Sunday, March 20, 2011

Howards End

By E.M. Forster

Three Things I Liked About Howards End:
1. England! (It never fails to excite me.)
2. The dialogue.
3. The imagery, especially music.

It's been too long. My apologies. School infringes on my reading/reviewing time. I don't approve. Happily, I'm on spring break now, so my reading rate will be amped up for the next week (yessss!).

Three days ago I spent about eight hours tucked into a corner of the library, the light of my laptop burning into my eyes as I furiously typed out a dissatisfying 5-page paper on this book. Consequently, whenever I think about it now I feel like I’m pressing my nose into the crease of the spine and trying to read. My brain goes a bit numb, so forgive me if this entry is on the short side.

Howards End is a story of two families, and the house that entwines them. The Schlegels: Margret, the eldest, a mix of pragmatism and idealism; Helen, the younger sister, passionate and full of ideals; and Tibby, the ascetic younger brother, who perceives life through self-constructed bars of knowledge and Oxford. The Wilcoxes: Ruth, the matron whose spirit is the life-force of both Howards End and Howards End; Henry, the patriarch, a stoic businessman who fails to appreciate his wife’s passion for a house; and their sons, Paul and Charles, the former sent off to Nigeria to further imperialist ventures, the latter a carbon copy of his father. The families meet on holiday in Germany, and their acquaintance is renewed when the Wilcoxes move into a flat across the street from the Schlegels’ London residence, Wickham Place. The passionate and cultured Schlegel sisters spin through the ordered lives of the Wilcoxes and through their carefully preserved status quo into upheaval.

Howards End reminds me of Jane Austen, as far as the English setting and the focus on interpersonal relationships. It has a wider scope, though, addressing not only personal relationships, but also class conflicts, imperialism, the stretching of societal gender roles, and the chafing of the industrializing modern society against the quaint pastoral lifestyle of old England.

Howards End isn’t quite a page-turner (hence only three stars; I just struggle giving anything top marks if it's not both readable AND well-written), but it’s an enjoyable read, and Forster’s dialogue is so convincing and his descriptions so poetic that one can’t help but admire them. My paper required that I watch the movie adaption as well as read the book (in order to compare and contrast them), and having done so, I really recommend them as a package deal. The movie isn’t a replacement for the book (I would never advocate so), but it’s a lovely companion, not to mention a wonderful movie in its own right, with beautiful set design, a fitting soundtrack, and outstanding acting performances*.

* Hey, Emma Thompson didn’t win her Oscar for nothing.

Books Read This Year: 21
Top 100 Progress: 39/40

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