Book reviews

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The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells was a surprise to me, mostly because I thought about the things I would do if I was invisible and they were entirely different to what the Invisible Man did.

The joke of it is that as a middle-aged woman I’m reasonably invisible as it is, except when someone else (either at home or at work) wants something from me. But, ignoring that sad truth, if I was truly invisible I would lie around all day eating chocolate and reading novels, or crocheting, painting or drawing, all without being interrupted.

Instead of making the most of his situation though, the Invisible Man, who was filled up with hatred and anger (possibly as a result of poisoning himself with strychnine) went on a reign of terror.

The Invisible Man is described as science fiction but I thought the story could also be shelved in the horror section. The science of the main character becoming invisible was something to do with mirrors, jellyfish and refracting lights something, something, then something happening in a lab with little bottles, (apologies, I don’t do science or math very well) but happily for me the story wasn’t particularly scientific apart from those bits which I skipped over.

The horror was to do with the main character’s personality and how he dealt with the challenges of being invisible, none of which he had considered before experimenting on himself.

The story began with a heavily muffled man arriving at a village inn during a snowstorm and renting a room. The man soon annoyed his landlady by demanding complete privacy but since business was slow, she put up with his increasingly rude and offensive behaviour for some time.

When a strange theft took place in one of the village’s houses it was obvious that the Invisible Man had done the crime, even though no one could understand how he had managed it. After another fight with his landlady he became invisible, then before he could be arrested, took off all of his clothes and escaped.

The Invisible Man had a series of adventures before taking shelter with an old friend, Dr Kemp, to whom he explained how he had learned to become invisible and told him how he had been living. The Invisible Man told his story honestly, with no idea that Kemp would no longer be willing to hide him after he learned just how violently he had behaved towards others (and animals) in order to further his own interests. Not surprisingly, things didn’t end well for the Invisible Man.

I was amused by the reaction of Kemp being particularly horrified by him breaking into another man’s home. I don’t know why this seemed worse to him than any of the other things the Invisible Man did, but think it might be along the lines of an Englishman’s home being his castle. About the only thing Kemp didn’t say was, “It’s just not cricket!”

I’m still surprised that the Invisible Man didn’t spend his time doing fun things instead of feeling hard done by and attempting a Reign of Terror, but we’re all different.

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