet understandable.
The setting was clearly described and I was easily able to picture the Wells’ home as well as Dorothy’s London home. I found the details about the suffragette movement to be a wonderful addition and incredibly interesting. I recently read Cat Winters’ The Cure for Dreaming so I have been interested in seeing this time period represented.
I felt that The Lodger really succeeded in expressing the disappointment of gaining what you’ve wanted within a relationship. Bertie and Dorothy seemed to have dreams of what the other would provide emotionally and physically for one another. I loved that it didn’t read like a fairy tale. Because they were cheating on a woman they both respected (though not enough) it had an aura of heartbreak and guilt that seemed realistic. I liked that it didn’t gloss over the harm their relationship caused.
I also really liked seeing some of the methods Wells used for his writing described as well as the life of a writer. I thought the stress and weight of having others rely and expect a certain level of quality from you was executed very clearly. Wells (Bertie) was not someone I knew a lot about so I honestly couldn’t say how Treger’s representation of him stood up to his real persona or the historical accuracy of his life.
Overall, I felt that The Lodger was well done though I did think that the story sort of lagged in the end and veered off the pacing that had been set in the first half of the novel. Don’t go into this one expecting much action though I found the writing style helped keep me invested in slower sections.
The Lodger was an interesting historical novel that shed light on H.G. Wells and Dorothy Richardson. Though I enjoyed reading Dorothy’s story I don’t think I’ll be reading her work or going further into researching her life. I felt that Treger succeeded in clearly representing the time period and the rocky relationship between Wells and Dorothy.