21 March 2009

38. E.M. Forster, HOWARDS END

"Only connecting" is not as easy as it looks. The Schegel children, particularly daughters Margaret and Helen, exercise a curiosity about other people's lives which their acquaintances the Wilcoxes (slightly richer) find improper and their friend Leonard (poorer) finds unnecessary. The Schegels, about to be wandering in the wilderness as their house was sold to a developer, are looking for a home; Leonard is looking for a living, and the Wilcoxes, at least outwardly, seem quite satisfied with their lot.

This book kind of snuck up on me. It's about class, but at first I saw the conflicts between the Wilsons and the Schegels as mostly a question of upbringing. (I could chalk this up to being American, but I think I just wasn't reading between the lines enough.) Maybe it's because the homage ON BEAUTY, being set in America in this century, characterizes the differences more in culture and political beliefs than class.

Anyway, it felt like I almost finished with it before anything happened that could be called plot, and then right at the end, something happens which crystallizes everything that came before. I realized I was waiting for some kind of bold stroke but this book is very subtle. I can see why Zadie Smith was inspired by it to write ON BEAUTY. I think I liked it slightly more than A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN in the end, after I got my head out of the Forster-cloud.

LN vs. ML progress: 49 read, 51 unread.

Next up: Well... I was thinking either OF HUMAN BONDAGE or WOMEN IN LOVE, which are both available on Dailylit. Have any of you read either one? I have read no Maugham and only a little Lawrence.


sunt_lacrimae_rerum said...

I like Howards End a lot--I like the contrast between the Wilcox world of telegrams, anger, and motor cars and the Schlegal world and the Ruth Wilcox world of trailing hay and bucolics. I always had some difficulty with the narrator: When he says "We are not concerned with the very poor" whose point of view is he representing?

Ellen said...

Agreed, S_L_R. The narrator was definitely an adjustment in a story where two sets of characters would describe the same event in vastly different ways.