Tono Bungay

Tono Bungay


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Tono Bungay by H. G. Wells







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Tono Bungay


(1 Review)
A semi-autobiographical satire of Edwardian advertising and patent-medicines.

Book Excerpt

through the village. He still thought he knew his place--and mine. I did not know him, but I would have liked dearly to have asked him if he remembered my mother, if either my uncle or old Lichtenstein had been man enough to stand being given away like that.

In that English countryside of my boyhood every human being had a "place." It belonged to you from your birth like the colour of your eyes, it was inextricably your destiny. Above you were your betters, below you were your inferiors, and there were even an unstable questionable few, cases so disputable that you might for the rough purposes of every day at least, regard them as your equals. Head and centre of our system was Lady Drew, her "leddyship," shrivelled, garrulous, with a wonderful memory for genealogies and very, very old, and beside her and nearly as old, Miss Somerville, her cousin and companion. These two old souls lived like dried-up kernels in the great shell of Bladesover House, the shell that had once been gaily full of fops, of fin


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Nick Nielsen

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Herbert George Wells -- better known as H. G. Wells -- was a prolific writer. His works largely fall into three genres: 1) science fiction; 2)social commentary and critique; and 3) popular summaries of history and science topics.

Today he is mainly remembered for his science fiction.

"Tono Bungay" is an unusual work in that it straddles two of these genres: it is both science fiction and social commentary. Many consider it to be the best of Well's works.

The novel follows the rise and fall of an empire built on a quack medicine. The medicine, Tono Bungay, gives the book its title. There is little question the name is a play on words. It has been suggested it stands for "ton of bunk" -- but other possibilities are "tonic bunk", or even "tonic Ben-gay."

Regardless what it stands for, it is clear that Tono Bungay is not entire good for you, and probably harmful in the long run. The short-term effect are however sufficiently pleasing so as to make a fortune for its inventor -- only to have the empire eventually come crashing down.

Wells -- being Wells-- adds doses of science fiction. Often these are only remotely related to the main topic. Such is the case for the various experiments in air travel which make up a substantial part of the book.

Yet another science fiction episode concerns a mysterious ore, apparently radioactive. Ostensibly, the purpose of this ore is to provide Tono Bungay a new infusion and lease on life. Radioactivity had only recently been discovered when Wells wrote this novel, and indeed was very mysterious . Wells treats the radioactive ore as something that fundamentally corrupts all that it touches -- not unlike in the 50's film "The Blob."