The Lodger by Louisa Treger is a fictionalized look at Dorothy Richardson’s relationship with H.G. Wells, also know as Bertie. Dorothy was a childhood friend of Wells’ second wife, but during visits to their homes, a passion grew between her and the odd but compelling author. Dorothy finds herself throwing away any plans for a normal, conventional life to experience the highs and lows of loving Bertie, but she finds herself feeling empty and seeking more. When a new boarder moves into Dorothy’s boarding house, Dorothy finds herself confused and torn between Bertie and this new woman. During all of this, Dorothy also starts to write, feeling compelled to put words to page.
Dorothy Richardson is a forgotten writer from the twentieth century, whose life and writings were shocking. The characters are somewhat unbelievable at times, and the internal conflict grows wearying after a while, but the plot itself is solid. Louisa Treger’s work, while alternating between bland and confusing at times, is still a good introduction to this interesting woman.
Dorothy exists just above the poverty line, doing secretarial work at a dentist's office and living in a seedy boarding house in Bloomsbury, when she is invited to spend the weekend with a childhood friend. Jane recently married a writer, who is hovering on the brink of fame. His name is H.G. Wells, or Bertie, as he is known to friends.
Bertie appears unremarkable at first. But then Dorothy notices his grey-blue eyes taking her in, openly signalling approval. He tells her he and Jane have an agreement which allows them the freedom to take lovers, although Dorothy is not convinced her friend is happy with this arrangement.
Reluctant to betray Jane, yet unable to draw back, Dorothy free-falls into an affair with Bertie. Then a new boarder arrives at the house - striking, unconventional Veronica Leslie-Jones, determined to live life on her own terms - and Dorothy finds herself caught between Veronica and Bertie. Amidst the personal dramas and wreckage of the militant suffragette movement, Dorothy finds her voice as a writer.
The Lodger is a beautifully intimate novel that is at once an introduction to one of the most important writers of the 20th century and a compelling story of one woman tormented by unconventional desires.