John's Reviews > Mr Britling Sees it Through

Mr Britling Sees it Through by H.G. Wells
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really liked it
bookshelves: novel, first-world-war

** spoiler alert ** In 2014 I set myself a reading challenge that, on the centenary of events in the First World War, I would read the relevant book out of a pile I have had accumulating unread over the past twenty years. This challenge has expanded a bit and, to add to the military, economic, and political history, I've been reading novels, poems, and plays written by those who lived through the war. Lately I've been assisted in this by the publication by Casemate of its Classic War Fiction series of which this book is part.

Published in September 1916, mid way through the battle of the Somme, this must be one of the first novels about World War One. This has its drawbacks. The book feels rather like an early draft. Much that would have been excluded with more reflection is left in making for an occasionally bloated, lumpy read. If Mr. Britling is an alter ego for Wells, then the lengthy extracts from letters written by his son in the trenches are, quite possibly, simply copied in from letters Wells was receiving at the time. It also leaves much unresolved. What did Mr Direck do when the United States entered the war in April 1917?

But, at the same time, it does convey a evocative picture of England during the war. Some passages are almost unbearably powerful; the death of Mr Britling's aunt in a zeppelin raid, the death of his son, Hugh, and his reflections on the fate of Heinrich, his pre-war German lodger. While many of the books about combat in the war convey an immediate experience, Mr Britling Sees it Through conveys a deep sense of the emotional pain caused by the war.

This is an obscure and atypical book about the First World War now thankfully back in print. It is well worth reading to connect with the pain of those who experienced it.
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Reading Progress

August 26, 2016 – Shelved
August 26, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
August 26, 2016 – Shelved as: novel
August 26, 2016 – Shelved as: first-world-war
September 16, 2016 – Started Reading
September 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Judy Great review. I remember finding this uneven - "lumpy' is a great description - but that some of the tragic parts in particular were really powerful. Mr Britling himself is also a memorable character - if he's a self-portrait then Wells goes for a warts and all approach, again as far as I remember.

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