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Towers of Books Come Tumbling Down!

I love all kinds of books! For all my friends, I am known on GR as Alicja. I don't stick with a genre, that's boring. Instead you'll get reviews from the most random assortment of fiction and non-fiction works. It's probably due to my interests being as eclectic as my book tastes.


I'm a girlfriend-loving bisexual, science fiction geek, PC gamer, historical fiction devourer, hiker, atheist, history buff, opera lover, vegetarian, kayaker, metal and hard rock concert goer, science nerd, politics debater, world traveler, M/M romance fan, and I have the ability to transform from an adult-like hard-working professional into a screaming fangirl in five seconds flat.

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Howards End - E.M. Forster

Rating: 4.5/5

Summary: After Helen Schlegel's brief romance with Paul Wilcox ends badly, the cultured, idealistic Schlegel family thinks it they will have nothing again to do with the materialistic Wilcoxes. At a performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the Schlegels meet an impoverished insurance clerk named Leonard Bast, who regards them with suspicion when Helen accidentally steals his umbrella. After the incident, the Schlegel sisters decide to make Leonard their project in their endeavor to help the poor better themselves.

At the same time, the Schlegels are shocked when the Wilcoxes move from their country estate of Howards End to a London flat opposite their home on Wickham Place, London.  However, since Paul and Helen are both out of the country, and there is no risk of unpleasantness, Margaret befriends Mrs. Wilcox. When Mrs. Wilcox dies soon after, she leaves a note giving Margaret Howards End in inheritance, something that Mr. Wilcox and his children refuse to do. From that moment on the lives of all are intertwined together and with the house at Howards End.

Review: Howards End is like a river; it starts with a storm before the water gathers and forms into a trickle weaving and twisting and staggering as it slowly and steadily builds up momentum and strength, climaxing in a dazzling waterfall, before continuing to flow sedately into a bigger body of water. I loved this novel for the substantial amount of insight it provided into the time period (around 1910s), the language, and Forster’s unique style of character development.

The story surrounded three families, their destinies intertwined with each other, filled with drama. However, what makes this novel spectacular is the discussions; spiritualism, philosophy, socialism, women’s rights, propriety, class differences, xenophobia, etc. It presents existing tensions between Germany and England (a point of view of someone without the prior knowledge of the wars to follow). It also explores tensions between classes; the complexity explored from many points of views. England may have changed in many aspects but class tensions are still a reality in the modern world; It surprised me how much could still be relatable.

Margaret and Helen seemed to be stuck wanting to break away from what was expected of them and yet unable to completely abandon the restrictions of class and propriety. The relationship between Margaret and Mr. Wilcox served as a great illustration of the two sides battling within, that of an independent woman who is also steeped in tradition she can’t shake. But at its core the novel can only be described as…

Only connect!

The plot was very simple, letting the characters drive the novel forward. Sometimes it was hard to get through the densely packed paragraphs and early 20th century British English. However, the depth of insight Forster was able to imbue into this novel was extraordinary and the language beautiful. Still, I can’t deny that as much as my academic interest in that time period and social issues was satiated, I just couldn’t find that connection with Howards End that I had when reading Maurice, that inexplicable something that makes a novel personal.