This novel is based upon the experiences and dealings of Arnold Bennett's friend Lord Beaverbrook during the First World War. Sam Raingo seemingly has it all; money, a wife, a mistress and the good life. However, his health is failing and he is becoming bored. He develops a need to achieve something more and the ambtion is fulfilled, along with the gaining of a peerage, when the Government asks him to head up a propaganda department with the aim of keeping up civilian morale during the conflict. Bennett manages to take the reader deeply into Raingo's mind in describing the inevitable anxieties and attempted reconciliation of public and private emotions and stances. At the same time, a gripping story unfolds as would be expected from a semi-biographical work of his brilliant and controversial subject.
What makes Lord Raingo a book worth reading is, firstly, the sheer apparent authenticity of it all, from politics to personalities and from sex to sickrooms. As almost always in Bennett, the characterisation is naturally credible.
Author biography:Arnold Bennett Enoch Arnold Bennett, the son of a solicitor, was born in Hanley, Staffordshire in 1867. He was educated locally and at London University, before working initially as a solicitor’s clerk, but soon turned to writing popular serial fiction and editing a women’s magazine.
After the publication of his first novel, ‘A Man from the North’ in 1898 he became a professional writer and some of his best and most enduring and acclaimed work, including ‘Anna of the Five Towns’, ‘The Old Wives' Tale’, ‘Clayhanger’, ‘The Card’ and ‘Hilda Lessways’ followed over the next twelve years.
Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Bennett was invited to join the War Propaganda Bureau, concerned with finding ways of best promoting Britain's interests. He was in good company, as others who contributed to this effort included Conan Doyle, John Masefield, G. K. Chesterton, Sir Henry Newbolt, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Gilbert Parker, G. M. Trevelyan and H. G. Wells. Bernard Shaw knew nothing of the Bureau, but attacked what he believed to be jingoistic articles and poems being produced by British writers. Bennett was the one chosen to defend their actions.
He served on a War Memorial Committee at the invitation of the then Minister of Information, Lord Beaverbrook, and was also appointed director of British propaganda in France. His spells in Paris added to his reputation as a man of cosmopolitan and discerning tastes.
After the War he inevitably returned to writing novels and also became a director of the ‘New Statesman’.
Bennett’s great reputation is built upon the success of his novels and short stories set in the Potteries, an area of north Staffordshire that he recreated as the ‘Five Towns’. ‘Anna of the Five Towns’ and ‘The Old Wives’ Tale’ show the influence of Flaubert, Maupassant and Balzac as Bennett describes provincial life in great detail. Arnold Bennett is an important link between the English novel and European realism.
He wrote several plays and lighter works such as ‘The Grand Babylon Hotel’ and ‘The Card’.
Arnold Bennett died in 1931.