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3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  793 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
The story of an apprentice chemist whose uncle’s worthless medicine becomes a spectacular marketing success, Tono-Bungay earned H. G. Wells immediate acclaim when it appeared in 1909. It remains a sparkling chronicle of chicanery and human credulity, and is today regarded by many as Wells’s greatest novel. As Andrea Barrett observes in her Introduction, “Through its detail ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Modern Library (first published 1909)
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Jul 25, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read a number of H.G. Wells's early sci-fi novels. This is the first time I have read one of his "other" novels, and I am surprised to see that it is by far his best work. Tono-Bungay is a bildungsroman about growing up poor in Victorian England and making one's way in the world by a combination of luck, good and bad.

The good luck is hero George Ponderevo's association with his uncle Edward, the inventor of a nostrum called Tono-Bungay. He brings his nephew George in with him and becomes
Jul 30, 2009 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Wells writing stylistically like Dickens in a mode of novel-writing that aims at the nineteenth century version of social justice (even though it was published at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century).
Today he is mainly remembered for his science fiction. "Tono Bungay" is an unusual work in that it straddles two of these genres: it is both science fiction and social commentary. The novel follows the rise and fall of an empire built on a quack medicine. The medicine, Tono
Nadya Yurinova
Apr 10, 2011 Nadya Yurinova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"А теперь каждый, если только у него не слишком высокие требования к
жизни и он не обременен чувством собственного достоинства, может позволить
себе кой-какие излишества. Ныне можно прожить всю жизнь кое-как, ничему
всерьез не отдаваясь, потворствуя своим прихотям и ни к чему себя не
принуждая, не испытав по-настоящему ни голода, ни страха, ни подлинной
страсти, не узнав ничего лучше и выше, чем судорога чувственного
наслаждения, и впервые ощутить изначальную суровую правду бытия лишь в
свой смертный ч
Dec 03, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"Tono-Bungay" is a novel written by H. G. Wells and published in 1909. It has been called "arguably his most artistic book." As for Wells himself he considered "Tono-Bungay as the finest and most finished novel upon the accepted lines" that he had "written or was ever likely to write." While reading the novel I also read a biography of Wells and found many interesting things about the author.

Although Wells was a prolific writer in many genres, including the novel, history, politics, and social c
At times, I almost really liked this book for its criticism of consumer capitalism (for a book published in 1909, T-B feels ahead of its time in this respect) and the realness of some of the characters, but I got fed up with the narrator/author constantly explaining his own symbolism... not to mention his random anti-semitic remarks, his problematic relationship to women/marriage, and that especially disturbing Heart of Darkness voyage into Africa, where in a typical heart-of-darkness/Quap-fever ...more
Sep 04, 2007 Scarlett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: alan
only halfway through this one, but am loving it. once again a white male british protagonist (must read more women writers soon!), but the protagonist/author is incredible with writing descriptive detail. a great social commentary on class systems, industrialization in london, exploitation of the masses through marketing/advertising, etc. and an incredible vocabulary builder. SO many words i didn't know, but so well used i can discern their meaning contextually.

update: as with most satire, i "go
Marts  (Thinker)
H.G. Wells' bit of a satirical look at the effects of wealth, power and enterprise on ordinary lives...
The tale follows the experiences of George Ponderevo who is 'encouraged' by his uncle to work with him on marketing a new product, a sort of 'miracle cure' thing, it also greatly expounds on George's experiences from childhood, to university, to the heart of London, then wealth, fame, his inventions and intentions, the uncle's eventual bankruptcy, and oh yes his various 'loves', etc, etc...
Mike Puma
Aug 23, 2010 Mike Puma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I read this one before reading "'Tono-Bungay' and the Condition of England" in David Lodge's Language of Fiction: Essays in Criticism and Verbal Analysis of the English Novel; they're both good books. Not the kind of thing I was expecting from Wells

3.5 stars

George, is expelled from the manor his mother serves in, and bounces around until he lands with his uncle, a chemist. He departs again, but returns once his uncle develops a successful line of snake oil. Despite his qualms, George, a talented engineer, helps out with sales and development, and their fortunes grow.

I first read this many years, and liked it, though I also misremembered it as having something to do with a potion that caused floating (which seems to
I took this up for some light relief during the reading of a long and serious novel in French which I am still reading. I wasn't disappointed. Wells held my attention without monopolising it to the detriment of my French reading.

Tono Bungay is the name of an elixir with no verifiable health value, but made immensely popular by clever marketing: today it would be called Red Bull. The narrator is the nephew of its inventor and promoter, and he goes along for the ride with his uncle from provincial
Elizabeth (Alaska)
A book often starts a bit slowly for me, but after 30 or 40 pages, I'll gather more interest. I did not expect this to be any different. Early, is this: I thought of my uncle as Teddy directly I saw him; there was something in his personal appearance that in the light of that memory phrased itself at once as Teddiness -- a certain Teddidity. Tedditity. Certainly I could look forward to more such imaginative phrasing.

Unfortunately, I never noticed another. I wonder if Wells got tired writing thi
Apryl Anderson
(7.01.1994), This was such a sad story, but brilliantly written. Is this how Wells felt about his life?
His dealings with women were rather strange. Did he prefer them to be unpredictable? Seems that way; or was it that he knew that the best ones were just as intelligent as himself, therefore just as flighty?
I was disgusted with his excusing away an affair. It was his fault that he ruined his relationship with his wife. Why are men trained to think so differently about marriage? After the conqu
Jan 23, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-classics
This is a novel that deserves to be read more. Wells turns his sociologist's eye to the modern social structure and shows the absurdity and ruthlessness at the heart of modern society. A real novel of its moment, Tono-Bungay covers the opening days of modern advertising, the "bubble" and then the financial crash of 1908, exploitation of colonial mineral resources, the invention of airplanes, and a whole host of other things. If you thought Wells was only about science-fiction, give this book a t ...more
Christian Schwoerke
I recall seeing this queerly named novel sitting on my father’s bookshelf for years and years in the 60s and early 70s before I went off to college, and I knew it must be something extraordinary, as there were no other Wells books on his shelf, the science fiction and history seemingly dismissed as not worth retaining. I finally, 50 years later, have opened the book to see what it was that impressed my father...

It is a Dickensian novel, full of the roar of human life and character, all stridentl
Dave Morris
Oct 05, 2015 Dave Morris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of course I devoured Wells's SF works when I was little, but I'd always skipped over his more literary work. Then I came across this in the Oxfam bookshop on St Giles and some cluster of neurons decided that a political and social satire of late 19th century Britain was just the thing.

Well, first of all that word satire. That can be an excuse for the author to show off with a lot of intellectual fizz and no engagement with the characters. It would be more accurate to call this a novel with a sat
Nov 30, 2014 Maryann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001
I'm used to thinking of H.G. Wells as a fantasy/adventure author. I didn't know the story at all of Tono-Bungay and had no idea what to expect. This is not like his other books I have read and it shows a different side of Wells. This book is about humanity, love, commerce, social class, ingenuity, and growing up. There is a fair amount of philosophical musing, but always appropriate to the context of the character and the story and it never feels like an agenda. I'm very impressed by this book. ...more
Tono Bungay may be one of the silliest titles for a novel that HG Wells ever came up with but, so far it's my favorite of all the books of his that I've read. It's not a sci-fi story, Tono Bungay refers to a "medicine" that his uncle "invents" half way through the book and makes them all rich. But what this book is is a fascinating look at late Victorian, Edwardian culture in South East England. So many wonderful insights into how things were, and why they were that way.

When he gets to London th
Chris Gager
Jan 06, 2015 Chris Gager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started last night. This is another rescued book from the town transfer station. Published by Duffield & Company, New York in 1923.

Pretty entertaining so far. I'd never heard of this until recently. I guess it's not one of his better known books.

- The Beatrice story seems a borrowing from "Great Expectations" and the overall tone is similar to "David Copperfield".

- Wells seems to be a progressive - that RED!

Sill moving along in this Copperfield-like story. It's very wordy and breezy. The des
Mar 17, 2015 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read Tono-Bungay for a class in college in 2001, and apparently liked it enough at the time to keep my copy of it, but when I started re-reading it, I didn’t really remember anything about it. As John Hammond says in his introduction to the book, it's the story of “a pragmatic narrator divided against himself whose theme is the slow decline and fragmentation of England.”

The book is divided into four parts, centered around the narrator (George Ponderevo) and the Tono-Bungay of the title, which
Lukas Evan
Oct 23, 2014 Lukas Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I have called it 'Tono-Bungay,' but I had far better have called it 'Waste.'"
Herbert George Wells will also be associated with science-fiction (or scientific romances as he called them), a genre that he may not have invented, but created the blueprint for in his four major novels: "The War of the Worlds," "The Invisible Man," The Island of Dr. Moreau," and "The Time Machine." Yet Wells was much more than just a writer of sci-fi; he flirted with socialism and free love, he was politically active
Dec 20, 2015 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
A real curate's egg of a novel. I was never quite sure which direction it was heading in. If you have only read Wells' Sci-Fi, it's hard not to expect the technological future as imagined in 1909 appearing. When the novel gets going and gets into the story of the narrator's crackpot scheming uncle and his liquid panacea Tono-Bungay that makes his fortune, I felt either some miraculous placebo effect was going to occur or the tale would double back into an hilarious expose of the hucksters, shyst ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Asa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
This is the second book by Wells that I've read, and while the actual plot is different (early nineteenth century business scandal vs an alien invasion) there are a lot of similarities between them. In both cases the main character is a man in his thirties who looks back on and describes how he came through a catastrophe, but neither of them is a very active participant in the catastrophic events.

In "Tono-Bungay" the narrator is George Ponderevo, but the person who actually drives the plot forwa
Anne Marie  (Wirth Cauchon) Spidahl
I liked this book alright. Maybe I'm not into bildungsromans? Except, ostensibly, for the Phenomenology of Spirit. Anyway, like Dickens's Bleak House Tono-Bungay takes one ridiculous element of society (the judicial system and quack medicine, respectively) as an opportunity to comment on other ridiculous elements of society: marriage, class stratification and/or mobility, materialism, etc. I like prismatic elements in books, so that was cool. But overall it seemed to be missing some crucial elem ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Arukiyomi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
The last of Wells’ works that was on my tbr list for the 1001 books. Wells occasionally delights me, but, on the whole, though I do regard him a genius and a mind a century ahead of his time, his writing doesn’t really grab me too much. Tono-Bungay was just such a novel.

George is lured into working for his uncle who has concocted some potion that he is flogging off as a cure-all. It’s nothing of the sort though; as the business grows exponentially, like most things these days, rather than this d
Nov 01, 2015 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual and rather lovely non-science fiction novel by Wells, a sort of semi-autobiographical story of a sort-of scientist who joins his nutty uncle in creating and marketing a worthless but massively popular elixir called Tono-Bungay. But also it's a story of a changing England, of socia mores, of the rise of advertising and corporate power, of sex and love. And on top of that, the protagonist is an amateur builder of flying machines. All narrated as the fading memories of an older man, givi ...more
Jul 20, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book even states it is a waste. The only reason it's getting 2 stars is because of the unabashed discussion about religion/atheism and the grueling anecdotal description of how man's life can be wasted under a capitalistic system, as apposed to something better we humans should be using our brainpower devising... a product of socialism. I only wish Mr. Wells would have written this in a few pages instead of filling 4 hundreds of pages with mild filler.

This is another book from one of my favo
Annette Boehm
Jan 04, 2015 Annette Boehm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this book in 2 days, -- it was quite enjoyable! It is a novel of ideas and describes, among other things, the rise and fall of a quack tonic called Tono-Bungay. It's also a love story, a coming-of-age story, a bildungsroman, a social commentary, and a long, intellectual conversation. Set in England around 1900. I've posted a much longer review my blog:
Very intricate description of the life of one man. A man I did not care for. I felt the social commentary was interesting for the time period and his open conversations about topics that would not have been discussed in "polite society" at the time were explored. I enjoyed the honesty in his critique of his own country (agree or disagree) and his explanations of those views. I think he was slightly heavy handed in his explanations but I certainly did not walk away confused about his intentions o ...more
Morgan McGuire
Wells considered this his masterwork. The second half of the novel is indeed impressive. It combines several Wells-Verne-like steampunk capers with social and economic satire, a love affair, and a powerful closing image from the bridge of a destroyer.

The first half of the novel is backstory, social commentary, and social criticism. Wells is prescient, as often, and foresees the rise of advertising, America, middlemen, security trading, and the middle class (and implicitly, the military-industry
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Boxall's 1001 Bo...: May {2013} Discussion -- TONO-BUNGAY by H.G. Wells 20 111 Jul 08, 2013 03:10AM  
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In 1866, (Herbert George) H.G. Wells was born to a working class family in Kent, England. Young Wells received a spotty education, interrupted by several illnesses and family difficulties, and became a draper's apprentice as a teenager. The headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School, where he had spent a year, arranged for him to return as an "usher," or student teacher. Wells earned a government schol ...more
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