The Passionate Friends

Once again a movie inspires me to read a book. The Passionate Friends by H.G. Wells was made into a number of film adaptations, apparantly. I saw the 1949 version directed by David Lean which changes the ending of the original novel considerably (Oddly enough, I detected this as I was watching the ending of the film. The whole of the plot seems to build up to nothing.) Wanting to know more than what the Wikipedia article could offer me, I downloaded the book on my Nook and found the perfect time to read it while traveling last week.

Aside from the romance novel-esque sounding title, I think it was a good read overall. Wells tells the story of Stephen Stratton, a middle-class son of a clergyman, and Mary Christian, a young and rich society debutant. A couple whose star-crossed romance never quite fulfills itself in the course of their lives. If you read the book for the “passionate” aspect of it you may be interested to find that it does not lie so much in the love story as in the politics of the late 19th and early 20th century. Stephen and Mary are veritable mouth pieces for Well’s opinions not only on the changing views of religion, but science, social justice, international relations, and the treatment of women.

Granted, one can get lost in the author’s diatribes about the failings of humanity, so much so that it makes the idea that the entire novel is a letter to Stephen’s son seem rather silly. However, as a microcosm of what may have been running through the minds of many British subjects at the turn of the century, just before the outbreak of the first world war, it is fascinating and suprisingly modern in tone.

The Passionate Friends is available as a FREE download on iTunes and $0.99 on the Nook, and probably available at your public library.