It takes a lot of courage to base a novel on a true story. While creating a work of fiction gives an author a degree of creative license, the writer also holds a certain degree of responsibility to tell the story of a person or event without deviating too much from the facts.
Louisa Treger has proven herself more than a match for these challenges in her debut novel, The Lodger. In her novel, Treger explores the story of Dorothy Richardson, author of the autobiographical 13-book series Pilgrimage and contemporary of authors including Virginia Woolf. As a young woman in London at the turn of the century, Dorothy’s life is full of hardships modern readers can instantly relate to. After Dorothy’s mother commits suicide, she visits her friend Jane, the wife of H.G. Wells (fondly known as Bertie), in the country. Over time, Dorothy and Bertie are consumed by a mutual attraction. Their tempestuous relationship inspires Dorothy to begin writing and raises questions within her about her sexuality.
Treger brings the Dorothy’s story to life in an engaging and interesting way. As someone who had never heard of Dorothy Richardson before reading this novel, I very quickly became caught up in her tale. Dorothy’s life, while full of tragedy many of us will never experience, was entirely relatable. She struggles to balance her work life with her social life. She strives to be an independent woman in a time when society still believed men ruled. She falls in and out of love and struggles with the complicated feeling that she is equal parts feminine and masculine. She fights for equality between men and women. She is constantly questioning what is best for her future.
Dorothy’s relationship with famed author H.G. Wells is the driving force behind this novel. When she meets Bertie, he is the scandalous new husband of a childhood friend. While Bertie adores his wife and relies on her, they have an open relationship that allows him to pursue other women – including Dorothy. What begins as a complicated relationship only grows more tangled over time.
I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and I love when true events are incorporated into novels. With that in mind, it’s no wonder I enjoyed The Lodger as much as I did. Even if you aren’t previously familiar with Dorothy Richardson’s story, her life is incredibly easy to relate to. Over 100 years after this novel ends, many of Dorothy’s struggles are still common among women around the world. If you’re a history buff, a fan of biographies, or simply someone who wants to read a very well-written book, The Lodger should definitely be added to your “To Read” list.