Why did I relegate H. G. Wells to the realms of science fiction? If I had read Ann Veronica with no awareness of the author I would never have guessed that the amazingly modern story (for 1909) advocating women’s equality was written by the same man celebrated for The War of the Worlds.
Ann Veronica is a student in her twenties who wants to be completely independent. As Wells puts it, she wants to ‘live like a man’. The plot of this book is based around the various attempts towards freedom Ann Veronica makes. From what I have read about H. G. Wells, he puts a lot of autobiography into his novels: This one in particular is based around his relationship with Amber Reeves. As Wells was already married, it caused quite a scandal, which was exacerbated by the publication of the book.
Reading Ann Veronica I kept thinking about Clarissa. It was written some two hundred years previously but what was expected of both characters is quite similar. Granted I’m still in the early stages of Clarissa, but the desire for independence is there. Neither woman wants to be married off, although Ann Veronica sees deeper problems. The average age for marriage was increasing; two hundred years worth of ‘progression’ for women appears to be boredom. It is more than avoiding marriage for Ann Veronica – she wants a life of value and purpose and what did all those unmarried women do with their time?
As far as introductions to authors go, this was a good one. It was the book mentioned in A Man of Parts that I thought sounded most appealing, and I wasn’t wrong. There is so much more to H. G. Wells than I ever gave him credit for – not a time machine or futuristic war in sight. Although to be fair, I think I’m now much more likely to give those books a try. My favourite part of this book was getting an insight into something completely different: Whilst I have read books by authors of a similar time, H. G. Wells differs by writing with an urgency to change the times he lived in.