Today, I finished one of the books I’ve been wanting to read forever, Howards End by E.M. Forster. Forster wrote one of my top 10 favorite books of all time (A Room With A View), and it’s clear from how effing amazing this book is that this is truly Forster’s masterpiece. It’s unique, endlessly poignant, surprising, and makes you go, “OH MY GOD THAT IS SO TRUE.” A new favorite, truly! Here’s what the big deal is all about.
What it’s about: It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Howards End is about, because it’s about so many things: women versus men, socialism versus capitalism, town versus country, the inner life versus the outer, and our relationship to the earth. It’s also about home, and has a touch of magic to it.
However, the actual plot centers upon two families: the cultured London sisters Margaret and Helen Schlegel, and the Wilcox family of cold and practical businessmen. These two families are complete opposites and frequently butt heads, and their meetings, fights, and unions are characterized by rich discussions about all of the Big Questions of life. It’s also an indictment of common English practices and rigid social classes.
Favorite character: Helen Schlegel. She was the most honest, genuine, and pure character. She’s both cultured and emotional, and doesn’t let society get in the way of doing what she feels is right. She exists outside the social norms and confines, yet she strives to help those on society’s bottom rungs. Amazing character!
Favorite Quote: I can’t pick one. Here’s three:
The central theme of the novel:
“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.”
On the nature of life:
“The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely been handled, save by the Greeks. Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty.”
On our relationship to nature and the robotic way we live our lives (even more relevant these days!):
“What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives? They have never entered into mine, but into yours, we thought—Haven’t we all to struggle against life’s daily greyness, against pettiness, against mechanical cheerfulness, against suspicion? I struggle by remembering my friends; others I have known by remembering some place—some beloved place or tree—we thought you one of these.”
Why you should read it: IT WILL SPEAK TO YOUR SOUL. Howards End will also make you laugh, make you think, and even make you shout with anger and excitement!
Recommended for: anyone interested in British history, English literature, gender politics, economic theory; feminists who will enjoy reading the scene of an oppressed wife yell at her truly incorrigible husband. Get your hands on this English classic soon!