Heaven: September Book Group - The History of Mr. Polly

AndrasAndras Shipmate
edited January 16 in Limbo
The September Group is now officially open. The History of Mr Polly has been called Wells' best novel, and The Guardian made it No. 39 on their list of 100 Best Novels a few years ago, so it should be an enjoyable read.

The are innumerable editions in both hard- and soft-cover, and it's also available as an e-book; if you're feeling hard-up after an expensive summer, then do as I did and source a copy from your local library, charity shop or second-hand bookshop.

It's not a long book, so perhaps we can start discussions around the 18th, if that sounds plausible; but that too is open for discussion.

Enjoy!
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Comments

  • I've wanted to get into the Ship's book club all year and have failed. Fingers crossed for this one!
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    edited September 2018
    I want to join in this one too. I think it's on my Kindle. I would add you can get the ebook free from Project Gutenberg, here.
  • Started in on Mr Polly last night.

    A couple of years ago, I was in an online open course about historical science fiction where we read HG Wells' The Time Machine as well as a futuristic short story by him, and I was amazed at how contemporary it felt.
  • Welcome to all so far, and special thanks to Fineline for the link to the Project Gutenberg text.

    If you're having a mid-life crisis, this is the novel for you...
  • Back in my teens, we had Mr Polly as our set book. I remember learning great chunks of it off by heart, but none of it remains!
  • Time for a refresher or a book to discover anew, @SusanDoris?
  • MaryLouise wrote: »
    Time for a refresher or a book to discover anew, @SusanDoris?

    I agree; set books can either introduce you to wonders or turn you off them for life, but I think that Polly is too good not to relish all over again.

    (Mrs Andras still doesn't undersand why I love the Aeneid, but all the credit goes to our Latin teacher.)
  • I'm in, just started it last night. I know I read a few H.G. Wells books as a teenager but can't remember if this was one of them.
    I do know Wells used to work in Medhursts(?) in Bromley and there used to be a plaque to commemorate the fact on the very remodelled store. I think its now a Primark so not sure if it is there anymore.
    This article may be of interest.
  • SusanDoris wrote: »
    Back in my teens, we had Mr Polly as our set book. I remember learning great chunks of it off by heart, but none of it remains!
    It was my O-level set book. I remember quite a bit, and started to list things here, but thought I probably shouldn’t risk spoiling the read. I even remember one of the exam questions. I remember it warmly and nostalgically - which is very Pollyish.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Oh - only read the first line of that linked article so far, but I didn't know David Lodge had written a novel about Henry James. Googling to find out about that now...

    I actually haven't read any novels by H.G. Wells before. I find it hard to get into sci-fi. I tried reading the War of the Worlds, as I used to live in one of the places the Martians visited in that book, but I didn't really get into it, so abandoned it. But I see Mr Polly isn't sci-fi, so I am curious to see if I enjoy it.
  • Wells was very prolific but also very variable. Some of his short stories are wonderful. Others are dreck.

    Not read Mr Polly. I saw the film many, many years ago. I enjoyed that as a child but probably didn't understand it all. I just remember it conveying a very affable mood.

    Must read it.
  • Do try it, fineline - it's a lovely book, and set very much (like Wells' Kipps) in my home county of Kent. It has a rather wistful, but sympathetic, character (as a novel - though that description might fit 'Elfrid' himself).

    I have a rather nice old hardback copy of the book somewhere on the rambling bookshelves of the Episcopal Palace, so will find it, dust it off, and read it again.

    Meanwhile, am I allowed to mention that ITV did a very good (IMHO) dramatization of it, starring Lee Evans as an excellent Mr. Polly, back in 2007? It is, I think, available on YouTube.

    IJ
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    I'm in, I hope. I'm in the middle of something else, but I've downloaded the Gutenberg book to my Kindle account.
  • hatless wrote: »
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    Back in my teens, we had Mr Polly as our set book. I remember learning great chunks of it off by heart, but none of it remains!
    It was my O-level set book. I remember quite a bit, and started to list things here, but thought I probably shouldn’t risk spoiling the read. I even remember one of the exam questions. I remember it warmly and nostalgically - which is very Pollyish.
    I almost said, , 'O level set book, but wasn't sure enough. Perhaps we are contemporaries!
    I'll phone the NLB tomorrow for an audio version.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Glad you’re joining in, SusanDoris. There must be a lot of people here who did O levels. I’m in my 40s and GCSEs were brand new when I took them - If I’d been just a couple of years older, I’d have taken O levels too. :smile: (Our set books were To Kill A Mockingbird, An Inspector Calls, and Romeo and Juliet.)
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    Lol, my daughter read To Kill A Mockingbird and I set up the students where I was to read An Inspector Calls and Romeo and Juliet. They are also covering Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I am not sure what else.
  • I'm older than you, fineline, and I did "O" levels and studied To Kill A Mockingbird.

    I've never read Mr Polly but am tempted by being able to access it free online. Must. Not. Buy. Any. More. Books.
  • Do try it, fineline - it's a lovely book, and set very much (like Wells' Kipps) in my home county of Kent. It has a rather wistful, but sympathetic, character (as a novel - though that description might fit 'Elfrid' himself).

    I have a rather nice old hardback copy of the book somewhere on the rambling bookshelves of the Episcopal Palace, so will find it, dust it off, and read it again.

    Meanwhile, am I allowed to mention that ITV did a very good (IMHO) dramatization of it, starring Lee Evans as an excellent Mr. Polly, back in 2007? It is, I think, available on YouTube.

    IJ

    Thanks for the heads-up, BF, I'll see if I can find it.Sometimes the filmed versions complement the book, sometimes they don't.
  • An Inspector Calls, To Kill A Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet - all good exam fodder, not too obviously 'girly' or 'boyish', though the last-named does cause a few problems for modern Year 11 folk who wonder why Juliet doesn't just text Romeo to let him know she isn't really dead.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    To Kill a Mockingbird is no longer an option for English Literature, it has to be an English author, which means we also lost Of Mice and Men. The post-1914 literature choices are things like Meera Syal's Anita and Me, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies or The Woman in Black.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Andras wrote: »
    An Inspector Calls, To Kill A Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet - all good exam fodder, not too obviously 'girly' or 'boyish', though the last-named does cause a few problems for modern Year 11 folk who wonder why Juliet doesn't just text Romeo to let him know she isn't really dead.

    Or why Romeo doesn't just come back as a shapeshifting vampire and carry on the affair with an Undead Juliet.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    edited September 2018
    The best comment I heard from a student was "She'd have been stuffed if they cremated her."
  • LothlorienLothlorien All Saints Host
    Do try it, fineline - it's a lovely book, and set very much (like Wells' Kipps) in my home county of Kent. It has a rather wistful, but sympathetic, character (as a novel - though that description might fit 'Elfrid' himself).


    IJ

    We had either Kipps or Mr Polly for Leaving Certificate set text. The other was set text the previous year. A couple of years after leaving school, I could not remember what we studied and when. I had them badly muddled. All I can now remember many years later was that they were both small hardcover red books by same publisher. Ooops.



  • Lothlorien wrote: »
    Do try it, fineline - it's a lovely book, and set very much (like Wells' Kipps) in my home county of Kent. It has a rather wistful, but sympathetic, character (as a novel - though that description might fit 'Elfrid' himself).


    IJ

    We had either Kipps or Mr Polly for Leaving Certificate set text. The other was set text the previous year. A couple of years after leaving school, I could not remember what we studied and when. I had them badly muddled. All I can now remember many years later was that they were both small hardcover red books by same publisher. Ooops.



    Actually there are strong similarities between the two stories (and between both of them and the author's own early life).

    But Wells himself said that he liked Mr Polly better, and I think he was right in his choice.
  • We read both at my Grammar School, but IIRC in different years.

    There are indeed similarities, and Wells did write from some personal experience.

    I've found my copy of Mr. Polly - it is fact a former school copy (Beckenham Grammar School for Girls - NOT the establishment I attended, which was in a different town, and, alas, boys only). The dates of temporary ownership run from 1951 to 1956, mostly fifth-formers, though the last owner was in the third form.

    The book itself was published by Collins Clear-Type Press as part of their Library Of The World's Classics. It dates from shortly after Wells' death in 1946, as that is mentioned in the biographical notes.

    It might be interesting, later in the thread, to see if we can identify some of the places mentioned in the book, not all of them being fictitious. I actually live only a mile or so from 'Port Burdock'....
    :grin:

    IJ
  • My audio copy will arrive tomorrow. May I ask what are the main questions you usually consider for discussion, so I can have them in mind while listening? Thank you.
  • Picked up a copy in the campus library.
  • SusanDoris wrote: »
    My audio copy will arrive tomorrow. May I ask what are the main questions you usually consider for discussion, so I can have them in mind while listening? Thank you.

    Hmmm - haven't thought of any yet; I'll turn my mind to it. But if you glance through earlier book group threads, you'll see what typical questions look like, though they're only ever intended to provoke thought.

    As always, I'm open to suggestions at any time, provided that they're legal and decent.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    One rather obscure question might concern the chronology of the novel (published in 1910), which may be slightly at odds with one or two hints about road traffic...
    :wink:

    I expect people will want to discuss the moral aspect of Mr. Polly's various actions, too.

    IJ
  • LothlorienLothlorien All Saints Host
    I downloaded a copy and will start tonight when I am out of apartment for sales inspection. I read from iPad. I was nearly asleep last night when I remembered another school text. Silas Marner. I preferred Wells to Eliot.
  • Andras wrote: »
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    My audio copy will arrive tomorrow. May I ask what are the main questions you usually consider for discussion, so I can have them in mind while listening? Thank you.

    Hmmm - haven't thought of any yet; I'll turn my mind to it. But if you glance through earlier book group threads, you'll see what typical questions look like, though they're only ever intended to provoke thought.

    As always, I'm open to suggestions at any time, provided that they're legal and decent.
    Okay, thank you, I'll have a look at whichever was the last one here on the new Ship.
  • We'll save the toughest questions for you SusanDoris ... Taking a Nietzschean post-modern pre-Raphaelite stance, explain the behaviour of Mr Polly. :wink:
  • O what a thoroughly delicious thought, Climacus!

    (Where's the rubbing-your-hands-in-glee smiley?)

    SD, be afraid.....be very afraid....
    :warning:
    :grin:

    IJ
  • Well, what's a little bit of arson between friends?
  • This afternoon I have started listening. Do all copies everyone is reading have the preface by Frank Wells? I can see it is going to be a most enjoyable listen. I like the voice and style of the reader.
  • Mine is an Everyman paperback, edited (with a biography and introduction) by Norman Mackenzie. I presume other readers will have any one of a number of editors or annotators; apparently the book is now old or significant enough that folk can't be trusted to just enjoy it on its own merits but must be educated as well.

    Hey ho!
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Just to be clear, I presume that's not the Frank Wells who was formerly President of the Disney empire, but H. G.'s son, Frank Richard Wells (1903-1982).

    My cheapo school copy has no such preface, I'm afraid, but other more opulent versions may well do. For those of us who are bereft of such extraneous luxuries, can you provide a link? Google is, for once, not particularly helpful.

    Thank you in advance.

    IJ
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I see from googling that HG Wells also had an older brother called Frank, and he said Mr Polly was based on this brother. Though I also would imagine a preface would be written by his son. I have the Gutenberg edition, which has no preface or intro or anything - just the text.

    I also see from browsing Amazon that the complete novels of HG Wells can be bought in ebook format for 75p. I might get this.
  • SusanDoris - is the preface you refer to by H.G.'s son, or his brother? It would be interesting to see what it says, either way.

    Thank you.

    IJ
  • fineline wrote: »
    I want to join in this one too. I think it's on my Kindle. I would add you can get the ebook free from Project Gutenberg, here.

    Excellent - followed along on last month's book although I haven't finished it yet. Want to do better this time.
  • SusanDoris - is the preface you refer to by H.G.'s son, or his brother? It would be interesting to see what it says, either way.

    Thank you.

    IJ
    I'm not sure. I don't think it said, as there is a standard start to NLB dvd discs and I heard, 'Preface' but no details about the author of this, just the name at the end. When I've finished, I'll go back to the beginning and listen more carefully. From what has been said above, I guess it is the son.
    I realise straight away that this preface is very useful, since in talking about the background to the book, it will definitely help my perception of it! That is cheating a bit, but I will say if I do that!
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    It’s not cheating, SusanDoris. It’s just a chat, really, about our thoughts on the book. Some of us read reviews or articles about the books or background info. Sometimes one of the questions will be based on what a review says. It’s interesting to get background info, and read other people’s interpretations, and our perceptions are shaped by all sorts of things.
  • I'm glad it's an open book exam. :smile:

    Loaded on to my eReader...looking forward to some lazy reading over the weekend.
  • Climacus wrote: »
    I'm glad it's an open book exam. :smile:

    Loaded on to my eReader...looking forward to some lazy reading over the weekend.

    O cuckoo, shall I call thee bird, or but a wandering voice?
    State the alternative preferred, with reasons for your choice.

    I'm really not sure what English Lit. exams at school were meant to achieve, except to show that you've read the book (or perhaps that you've read the appropriate Coles Notes!) They certainly don't help most people to develop any sort of critical skills, and they turn some people off books completely.
  • I've been thinking about the background of the book. My maternal grandparents would have been a little bit younger than Mr Polly when this book was written, and my paternal grandparents, though small children at this time, came from the area the book is set in and the same sort of class. My paternal grandmother's family owned a shop which went to the wall because the alcoholic son inherited it. My grandmother, in a different time, could have been an astute business woman. Their home, up till the time they died in the 1980s, was very like the ones described in the book. A front parlour with a piano for instance. The upshot of it is this book feels like a world that I sort of know, that has pretty well vanished in the last fifty years.
  • The background may well bring up some interesting memories to those of us of A Certain Age, although the 17thC farm cottage in which my adoptive mother's mother lived until the late 60s was straight out of Thomas Hardy's Wessex!

    IJ
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    If others want to listen to the book, I discovered it is on LibriVox, here, free to listen to, as it’s in the public domain. Read by a volunteer rather than a professional, but I’ve been listening and quite enjoying. Also, the same recording is on youtube
  • fineline wrote: »
    If others want to listen to the book, I discovered it is on LibriVox, here, free to listen to, as it’s in the public domain. Read by a volunteer rather than a professional, but I’ve been listening and quite enjoying. Also, the same recording is on youtube

    Thanks for that - that may prove very useful for some folk.
  • The background may well bring up some interesting memories to those of us of A Certain Age, although the 17thC farm cottage in which my adoptive mother's mother lived until the late 60s was straight out of Thomas Hardy's Wessex!

    IJ

    Terry Pratchett commented once that he was brought up in a house that his young witch Tiffany Aching would have been immediately at home i - as also was I, and probably many other readers of a certain age.

    Happy days, though black-leading the range is something which has now been consigned to history!
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