Friday, 5 February 2010

Howard's End by E.M. Forster.

Summary: "Only Connect," Forster's key aphorism, informs this novel about an English country house, Howards End, and its influence on the lives of the wealthy and materialistic Wilcoxes; the cultured, idealistic Schlegel sisters; and the poor bank clerk Leonard Bast. Bringing together people from different classes and nations by way of sympathetic insight and understanding, Howards End eloquently addresses the question "Who shall inherit England?"

You may be saying to yourself: sounds more like a commentary than a novel. Well, I have to say, it reads more like one too. It was one of the most difficult books to get through... I considered scrapping the read many times.

I think the problem lies in that it's told (sometimes subtly, sometimes not), not from any character's POV but from the author's. And boy, did he have a message to get across.

Now, I'm not saying his message isn't important, but why not do what Mary Wollstonecraft did in her novel: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She had a message but it was clear in the novel that it's purpose was to use the story as a case in point. I knew that up front when I started the book. (BTW, it's a good book. Also, it's short.)

I have to be fair... there were bits in the book I liked:
Margaret could not bear being bored. She grew inattentive, played with the photograph frame, dropped it, smashed Dolly's glass, apologized, was pardoned, cut her finger thereon, was pitied, and finally said she must be going -
I believe we shall come to care about people less and less, Helen. The more people one knows, the easier it becomes to replace them. It's one of the curses of London. I quite expect to end my life caring most for a place.
Now that is my honest take from this book. Perhaps you pick up this classic and grow to love it. Perhaps before I die, I may read it again with more knowledge. Perhaps I may someday write my own commentary novel. All I know is... I need another cup of coffee.

So what do I give this book?

Five out of five!? Why? Well, because it's a classic and I think everyone should try out the classics. Even if they're a hard read.  100 years from now, I may even pick up Twilight. It'll be classic literature then.


Jemi Fraser said...

LOL :) I like your reasoning, but I'll probably do well enough without reading it!

Natasha said...

I had to giggle when I read your last line!!!
Howard's End does sound like the kind of book I like to read with I get into certain moods- will make sure I pick this up and not any other.

PS - I think your blog is really lovely.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Jemi, if it were 100 years ago and if you're a woman (I assume you are - but one can never be too sure with usernames) I would insist you read the work. In fact, I would insist everyone read the work because the message was a vital one back then. Now however, I think there are greater messages to get out.

Rayna, Thank you for thinking my blog is lovely. I think in a certain mode, ie. when you're desiring to appear educated while sitting in a Starbucks, you may want to be reading the book. Pick it up for such situations. Carry it around in your bag for those emergencies. :)


T. Powell Coltrin said...

See I love classics and even the old writers. Yes they are often slow to get started and make me yawn for a while- a challenge. But, they are rich. And I don't know what I mean by rich except that's the way I feel after reading them. Great post.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Journaling woman, I agree they are the food. You only want it in small doses. Nah, joking. I guess what frustrated me about it was that I had to take so much time to get through it. And, that's really my fault. I shouldn't have joined so many challenges to get through but I did.

Thanks for you comment. I agree with you.


Anonymous said...

This one's on my list. I wonder what I'll think of it?

Great review.


from the desk of a writer

Ann Elle Altman said...

Corra, you'll probably love it! I finished watching the movie yesterday and thought it wonderful I guess I may have read it when I wasn't in the mood for it.