This is definitely one of Wells' best. The book is a love letter and apology to the non-conventional woman from a man who was unable to go beyond society's notions of love and relationship to come together with her on equal terms. As he said he wanted to possess her and failed to understand that she wanted to be free.
It was interesting to note that Straton thought the imbalance of power in Edwardian relationships seemed to come from a disparity in age. Older men who adored young women who had no ideas or opinions of their own, who were still living at home and had little education. They weren't given the opportunity to develop any either as as soon as they were married off they became embroiled in the house and babies. (As did Straton's conventional wife). This got me thinking a lot about the difference in relationships nowadays which seems to be that the men make so much more money than their partners, and as our society measures success by wealth this creates another imbalance.
But in addition to the love story, it's dissatisfactory end leads Straton to start questioning all his assumptions about society and the world, from thinking that Imperialism is a good thing, to wanting to see society progress beyond nationalism to a world citizenship, bypassing all conformity and the ruins of civilisations past. It's a very Wellsian idea, and one of the nice things about this book is the non-conventional woman's critique of it later.
This is a very touching story of doomed love. But also the story of how women are doomed and failed by the society of the time. I'm not sure things have gotten that much better since Wells' time and as such found it a fascinating and insightful book....Continua