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The History Of Mr. Polly
by H. G. Wells
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Fans of H.G. Wells's famous, genre-spawning science fiction novels may be startled to read his less-remembered but once bestselling The History of Mr. Polly. Its comically romping narrative voice is worlds away from the stern, melancholy tone of The Time Machine. Wells won fame for his apocalyptic, preachy books about the history of the future, but this history is strictly, as Mr. Polly would put it in his creatively cracked version of English, a series of "little accidentulous misadventures."
Mr. Alfred Polly is a dyspeptic, miserably married shopkeeper in what he terms that "Beastly Silly Wheeze of a hole!"--Fishbourne, England. He is inclined to spark arguments and slapstick calamity wherever he goes. Education was lost on him: when he left school at 14, "his mind was in much the same state that you would be in, dear reader, if you were operated upon for appendicitis by a well-meaning, boldly enterprising, but rather overworked and underpaid butcher boy, who was superseded towards the climax of the operation by a left-handed clerk of high principles but intemperate habits
the operators had left, so to speak, all their sponges and ligatures in the mangled confusion." Still, Polly's mind burns with eccentric genius, and his thwarted romantic heart beats him senseless. His despair results in the most amusing suicide attempt this side of Lisa Alther's novel Kinflicks. We won't spoil the surprise by saying precisely how his scheme misfires--and beware: the introduction gives it away. Note that you can't expect Polly to do anything right, and of course he'll become an inadvertent hero to the whole town. Then he promptly vanishes for further misadventure.
Many critics compare Mr. Polly's broad social satire to Dickens, but it smacks of Mark Twain and the dialect humor of Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley too. "I think it is one of my good books," Wells opined. What makes it so is Polly's heroic incompetence, his subversion of Edwardian propriety, and his bewildered unawareness that he is a revolutionary. --Tim Appelo
In addition to his celebrated science fiction, H.G. Wells wrote a number of superb satires, not the least of which is this chronicle of a working-class nebish who, in bungling his own suicide, finds escape from his humdrum existence. The inspired Clive Swift romps sardonically through a very fine cutting of the text. Through his unflagging concentration, brilliant characterizations, flawless comic timing and indefinable genius, Swift not only animates the story, but also creates an entire world to repose it in, one you can see as he speaks. He plays all of the subtext. Not a nuance is missing. Moreover, where Wells in droll and clever, Swift is hir=larious and witty. He takes a fine, if not magnificent, property and embuing it with his own personality, transforms it into something better. His performence of this book is more of an achievement than the book itself. Y.R. Winner of AUDIOFILE's Earphones Award. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Mr. Wells brings the reader to meet Mr. Polly in this brilliant novel. As in all of H.G. Wells' works, the History of Mr. Polly is an enchanting tale with memorable characters brought to life.
The books he read during those fifteen years! He read everything he got except theology, and as he read his little unsuccessful circumstances vanished and the wonder of life returned to him, the routine of reluctant getting up, opening shop, pretending to dust it with zest, breakfasting with a shop egg underdone or overdone or a herring raw or charred, and coffee made Miriam's way and full of little particles, the return to the shop, the morning paper, the standing, standing at the door saying "How do!" to passers-by, or getting a bit of gossip or watching unusual visitors, all these things vanished as the auditorium of a theatre vanishes when the stage is lit.
From the Publisher
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About the Author
H. G. WELLS (18661946) was a professional writer and journalist who published more than a hundred books.
Margaret Drabble is recipient of many prestigious awards for her writing, which includes works of nonfiction as well as numerous novels.
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