Book: Howards End - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: Howards End
Saturday, 31 May 2003 at 04:11 pm
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Author: EM Forster

Details: I was really stupid today and managed to take back to the library a whole pile of books I was intending to review. Well, not entirely stupid because they were a week overdue, but still, I'm going to have to guess a bit at the details.

It was written in 1910, but I don't quite understand why it's widely available online, as Forster only died in 1970, so it should still be in copyright. Anyway, since I can't remember which edition I read or easily find the ISBN, here is the Gutenberg text of it.

Verdict: Howard's End is amusing throughout and thought-provoking in places.

Reasons for reading it: I saw the film absolutely years ago, and was so distracted by the inappropriate juxtaposition of Helena Bonham-Carter with Emma Thompson that I failed to take in anything else about the story. EM mentioned it recently and reminded me of my old and rather vague intention to read it.

How it came into my hands: The library

I enjoyed reading Howards End; Forster's style of wit and social satire appeals to me. Forster is surprisingly aphoristic, despite being, by modern standards, quite amazingly wordy. And the sense of place is quite special; I recognized quite a few of them, Oxford in particular, of course. (He does spoil this occasionally by getting Romantically nationalistic about the English Countryside, but that's probably forgivable.)

I was very intrigued by the exploration of why an intelligent, financially independent woman might choose, quite consciously and deliberately, to marry a stupid and obviously inferior man.

It is possible that I react more negatively to women getting involved with men who are 'not good enough for them' than the other way round. I tend to notice when women go out with men who are stupider, or less educated, or even younger or shorter than they are. When I was doing my undergraduate project, one of the senior post-docs was seeing one of the PhD students; they were thinking of buying a house together. This would seem to be a pretty normal situation, but there was much tongue-wagging and head-shaking about the fact that the post-doc (female) was involved with someone (male) younger than her, less qualified than her, and generally agreed to be less able than her. It's hard to know whether there would have been the same reaction had the genders been reversed.

It occurred to me that if I could write, I'd probably write somewhat like Forster. Which is not as hubristic as it sounds; he is absolutely good at the kind of things I'm only relatively good at.

I liked HE better than I remember liking the other Forster I've read. But then they didn't make much impression on me; I read A room with a view and Passage to India in a teenaged fit of trying to work my way through the 'classics'. But anyway, all in all it was enjoyable, though not exactly a masterpiece.


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