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.
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.
The Lodger is a blend of fact and fiction which details the life of writer Dorothy Richardson during the 1900’s.
Dorothy was living a dreary existence in London working in a dentist’s surgery and barely managing to cover the rent in the run-down boarding house in which she is staying. However, her life looks set to change course when she visits a childhood friend, Amy Catherine (or Jane as she is now known). Jane is married to aspiring writer Bertie (or H.G. Wells to give him his official title) and it’s not long before it becomes apparent that there is a certain spark between the two.
Bertie assures Dorothy that Jane is his soul mate but she cannot provide him with all that he requires in a relationship, and is therefore happy for him to have relations with other women. Dorothy is uncertain about betraying her friend but finds the pull towards Bertie too strong and the two embark upon a whirl-wind affair.
However, Dorothy cannot help but feel jealous of Jane and longs to have Bertie to herself. The situation starts to look increasingly bleak until a new lodger turns up at Dorothy’s boarding house in the form of Veronica. Dorothy is captivated by this woman and finds herself increasingly torn between two lovers, neither of who are conventional. Dorothy tries to fight the niggling voice at the back of her mind warning her that ultimately, she cannot be accepted with either Bertie or Veronica in society.
Struggling with the unfairness of reality, Dorothy decides to start writing. Drawing upon the pain, heartbreak and difficulty that she has faced in her life, who knows where Dorothy’s venture with words will lead…
Until I read the synopsis for The Lodger I am ashamed to admit that Dorothy Richardson was a writer whom I had never even heard of. However, I was familiar with H.G Wells and I was captivated by the premise for the story. Who exactly was this Dorothy Richardson? Why did she embark upon an affair with H.G. Wells? I was desperate to find out more about this woman and I was already building up a strong picture of her in my mind.
I was drawn into both this story and Dorothy’s world right from the off-set. The way in which she is consumed by her affair with Bertie makes for fascinating reading. You might assume that she is some shameless harlot to have an affair with her friends husband, but the way in which the story is written proves that this isn’t the case at all. You will still feel sorry for Jane, of course, but you cannot help but warm to Dorothy as a character. What she does might not be right but as you read about her life and her relationship with Bertie, you start to understand a little better.
I loved reading about her relationship with Veronica. Veronica was a whirl-wind of a character and a large part of me wanted them to succeed in their relationship, but knowing that it’s 1906 pretty much tells you all you need to know. Louisa Treger portrays their relationship with such depth and passion that their forbidden romance soon becomes heartbreaking.
Whilst illicit love affairs and forbidden romance is a large part of the story, there is so much for to Dorothy’s tale than just those factors. For starters, the way in which women were treated during the 20th century was shocking to say the least. Veronica was part of the suffragette movement, giving us a great insight into what women went through in their quest to be given the vote. The way Veronica was sent to prison after taking part in a protest and the way in which she was treated made for shocking reading. It’s really opening my eyes to this period of history and made me thirsty to find out more.
The amount of research that Louisa has put into The Lodger must be applauded. Her efforts have produced a beautiful, riveting and absolutely fascinating story. I have come away from this novel desperately wanting to know more about Dorothy Richardson and her work and any book that can have this effect on me is undoubtedly a winner.
Louisa’s style of writing is amazing. Using fact and imagination she will reel you in to this extraordinary period of history and have you glued to Dorothy’s story. The fact that this is a debut novel is incredible as Louisa writes with such assurance and as simple as it sounds, her style of writing is immensely ‘readable’.
I cannot wait to read more from Louisa Treger and I fully intend to discover more about Dorothy Richardson. They are both writers who I am immensely keen to find out more about…
A huge thank you to Sarah at Four Colman Getty for sending me a copy of The Lodger for review. ♥
Born in London, Louisa Treger began her career as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher.
Louisa subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a PhD in English at University College London, where she focused on early twentieth century women’s writing.
Married with three children, she lives in London.