Sunday, 7 December 2014

''Howards End''- Book Review

Author: E. M. Forster
Published: 1910


Rating: 3.5 out of 5


The protagonists of E. M. Forster's ''Howards End'' are sisters Margaret Schlegel and Helen Schlegel. They are half-German, and belong to the privileged middle class. The Schlegel sisters have a decent income, and they live a comfortable and elegant life with literature and the arts. They grew up with literature, and they find pleasure in reading and attending cultural programs. The Schlegels soon become acquainted with the Wilcox family, and Helen is soon invited to spend some time with the Wilcoxes in their country house, Howards End. There, Helen has a short affair with Paul Wilcox- the younger son of Henry and Ruth Wilcox. However, the affair ends soon, and after returning to London, Helen and Margaret decide not to remember the affair. However, circumstances cause them to get involved with the Wilcoxes again, as the latter family take a house in London. Margaret develops a friendship with Ruth Wilcox. After Mrs Wilcox's sudden death, the Wilcoxes discover that she left her most valued possession- Howards End itself- to Margaret. They decide not to inform this to Margaret or anyone else, thus disobeying the late Mrs Wilcox's wish. 

Time passes, but circumstances bring the Schlegels and Wilcoxes across each other again and again. On the other hand, Margaret and Helen befriend Leonard Bast, a lower middle class clerk who wants to ''improve'' himself, that is, gain a social status, through reading more and trying to become interested in the arts. Leonard is stuck in an unhappy marriage, and then there is his financial problem. The Schlegel sisters get determined to help Leonard.

The story involves these three families: the wealthy, economically and socially prejudiced Wilcoxes; the well-read, intellectual, knowledgeable, middle class Schlegel sisters, who believe in equality among the different class;  and the lower middle class Basts (Leonard and his wife Jacky). The novel explores the lifestyle, the way of thinking of the different classes during the Edwardian era. Somehow, the fates of the Schlegels, Basts and Wilcoxes get interconnected- bringing a lot of changes in their lives...

The book explores the class structure of the Edwardian England, the thoughts, views and ideals of different classes, class conflicts and differences. It also explores industrialization and urbanization (among other things), as the population of London keeps increasing, leading to further urbanization.

The reason I am giving Howards End a 3.5 out of 5- in spite of, more or less, loving it- is because I found the first part of the novel too slow-paced. During the first many chapters of the novel I found it difficult to fully understand the characters. It was slow-paced- very slow-paced, and though the story was interesting, the first many chapters was too slow-paced to be enjoyed properly. But then. Really very suddenly. The novel gets really fast paced and lively. Really. Especially from the stage where Margaret receives the marriage proposal. From then it gets really very fast-paced, really enjoyable. It was then that the story picked up a good speed, a nice pace. And with that I picked up a pace as well. I flew from a page to the next, with curious eyes, eagerly waiting for the surprises, for the things that would happen next. I was excited and engrossed, I could then easily understand the characters, identify them properly, identify their emotions.  It was at that stage that I started loving this novel. It is during these middle and final chapters of the novel that I found the characters to be greatly developed, greatly understandable. I found the story lively and excitingduring these middle and final chapters. And needless to say, I finished reading the book with great satisfaction. I was glad- more than glad, to be precise- for having read the book.

 Well I think my feelings about this book can be summed up by this: I really, really, really admired this novel. During the first chapters I couldn't enjoy it, because I couldn't appreciate, or feel attached to the characters. It was a bit too slow paced. But then when the novel picked up it's pace, I really started admiring it. I disliked some characters because of their thoughts. And I loved some characters. I loved it how Margaret stood up for herself, stood up again injustice. I loved how Margaret and Helen understand each other.  There were times when I felt sad because of the unfair behavior shown towards certain characters. 

Overall I am happy with this book, I really am. I loved the way E. M. Forster told the story, I admired the richly developed characters, I loved the all the drama and fast-paced incidents towards the end of the novel.    

3.5 out of 5

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