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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Title: Howards End

Author: E.M. Forster

First Published: 1910

No. of Pages: 319

Synopsis (from B&N): "Considered by many to be E. M. Forster’s greatest novel, 'Howards End' is a beautifully subtle tale of two very different families brought together by an unusual event. The Schlegels are intellectuals, devotees of art and literature. The Wilcoxes are practical and materialistic, leading lives of 'telegrams and anger.' When the elder Mrs. Wilcox dies and herfamily discovers she has left their country home—Howards End—to one of the Schlegel sisters, a crisis between the two families is precipitated that takes years to resolve.

Written in 1910, Howards End is a symbolic exploration of the social, economic, and intellectual forces at work in England in the years preceding World War I, a time when vast social changes were occurring. In the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes, Forster perfectly embodies the competing idealism and materialism of the upper classes, while the conflict over the ownership of Howards End represents the struggle for possession of the country’s future. As critic Lionel Trilling once noted, the novel asks, 'Who shall inherit England?'

Forster refuses to take sides in this conflict. Instead he poses one of the book’s central questions: In a changing modern society, what should be the relation between the inner and outer life, between the world of the intellect and the world of business? Can they ever, as Forster urges, 'only connect'?"

Fiction or Nonfiction: Fiction

Comments and Critique: This is my second Forster book (I previously read A Passage to India) and I really enjoyed it. What I found interesting is how fiction books are generally either plot-driven or character-driven, but Forster's novels aren't really either of those. There are plots and some character development; but he seems mostly interested in the theoretical aspects of human development and relationships -- for example, the ideas of love, duty, or justice. The plots are just for the convenience of having a setting to put the characters into, and the characters are only described enough so as to have a vessel through which the ideas can be transmitted. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it.

[Normally I would have "Would I recommend this book?" here, but I've decided to do away with that as a general matter. Books that I end up not liking are few and far between, and I generally don't finish them anyway so there ends up not being a review. So from now on, we can all go on the assumption that I'd recommend any book I've reviewed unless I specifically state otherwise.]

Challenges: 999; A to Z (author "F"); Decades '09 (1910's); Lit Flicks; Modern Library's 100 Best Novels; TBR Lite

2 comments:

Chris said...

I've had this one on the TBR shelf for years.

Ara 13 said...

Tammy, Great site. I found no contact info on you, sorry about posting here. If you would be interested in reviewing my novel, Drawers & Booths by Ara 13, an IPPY "Outstanding Book of the Year," I will gladly send you a copy. You can reseach me at Ara13.com and on Amazon. Please reply via ara13c@yahoo.com . Perhaps the metafictional law scene will make you laugh. Ara