Book #43: Howards End

I enjoyed E.M. Forster’s Howards End.

It’s a novel with a lot going on in it. There are lots of different conflicts. There’s the conflict of class and money and society stratums: from the lowly bank clerk who dreams of reading, to the semi-priveleged sisters who enjoy reading and debating and discussing freedoms, to an even older generation of landed, moneyed, privileged families. Further, Howards End boasts the conflict between a materialist and an idealist who wind up getting married.

The plot centers around two English families in the early 20th century. One is composed of the two Schlegel sisters, Helen and Margaret, who live in reasonable comfort and enjoy reading and engaging in intellectual and moral discussions. Both sisters are extreme idealists. The second is the more prestigious, well off Wilcox family. The Wilcox family owns the estate Howards End, around which much of the book seems to take place.

I say “seems to take place” because, although the majority of the plot does not take place at Howards End and it is rarely mentioned, the characters keep being drawn back to the place. Underneath everything that is happening, there’s Howards End. It’s the undercurrent that keeps pulling the characters back together through the years.

I really liked Howards End. The writing is nice, most of the characters had depth, and I enjoyed a lot of the social commentary and observations made by the Schlegel sisters. Forster captures the social tensions in early 1900s England very well in Howards End. Urban life is on the rise; idyllic country life is fading into the background, and through all of this is the question of the country house Howards End, pondered by the Wilcoxes and the Schlegels.

Rating: *****
Up Next: In Cold Blood

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