Book Review – The Haunting of H. G. Wells by Robert Masello

First published, 1st October 2020 (Today, in fact. I’m a lucky lady)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

A well-woven tapestry of fact and fiction, The Haunting of H. G. Wells follows the literary icon during the First World War.

The story begins with an account, seemingly from the Front, of a saintly visitation on the battlefield. Outflanked and outnumbered, the British soldiers seem set to be overwhelmed by the superior power of the German army, when suddenly, Saint George and a whole host of angelic bowmen appear to back their living allies.

And although the story is pretty rapidly retracted by its author, it’s too late. For the story of St George and the bowmen has already captured the hearts of the British public, and has proven enough for the War Office to send for celebrated, middle-aged, science fiction author, H. G. Wells. Within moments, and despite the inherent dangers of such a mission, H. G. agrees to go to the Front and send back reports to buoy British spirits. But he cannot know the trials that await him, nor the horrors of No Man’s Land.

I really think this is just the right novel for this time of year – it’s a proper autumn/winter, cuddle of a book. Beautifully written, with great characters, and a compelling, paranormal, wartime storyline, I devoured this book.

I don’t think you need to know anything about H. G. Wells before reading this book, although I’ll admit to being surprised by his pretty reckless infidelity.

Set in the county of Essex, in 1914, in some ways the narrative is terribly British – which I adored:
“She was a compact woman, no nonsense about her, brown hair tidily gathered in a bun.”
Chapter One, The Haunting of H.G. Wells by Robert Masello.

There was only one thing I didn’t like. As much as I respect that the author is American (and he’s brilliant, a new favourite of mine), the use of American English (color, flavor, candor, honor, eggplant, etc) in a book set, primarily, in early twentieth century Essex threw me off.

There’s a lot of action in the story, which I found really gripping, especially towards the end, but the sudden intrusion of the American spellings, and the use of “off of” (personal bugbear, drives me mad every single time) knocked me out of the story long enough for my attention to wander.

I know it might seem like nitpicking, but I promise it goes both ways. Were I to read a book set in Louisiana, with all the extra British Us in it, I would find myself rereading certain passages and frowning in confusion.

American spelling and an occasional sidewalk notwithstanding, it’s a great story and I really enjoyed it.