Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 10/14/2014
My Rating: 5 Stars
Dorothy Richardson is existing just above the poverty line, doing secretarial work at a dentist's office and living in a seedy boarding house in Bloomsbury, when she is invited to spend the weekend with a childhood friend. Jane has recently married a writer who is hovering on the brink of fame. His name is H.G. Wells, or Bertie, as they call him.
Bertie appears unremarkable at first. But then Dorothy notices his grey-blue eyes taking her in, openly signaling approval. He tells her he and Jane have an agreement which allows them the freedom to take lovers, although Dorothy can tell her friend would not be happy with that 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—beautiful Veronica Leslie-Jones—and Dorothy finds herself caught between Veronica and Bertie. Amidst the personal dramas and wreckage of a militant suffragette march, Dorothy finds her voice as a writer.
Louisa Treger's The Lodger is a beautifully intimate novel that is at once an introduction to one of the most important writers of the 20th century and a compelling story of one woman tormented by unconventional desires.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
An emotional gripping and riveting debut novel, The Lodger by Louisa Treger, is a compelling journey of one woman’s struggle between a past, and a new—complex, fascinating, yet unconventional world.
Rather than summarize the book, I want to get right to the heart of my feelings of this incredible and engrossing debut, written with compassion and sensitivity.
Set in 1906, in London—Dorothy is experiencing life for the first time to the extremes; a world of solace with her newfound writing while striving for independence without marriage or dependence on a man; her guilt and betrayal to her best friend (Jane), an unhealthy attraction and illicit affair with a famous writer—married and complicated man H.G. Wells, and a woman she is passionate about (Veronica)— she desires to give her heart and soul to her, but sees no future in a time when this lifestyle is socially unacceptable.
All the while in a time when women have no rights or freedom to express themselves, as they fight for emancipation with conviction and furry. Dorothy is torn with many conflicting emotions on her road to emotional freedom and self-expression, torn between fear and exhilaration.
Can Dorothy discover peace or find a relationship without domination and possessiveness—someone who would allow a healthy distance and offer her space to be herself. Is it too much to hope for, for a love to be able to express openly and one to be proud of? A lessening of yearning—one of peace?
I bookmarked so many pages, and poetic phrases–Wow! A powerful and emotional novel, was blown away-not only by the story, characters, details, and the in depth research; however, more importantly, the incredible creativity, and the voice of the author.
I am typically bored with with historical fictions or biographies; whereas, Treger, grabs you from the first page and never takes you away from her strong main protagonist, Dorothy—her intimate, thoughts, feelings, the conflicting emotions, and the descriptive settings, which puts you almost in a trance, making it even more compelling.
The Lodger sets itself apart from others, due to Treger’s imagination and her coloring inside and outside the lines blending fact and fiction -- Brilliantly executed!
As mentioned in the afterword, (I found very intriguing and inspirational), Treger stumbles upon Dorothy Richardson by accident, in the library of London University while searching for an angle on Virginia Woolf for her Ph.D. thesis. While doing so she discovers a review Virginia had written about a writer (Dorothy) whose name she did not recognize. Treger was riveted and began her investigation to Dorothy’s life work, the twelve-volume autobiographical novel-sequence Pilgrimage. With her enduring fascination with Dorothy she was ignited to retell her story; hence, many years later, a rebirth, of this exciting debut novel, The Lodger.
As a research nut and devour such efforts, by an author (also a lover of books about books), the insights, the commentary, and especially the melding of fact and fiction whereas the author uses certain liberties with the facts and time scheme to further enhance focus and narrative in certain areas. After reading some of the elements she eliminated, feel it set the stage magically, even though there are similarities of character and incident between the two works.
I enjoyed the secondary characters, Mrs. Baker and Mr. Cundy in the early scenes with Veronica, and the extraordinary way Dorothy engineered the relationship between Veronica and Benjamin, as well as the shape and tone of Dorothy’s love affairs with both Bertie and Veronica (the author’s creation), and the sexual differences between the two different relationships.
The Lodger is a beautiful intimate novel, and one I highly recommend, as not only an introduction to one of the most important writers of the 20th century; more importantly, an introduction to a talented newfound writer, Louisa Treger for a moving debut novel. Looking forward to many more!
On a Side Note: Suffragettes
Was quite interested in the suffragettes’ movement; members of women's organization (right to vote) movements in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly in the UK and US. The term "suffragette" is particularly associated with activists in the British women's suffrage movement in the early 20th century, whose demonstrations included chaining themselves to railings and setting fire to mailbox contents. Many suffragettes were imprisoned in Holloway Prison in London, and were force-fed after going on hunger strike. (a part of Veronica’s story).
In the US, women over 21 were first allowed to vote in the territories of Wyoming from 1869 and in Utah from 1870, and with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment the suffrage was extended to women across the United States in time for the 1920 presidential election.
Fans of The Paying Guests, will enjoy The Lodger, with some of the similarities with the time, the boarding house and the taboo, female love relationships, even though each is different and unique. However, I enjoyed The Lodger much more!
I also enjoyed the extraordinary moments Dorothy experienced on her bicycle sailing forward, as compared to her life journey:
"As she was lifted off the ground, skimming through the moving air. She was no longer merely struggling along, trying to forget how wobbly she felt. She could actually control the bicycle’s instability. She could steer with confidence, not worrying about crashing into people. She pedaled tirelessly, delighted by her unexpected reservoir of energy and the feeling of freedom and exhilaration. She could not remember ever feeling quite as free. Nothing compared to this. To be able to ride a bicycle transformed life; she felt like a different person."
I also purchased the audiobook performed by talented, Helen Lloyd, classically trained British actor and voice artist, offering an outstanding performance! (Audiobook available now!)