The Fabian Waltz

A Novel Based on the Life of George Bernard Shaw

Fiction - Historical - Personage
334 Pages
Reviewed on 08/14/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

The Fabian Waltz: A Novel Based on The Life of George Bernard Shaw by Kris Hall brings back one of the most legendary playwrights to ever be born. Giving his life a gentle twist, the author takes readers through the life of Shaw as he faces challenges he never expected. Shaw and Sidney Webb both fall for women who prove to be a little out of their leagues. Young Charlotte Payne-Townshend is a free-spirited, progressive woman who will not give in to Shaw’s Casanova-like tendencies. Beatrice Potter, on the other hand, is more hands-on and consistently wows Webb with her desire to bring in social reform for the poor. However, the real fun begins when the two couples spend their summer in a country cottage that they share with Oscar Wilde and his lover Alfred Douglas. When they return to London, they face issues that they never expected, and they may have to make decisions that will change their lives forever.

George Bernard Shaw’s life intrigues all literature students who read his epic comedic, political, and satirical plays, and I am no exception. Author Kris Hall takes readers inside the mind and life of Shaw as he navigates the difficult waters of courting Charlotte and works hard to make her even consider him as a life partner. I have never read a better depiction of Shaw and Webb’s friendship. No one makes it as authentic as author Kris Hall made it. Kris Hall’s Shaw is lively, a little eccentric, and fun, especially when he is wooing Charlotte. The relationship between these two is fun and entertaining. Charlotte gives as good as she gets, and I think that makes their relationship. The narrative suits our perspective of Shaw well without giving in to the typical narrative style that authors create when talking about legendary writers of the past. The Fabian Waltz oozes intelligence and charming wit and there is never a dull moment. The author does the characters and the story justice. I adored this book!

K.C. Finn

The Fabian Waltz: A Novel Based On The Life of George Bernard Shaw is a work of fiction in the historical genre. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by Kris Hall. The novel follows two couples who are part of the Fabian movement in Victorian London. Working hard and promoting the improvement of life for their fellow citizens, they share a small cottage over the summer only to be joined by Oscar Wilde who is keen to avoid his lover in London. His hedonism clashes with the couple’s social justice principles, and his presence oversees the growth and decline of the couple’s passions.

This book is a fascinating lens through which to explore social issues by changing the backdrop from our morally complex world to the time of the late Victorian era in which sweatshops and child labor were considered perfectly normal. Kris Hall uses the beautiful characterization of the Fabians balanced against the historical reputation of Oscar Wilde to explore the boundaries of where our moral obligations to each other lie. There are big questions asked in this book, and if that were all it offered then it would still be worth your time. But The Fabian Waltz also offers drama and romance on a more personal level as George Bernard Shaw pursues his attraction to Charlotte Payne-Townshend, and Sidney falls for Beatrice. All four follow a classic love story trajectory that is artfully shaken up by their surroundings, their moral obligations, and attempting to vacation peacefully with Oscar Wilde in tow.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Victorian London was full of extremes: great wealth and great poverty existed side by side with little or no recognition or concern between the two. But, there was a group of Socialists who ventured to make the gap less tangible: the Fabian Society. This group consisted of the rich and financially secure, artists, writers, and people with like-minded ideals. George Bernard Shaw, the playwright who wrote the much-loved play Pygmalion (later re-written as a musical, My Fair Lady), poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, who shocked the primness of Victorian society, among many others. Imagine a witty romance, not unlike the witty writings of George Bernard Shaw, and imagine a world where the fight for social justice does more than elicit romance along the way.

Kris Hall’s novel, The Fabian Waltz, is a clever, almost satirically humorous look at a group of controversial socialist artists in Victorian London. The author has chosen to create this compelling plot by using what appears like journal entries and correspondence from the key players in this script. This enables multiple changes in points of view without losing the reader’s focus and also providing multiple dimensions to the work as a whole. It is interesting that both the correspondences and the journal entries are written in the compelling, story-telling narrative so typical of the Victorian era, complete with engaging dialogue. The reader is wrapped into the story with ease and doesn’t lose interest as one would expect from reading correspondence or journals. The entire presentation of the story is a work of art, complete with a title caught between suggesting a metaphor of life as it is indicative of the story’s content with reference to the Fabians. Absolutely brilliant!

Francis Mont

The Fabian Waltz: A Novel Based on the Life of George Bernard Shaw by Kris Hall is a classy literary novel about a summer vacation of England’s wittiest and smartest men of the late 19th Century: Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. However, the vacation weeks they spent together at a secluded Suffolk farm were only the backdrop to a delightful array of other characters and enlightening conversations. Almost all of those present, with the exception of Oscar Wilde, were socialist members of the Fabian Society, an establishment devoted to social justice, economics, and the betterment of society. Three male characters and two young women spent those weeks in lively, intelligent, and inspiring conversations about their attitudes in life, art, politics, economics, literature, and personal relationships. The dynamics of this combination of intellects and emotions produce a high-intensity drama where cerebral and romantic priorities vie for supremacy. The resolution of such conflicts won’t be solved during the vacation but will lead to both hoped-for and dreaded outcomes back in London when they return.

This is a delightful novel that I savored to the fullest. On some level, it reminded me of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain but author Kris Hall presented it with the language skills of Aldous Huxley, Somerset Maugham, and John Galsworthy. The reader is catapulted into Victorian England and the descriptions are so evocative that one feels as if he has lived there all his life. The dialog throughout the novel is both scintillatingly intelligent and enjoyably witty; skipping a single sentence would have been a wasted opportunity for amusement as well as education. The pacing of the narrative is superb, the developing emotional drama kept me turning pages, rooting for a happy outcome and dreading disappointment. The several artistic line drawing illustrations only added to the mood of the novel. I don’t remember the last time I read such an enjoyable novel that satisfied my craving for a high-quality literary experience. If you are looking for a novel in which characters speak in beautifully crafted sentences, using a rich and varied vocabulary, then The Fabian Waltz is yours to enjoy.

Steven Robson

The Fabian Waltz by Kris Hall is a delightful sojourn into the 1890s of English society that included some of the most gifted writers of all time. Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde are probably recognizable by anyone who has a basic knowledge of literature. These leading luminaries form the centerpiece of this fascinating exposé. Compiled utilizing private memoirs, journals, and letters, combined with historical records, we are gifted a vision of these figures’ incredible personalities and the world in which they lived. Here we enter a world untainted by the touch of television, radio, and all the other clutter of current technology. The Fabian Waltz places you next to these wonderful people while you rejoice in their words, reflecting the incredible mastery of literary skills that others can only aspire to. This is a book of triumph and tragedy, in both love and life, that will have you riveted until the last word is read.

In The Fabian Waltz, Kris Hall has created a treasured portrait of the lives of some truly gifted individuals from our past, and I place great value on such books. The level of research this book required is obviously considerable. The compilation of what must have been a vast amount of material into a cohesive and compelling read has been done superbly. As the characters spent some time evolving and changing their own beliefs and understanding of their relationships with others, I became more and more engaged in the potential outcome for each player involved. This engagement fostered strong emotional reactions, be it humor at Shaw’s bicycle escapades, frustration at Wilde’s vices, heartbreak over love denied by Potter and Shaw, or simply despair over Wilde’s family situation; the level of empathy was palpable and personally touching. I would strongly recommend The Fabian Waltz to anyone.