The end, if you please…

Who wrote this book and when?
E.M. Forster had this published in 1910.

Has there been a film version?
Yes, starring Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anthony Hopkins. Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her role. It’s a wonderful version, and gave me a little insight as to the characters and plot.

Who are the important characters?
Margaret Schlegel – the eldest of the Schlegel sisters, half Germans now living in England; she is the more logical of the two
Helen Schlegel – the younger of the Schlegel sisters, she is more passionate and in love with romance
Henry Wilcox – the father of the Wilcox family, upper class with old money
Mrs. Ruth Wilcox – Henry’s wife, owner of Howard’s End
Leonard Bast – a lower middle class clerk striving to be more than he is
Mrs. Bast – Leonard’s wife, she is considerably older than him and a former prostitute

What’s it about?
This is, on the surface, the story of the house called Howard’s End. Despite the fact the house is very rarely the location of the action, it is the beginning and the finale. It is also the tale of the Schlegel sisters – the middle ground between the rich Wilcox family and the struggling Basts. Their attempts to reconcile to two castes changes both their lives forever. And finally, it’s the story of two women who are trying to form a connection and an understanding with everyone they meet. It is a call to “simply connect” with others instead of drudging through life with your own set.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s supposed to be a great examination of the struggle between English classes at the turn of the century, but I think it’s more of a story about the struggle to form relationships with other people.

Do you recommend I read this book?
I’m not sure…it is available on Project Gutenberg, however.

Why did this book make your list?
It was listed as one of the Top 100 British Novels of the 20th Century.

Has it won any awards?
No.

Favorite quotes:
“But in his day the angel of Democracy had arisen, enshadowing the classes with leathern wings, and proclaiming: ‘All men are equal – all men, that is to say, who possess umbrellas,’ and so he was obliged to assert gentility, lest he slipped into the abyss where nothing counts and the statements of Democracy are inaudible.” – p 37

“The air was white, and when they alighted it tasted like cold pennies.” – p 64

“Margaret had often wondered at the disturbance that takes place in the world’s waters when Love, who seems so tiny a pebble, slips in. Whom does Love concern beyond the beloved and the lover? Yet his impact deluges a hundred shores. No doubt the disturbance is really the spirit of the generations, welcoming the new generation, and chafing against the ultimate Fate, who holds all the seas in the palm of her hand. But Love cannot understand this. He cannot comprehend another’s infinity; he is conscious only of his own – flying sunbeam, falling rose, pebble that asks for one quiet plunge below the fretting interplay of space and time. He knows that he will survive at the end of things, and be gathered by Fate as a jewel from the slime, and be handed with admiration round the assembly of the gods. ‘Men did produce this,’ they will say, and, saying, they will give men immortality.” – p 139

Anything else?
This and “A Room With a View” are supposed to be Forster’s greatest works.

Personal thoughts:
This book was a very odd read. It wasn’t thrilling or enthralling. It wasn’t exciting or horrific. Absolutely nothing about the plotline stands out to me. But…I continued to read it a bit at a time and as it progressed, the bits kept getting bigger until I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. And before you ask, no it wasn’t one of those marathon to finish just so I can say I’ve read it types.

This is phenomena can only be explained by the writing of E.M. Forster. I have never read anything by him before and had no idea what to expect. I’m quite certain that the societal meanings of this book went way above my head, mostly because I don’t care about societal treatises, but the people in it did not. It was obvious to see that if Forster wanted us to pull one thing out of this novel it was that we must strive to listen, learn from and connect with other people – no matter how different they are from us. His writing is breathtaking, and before I was a hundred fifty pages in, I had more little stickies marking quotes than I knew what to do with. I forced myself to put the stickies away and just read.

I can’t say whether or not I enjoyed anything about this novel other than the descriptions of the people, the land, and of course Howard’s End. But Forster has a voice which walks into a room and softly whispers of England at its finest, and no one can deny the power in that.

Advertisements