Review - The Invisible Man by HG Wells

A guest review by @bookspluscaffeine

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Pretty much every school kid has asked and answered this question. But rarely do we ask, what would it actually be like to have that superpower?

The #novelteabookclub September pick, The Invisible Man, 1897 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, gives an insight into invisibility (pun intended).

What would it be like to be invisible? Maddening, isolating, fatal.

An obsessive ex-medical student, Griffin, devotes years of his life to discovering the secret to becoming invisible, and achieves the transformation, only to discover almost immediately it's actually utterly awful; you get knocked over in the street, you can't interact with anybody, you struggle to find places to eat and sleep safely. For Wells' invisible man, his body may be unseen, but the clothes he wears are visible (a significant issue in the cold of an English winter), and so is the food he eats until it has "assimilated" with his body (hmm... don't think about this too much).

We are dropped into the story as the invisible man is working away on a reversal to his predicament in a wintery quiet country town inn wearing his disguise - "muffling" - (covered from head to toe complete with fake nose, bandaging around his face, lots of scarves and big coat).

The people in the town become suspicious and soon realise something is a bit off with this guy, his secret is revealed, and all hell brakes loose. Tension builds to a brutal climax, then a pondersome prologue (I love those reader-gets-inside-view-to-what-happens-after-the-story bits).

This book is certainly not my usual genre, and don't go looking for a scientific formula to superpowers here, but I enjoyed the moral exploration into what happens after we push science too far.

(Side note - It also sparked great conversations with my mum who remembered hearing old radio recordings of another H.G. Wells story, The Wars of The Worlds. Apparently some people believed it as real news when it originally aired!)

The Invisible Man was featured in the September 2019 Classic parcel from the NovelTea Book Club. If you’d like to learn more, or sign up to receive one of our monthly book & tea subscription parcels, please feel free to check out the rest of our website.

An Ode to Preloved Books

Ever wondered about the Minimalist parcel?

Let me tell you all about them.

I collect pre-loved novels from all over the place: secondhand bookshops, book fairs, op shops... wherever I can find them! I look for classics and contemporary novels across a range of genres. Some are nearly new and some are perfectly and lovingly battered. As long as there are no pages missing, they’re all fair game.

For me, there’s something special about secondhand books. It’s like they’ve picked up extra stories as they’ve been read and loved by other bookworms. I like to imagine their previous lives, especially if there’s a name and a decades-old date written inside.

I decided right from the start that the Minimalist subscribers would receive a ‘lucky-dip’ book each month. Otherwise I knew I’d end up paralysed with indecision, trying to choose books for each subscriber each month! However, I do keep a record of the books each subscriber receives, to make sure they don’t ever get the same book twice.

I’ve received some lovely feedback from Minimalist subscribers. Some have mentioned how much they appreciate the environmentally friendly aspect of receiving secondhand books. I especially love when it turns out that the lucky-dip book is unexpectedly perfect for the subscriber - something they never would have picked up themselves, but ended up loving, or an old favourite they remember reading years ago and are looking forward to reading again.

The Minimalist parcels have been my baby from the very beginnings of the NovelTea Book Club. If you’ve made it to the end of this extended love-letter, then thanks for listening! If you’re a Minimalist subscriber, then thanks for loving my parcels as much as I do ❤️

You can sign up for a Minimalist parcel subscription here.

Review - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A guest review by @lazypages

Have you ever revisited a novel that you read as a child and realised that there was so much more going on than you realised? Going back to this classic by Lewis Carroll was a little bit like watching a Disney film and realising that the humour operates on two levels to meet the needs of both child and adult viewers. My second foray into this weird and wonderful novel saw things that confused my younger self finally snap into focus. The fluffy cuteness of characters like the always-late white rabbit and the sleepy dormouse at the Hatter’s tea party seemed less important than unravelling the unsettling nature of Wonderland itself. Gone is my willingness to let the eccentric and the strange float past me in a haze of childhood imagination and suddenly I am seeing meaning in everything!

I’m not saying that now that I’m grown, my skills in technical analysis have been honed to laser sharp precision, rather I get the strangeness that underscores Carroll’s world. Far from making more sense, the adult world seems to be one where reason is more and more elusive. Over the past few years with multiple leadership spills under its belt, our government has seemed more like the court of the execution-obsessed Red Queen and the constant media spin paralleling the painting of the white roses by the long suffering cards. Indeed, international politics in general seems to be the stuff of our wildest imaginations, so crazy that we couldn’t in all seriousness believe we would be in a world where reason seems to be the least valuable commodity.

Rather than feeling like I’ve got my life together, I find myself more and  more like Alice, trying to follow ridiculous vague and ambiguous instructions to make my life more perfect, metaphorically growing and shrinking and never quite making the grade. So it’s probably no surprise that the most evocative moments in this novel are Alice’s mellow conversation with the hookah smoking caterpillar and her experiences with the Mad Hatter. Both situations are times when Alice has to learn to sit back and let the world around her just happen, without trying to control or direct it. She has to be an observer and really, isn’t that what reading does for us? It forces us to observe the world differently and reconsider our position in it. If we can be resilient like Alice and learn to work with the craziness that life and this world brings us, maybe we can find our way home again.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was featured in the August 2019 Classic parcel from the NovelTea Book Club. If you’d like to learn more, or sign up to receive one of our monthly book & tea subscription parcels, please feel free to check out the rest of our website.

Why Read Classics?

I had originally titled this post “Why You Should Read the Classics”, but then a friend reminded me how much we both hate the word ‘should’.

So please know, you are under no obligation to read ‘the classics’. I firmly believe that reading is best when it is joyful, a ‘want to’ rather than a ‘have to’ experience. That’s part of the reason I now hate almost every book I had to study in English in high school! It took me nearly a decade to start reading ‘the classics’ again and I am still re-learning to love them. Read whatever you want and enjoy doing it.

That said, here are my thoughts in praise of reading ‘the classics’.

(Look, I’m just going to go ahead and stop putting quotation marks around ‘classic’. We all know what I mean.)


When I talk about classics, I don’t just mean any old book. To me, a classic has a timelessness to it. It might have been written 30 years ago or 300 years ago, but a true classic touches on issues that are still relevant today. It has resonated with generations of readers. Why? Because I think human nature is also timeless, in a way. Both the wonderful and the terrible parts! This is one of the reasons I enjoy reading the classics: because they are still relevant, and can provide a different perspective on today’s issues. At the very least, they can remind us that there’s nothing new under the sun.


I’m also not going to pretend that everything that’s considered a classic is good quality - there’s a fair amount of luck and privilege in what gets to become a classic. But I think there are benefits to reading (critically, with our eyes wide open), even those classics which turn out to be kiiiinda problematic. Classics can teach us a lot about the time and place they were written, and if we read critically, we can learn an awful lot about the worldview of the author and their subjects. Thinking about how that time and place and culture has influenced our current culture can help us to gain a deeper understanding of the roots of current worldviews.

Those words though…

On the other hand, sometimes they are good quality, and have stood the test of time because generations of readers have fallen in love with brilliantly crafted sentences, truly memorable characters, and engaging plots. There’s a reason that Netflix is full of adaptations and the internet is saturated with quotes from classic authors. Another thing I love about those words? Often the way the author has written forces you to slow down - they weren’t writing for our 21st century attention spans. Maybe that’s occasionally frustrating, but maybe sometimes that’s a good thing.

In summary

Whether they’re good quality or not, I honestly believe that there’s value in reading classic literature. There’s so much opportunity for insight into the past and the present. It can highlight what’s changed, or even make you realise that, really, nothing has!

Need more classics in your life? Why not sign up for the NovelTea Book Club newsletter?