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Howards End: A Fantastic Story of Fiction (Annotated) By E.M. Forster.

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The disregard of a dying woman's bequest, a girl's attempt to help an impoverished clerk, and the marriage of an idealist and a materialist - all intersect at an estate called Howards End. The fate of this country home symbolizes the future of England in an exploration of social, economic, and philosophical trends during the post-Victorian era.


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The disregard of a dying woman's bequest, a girl's attempt to help an impoverished clerk, and the marriage of an idealist and a materialist - all intersect at an estate called Howards End. The fate of this country home symbolizes the future of England in an exploration of social, economic, and philosophical trends during the post-Victorian era.

30 review for Howards End: A Fantastic Story of Fiction (Annotated) By E.M. Forster.

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diem

    My review is not a review of Howard's End as much as it is a review of the negative reviews. Most of the criticism seems to be that the readers felt that this book had nothing to do with them. They weren't familiar with the places in England referenced in the book. It was too English. It wasn't universal. True on some counts. This book isn't about you. It isn't about now. It isn't directly relevant to today. It won't feed the soul of the egomaniac. It is, however, a beautifully written book with a My review is not a review of Howard's End as much as it is a review of the negative reviews. Most of the criticism seems to be that the readers felt that this book had nothing to do with them. They weren't familiar with the places in England referenced in the book. It was too English. It wasn't universal. True on some counts. This book isn't about you. It isn't about now. It isn't directly relevant to today. It won't feed the soul of the egomaniac. It is, however, a beautifully written book with a interesting storyline about a time in history that is important in that way that history is important. The novel is not just SETin a pre-World Wars Europe, it is actually *written* before the wars that changed the western world and its literature forever. Moreover, it is written in the period immediately preceding the wars and the presented tension between England and Germany, not written with the advantage of hindight, adds to the books worthiness. Beyond the tension is a modern view of Germany that predates and so is untainted by the horror of the Holocaust. The Germany of Howard's End is a Germany of philosophers and musicians. Not deranged dictators. Is it important to be able to perfectly picture the setting of every scene in a book? If it is, I'm in trouble. I think I just have pre-painted backdrops for certain things. Bucolic English countryside? Check. 17th century French parlor? Check. Mars circa 3011? Check. My depictions might not be terribly accurate but I'm not going to let that get in the way of a good story. What is more universal than the tension between wealth and poverty? Between lust and restraint? What is more universal than feeling both the pull of family and the desire to push them away? What is more universal than hypocrisy? What is more universal than the struggle of the sexes to find their proper place in relation to one another. This. Book. Has. Everything. Except you. You're not in this book. You already know what its like to live here now. What was it like to live there then? Go ahead and read it for the sex and intrigue but stay for the history and the political discussion. If you don't need to see yourself reflected in everything you read you won't be disappointed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ***New mini-series begins showing on Starz in the U.S. April 2018.*** ”Discussion keeps a house alive. It cannot stand by bricks and mortar alone.” I’ve fallen in love with the Schlegel sisters twice now in separate decades. I plan to keep falling in love with them for many decades to come. They are vibrant defenders of knowledge, of books, of art, of travel, of feeling life in the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and spleen on a daily basis. Margaret and Helen have a brother, Tibby, poor lad, who ***New mini-series begins showing on Starz in the U.S. April 2018.*** ”Discussion keeps a house alive. It cannot stand by bricks and mortar alone.” I’ve fallen in love with the Schlegel sisters twice now in separate decades. I plan to keep falling in love with them for many decades to come. They are vibrant defenders of knowledge, of books, of art, of travel, of feeling life in the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and spleen on a daily basis. Margaret and Helen have a brother, Tibby, poor lad, who is plenty bright while at Oxford, but in the family Schlegel home, he is struggling to keep up with the thoughts expressed that keep expanding past him. Compared to most people, they are rich. Compared to most rich people, they are poor. Their ancestors left them with enough capital to insure that they don’t have to work for the rest of their lives, can travel a bit, can go to the theatre, and can buy books as they need them. They are very attuned to their privileged position and are frequently tempted to reduce their capital by helping those in need. How much money do they really need or, for that matter, really deserve to have? Improbably, the Schlegel sisters become friends with the Wilcoxes, a capitalistic family who have a different idea of money. Is there ever enough? Helen forms a temporary attachment to the younger Wilcox which throws each family into a tizzy as to the suitability of the match. Margaret begins a friendship with the wife, Ruth, that proves so strong that it throws a few wrinkles into the plot regarding Ruth’s family and the inheritance of Howards End. Ruth passes away suddenly. ”How easily she slipped out of life?” Her insignificance in life becomes even more pronounced in her death. E. M. Forster based Howards End on his childhood home, The Rooks Nest, which had been owned by a family named Howard and referred to as the Howard house. Thus, the name Howards End is a not too subtle reference to that family home. I have to believe that it might have represented a lifetime longing he had for those childhood years he spent in that home. In the novel, Howards End goes beyond being an estate and becomes almost a character, a Shangri-La that I began to pine for from the very beginning of the novel. The Sisters have only brief contact with Howards End through the early part of the novel, and my trepidation grows as the plot progresses. Will they ever have a chance to consider the house a home? Rooks Nest The Schlegel’s befriend the Basts, who are certainly in much reduced circumstances compared to their own. By mere chance they are discussing the Basts situation with Henry Wilcox, who promptly puts doubt into their mind about the future validity of the company Leonard is working for. This sets off a chain of events that cause a series of ripples that change the course of several lives. There certainly is a word of caution in meddling in others’ affairs. Sometimes we can think we are helping, only to cause even more problems. Improbably, Margaret and Henry Wilcox form a friendship that becomes romantic. The eldest Wilcox son, Charles, is not happy about the attachment. He and Margaret are so far apart in their views of how the world works or should work that they have difficulty communicating well enough to reach a point of mutual respect. ”They had nothing in common but the English language, and tried by its help to express what neither of them understood.” Margaret’s odd relationship with Henry causes a rift between the sisters that is, frankly, painful to experience. Forster makes sure that I, as a reader, at this point can no longer be objective. The relationship between these siblings is a precious thing and to think of it torn asunder is impossible to accept. They know so well how to entertain each other, to finish each other’s thoughts, and share a general agreement on most things that other people who bump around in the orbit of their reality feel like intruders. So the marriage between Margaret and Henry is unsettling to Helen and me for numerous reasons, but this statement might sum up how we feel pretty well: ”How wide the gulf between Henry as he was and Henry as Helen thought he ought to be.” There is probably someone we could feel is good enough for Margaret, but not just Margaret but Helen and this reader as well (see how invested I am?); for whomever either girl would marry would have to slip seamlessly into the state of euphoria that already exists in the Schlegel household. Henry is not that person. ”He misliked the word ‘interesting’, connoting it with wasted energy and even with morbidity.” It is becoming impossible to think that Howards End will remain nothing more than a shimmering presence in another reality. E. M. Forster, portrait by Roger Fry. The Schlegel sisters are really the best friends any reader could hope for. We would be so enriched by the opportunity to know them and practically giddy to be able to call them friends. It is unnerving that something so strong, like this relationship between sisters, can be so fragile. I haven’t discussed the fascinating nuances of plot that will add further weight to the interactions between the Schlegels, the Wilcoxes, and the Basts, for I want everyone to read this book and marvel at the words and thoughts that Forster tosses in the air for you to catch. I want you all to be as haunted as I have been, to the point that you, too, will have to go back to the place you first met these characters, these ghostly beings, and read and read again turning these phantoms into tangible beings you can almost touch. ”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.” If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    The title refers to a British country home, not a mansion like a Downton Abbey, but a small comfortable home with charm. (Although it seems that the story is set at about the same time as Downton Abbey.) The story revolves around two sisters who, on separate visits, fall in love with the home and in a very round-about way end up living in it. The main there of the book is British class structure. The two sisters are ‘liberal,’ using modern terminology. They attend meetings of progressive women’s The title refers to a British country home, not a mansion like a Downton Abbey, but a small comfortable home with charm. (Although it seems that the story is set at about the same time as Downton Abbey.) The story revolves around two sisters who, on separate visits, fall in love with the home and in a very round-about way end up living in it. The main there of the book is British class structure. The two sisters are ‘liberal,’ using modern terminology. They attend meetings of progressive women’s groups where one of them gives a presentation and shocks her audience by arguing that such groups need to help the poor not by giving them free libraries, museums and concerts, but by giving them money. A kind of introduction by Lionel Trilling on the back cover tells us that “Howard’s End is about England’s fate. It is a story of the class war…[the plot] is about the rights of property, about a destroyed will and testament and rightful and wrongful heirs. It asks the question, who shall inherit England?’ “ Both sisters are aging (their parents have died) and they are ‘heading into spinsterhood.’ However the older one marries and she marries the owner of Howards End who is a Darwinist. His attitude, to be concise is, (I’m paraphrasing) “there will always be poor; nothing we can do; they are not like us; if you give them money they’ll just blow it because they’re re too stupid to know what to do with it.” And, this is a quote: “The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is. As civilization moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it’s absurd to think that anyone is responsible personally.” The sisters are not wealthy but they are comfortable from an inheritance and they hang out in upper-class society. So this is a second theme: the sisters have an inherent cultured grace that comes from being part of the aristocracy. “…the instinctive wisdom that the past can alone bestow had descended upon her – that wisdom to which we give the clumsy name of aristocracy.” A married, struggling poor young man that the sisters take under their wing is trying to improve himself and become cultured by reading. But he eventually realizes that “…he could never follow them, not if he read for ten hours a day… Some are born cultured; the rest had better go in for whatever comes easy.” “[We] stand upon money as upon islands. It is so firm beneath our feet that we forget its very existence.” [money]: there’s no nourishment in it. You pass it to the lower classes, and they pass it back to you, and this you call ‘social intercourse’ or ‘mutual endeavor,’ when it’s mutual priggishness…” There’s not a lot of plot other than that of the older sister coming around to marry the wealthy older man, and after they are married she struggles to get his family to accept her. And both sisters get involved with helping the poor young man but ‘the road to hell…’ The younger sister gets more involved with him and a person ends up getting killed (manslaughter). Another theme of the book, or more appropriately, motto, is ‘only connect.’ The sisters are good at it; the wealthy aristocrat is a disaster. There is good writing. Some passages I liked: On the poor young man looking ill at ease in his best clothes: “[She] wondered whether it paid to give up the glory of the animal for a tail coast and a couple of ideas.” “The church itself stood in the village once. But there it attracted so many worshippers that the devil, in a pet, snatched it from its foundations and poised it on an inconvenient knoll three quarters of a mile away.” “Their interview was short and absurd. They had nothing in common but the English language, and tried by its help to express what neither of them understood.” E. M. Forster (1879-1970), the author, is best know for A Room With a View with Howard’s End and A Passage to India about equally well-known after that. You can tell that the author loved London and the growth and dynamism of the city at that time. I enjoyed the book very much. Top photo from tbn0.gstatic.com Photo of the author from bl.uk/britishlibrary

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I loved this book so much that I will never be able to do it justice in this review. I finished it several months ago, but still I think of it often and have recommended it to numerous friends. While reading, I used countless post-its to mark beautiful and thoughtful passages. Howard's End was one of the novels I took on my visit to England earlier this summer. I wanted to read English authors while I was there, and I'm so glad I did. The specialized reading completely enhanced the trip, and it I loved this book so much that I will never be able to do it justice in this review. I finished it several months ago, but still I think of it often and have recommended it to numerous friends. While reading, I used countless post-its to mark beautiful and thoughtful passages. Howard's End was one of the novels I took on my visit to England earlier this summer. I wanted to read English authors while I was there, and I'm so glad I did. The specialized reading completely enhanced the trip, and it was especially true for this book.* This was also a re-read for me. I first read Howard's End when I was in high school, after I saw the excellent Merchant & Ivory movie version. But that was 1992 and I was just an impressionable teenager. Reading it as an adult with more life experience made me better appreciate how amazing this novel is. If you are unfamiliar with the story, we follow two sisters, Margaret and Helen Schlegel, in London around 1910. (More on the significance of that timing in a moment.) The Schlegels are well-educated, progressive, and love literature, music and art. They hold cultural discussions and like to talk about improving society. When they meet poor, intelligent Leonard Bast at a music concert, they see someone they want to champion. Meanwhile, the Schlegels have also crossed paths with the rich Wilcox family, and entanglements ensue. One of the key threads of the book is who will inherit Howard's End, which was the estate of Ruth Wilcox. Early in the book, Ruth wants to give it to Margaret Schlegel, but Henry Wilcox, Ruth's husband, refuses to oblige her wish. More entanglements ensue. As I read this novel, I appreciated how Forster was trying to recreate modern England with families from three classes: the rich capitalists (Wilcoxes), the liberal middle-class (Schlegels), and the downtrodden workers (Mr. and Mrs. Bast). There were so many good quotes about social class and the state of society, and I found it all fascinating and thought-provoking. Reading a great novel such as Howard's End reminded me of how much literature can enrich a life. It answers questions I didn't know I had asked. On the chance that some Goodreaders don't want the ending spoiled, I'll hide the outcome: (view spoiler)[After Ruth dies, Margaret marries Henry Wilcox, and she eventually inherits the estate. Margaret decides to leave it to her nephew, who is the bastard son of Helen and Leonard Bast. So if there are any English majors working on essays and you want to read into the SYMBOLISM of that, it's like the working class finally got some land/wealth from the aristocrats, and in England, land equals power. (hide spoiler)] This novel was published in 1910. I found special meaning in this because shortly before reading Howard's End I read All Quiet on the Western Front, which is a novel about a German soldier in World War I. Reading Forster's novel and knowing that a real war was going to break out a few years after these characters were created, made their conversations so much more prescient. The Schlegel family was from Germany, so there was a lot of talk about the difference between Germans and the English. Again, prescience. [More below in Favorite Quotes.] If you like beautiful and meaningful English novels, get yourself a copy of Howard's End with all deliberate speed. I will be treasuring my paperback for many years. Sidenote *I had a few reading and trip coincidences with Howard's End that were exciting. At one point in the novel, Leonard Bast was reading a book by John Ruskin. I turned to the back of my edition to read the detailed note about Ruskin. At this point in the England trip my husband and I were in the Lake District, specifically Keswick. The morning after reading that endnote, we were walking near Derwentwater and I noticed a memorial to John Ruskin. I think I cried, "Oh my god! I just read about Ruskin last night!" I realized if I hadn't read that endnote in the novel, I wouldn't have even noticed that memorial. A few days later we were back in London and visited St. Paul's Cathedral. After nearly two weeks in England, we had seen many beautiful churches and abbeys. But I paused for an extra moment outside the entrance to St. Paul's, and not just because it's striking, or because Princess Diana had been married there, but because the characters in Howard's End had also frequented the church, which means Forster had likely been there, too. I love seeing historic places that are mentioned in literature -- it gives them a whole other life and meaning. Favorite Quotes "Do they care about Literature and Art? That is the most important when you come to think of it. Literature and Art. Most important." "Like many others who have lived long in a great capital, she had strong feelings about the various railway termini. They are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return ... And he is a chilly Londoner who does not endow his stations with some personality, and extend to them, however shyly, the emotions of fear and love." "The poetry of that kiss, the wonder of it, the magic that there was in life for hours after it — who can describe that? It is so easy for an Englishman to sneer at these chance collisions of human beings. To the insular cynic and the insular moralist they offer an equal opportunity. It is so easy to talk of 'passing emotion,' and to forget how vivid the emotion was ere it passed. Our impulse to sneer, to forget, is at root a good one. We recognize that emotion is not enough, and that men and women are personalities capable of sustained relations, not mere opportunities for an electrical discharge. Yet we rate the impulse too highly. We do not admit that by collisions of this trivial sort the doors of heaven may be shaken open." "In their own fashion they cared deeply about politics, though not as politicians would have us care; they desired that public life should mirror whatever is good in the life within." "Do you imply that we Germans are stupid, Uncle Ernst?"... / "To my mind. You use the intellect, but you no longer care about it. That I call stupidity ... You only care about the things that you can use, and therefore arrange them in the following order: Money, supremely useful; intellect, rather useful; imagination, of no use at all. No, your Pan-Germanism is no more imaginative than is our Imperialism over here. It is the vice of a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the same as heaven. That is not imagination. No, it kills it. When their poets over here try to celebrate bigness they are dead at once, and naturally. Your poets too are dying, your philosophers, your musicians, to whom Europe has listened for two hundred years. Gone. Gone with the little courts that nurtured them ... What? Your universities? Oh yes, you have learned men, who collect more facts than do the learned men of England. They collect facts, and facts, and empires of facts. But which of them will rekindle the light within?" [Personal interjection: Imagine me reading this passage just weeks after finishing the WWI book, and crying OH MY GOD, FORSTER'S A GENIUS.] "It will be generally admitted that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man." [I wrote this review with the 5th playing in the background. Most delightful.] "To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy can indulge; the poor cannot afford it." "Her speeches fluttered away from the young man like birds. If only he could talk like this, he would have caught the world. Oh, to acquire culture! Oh, to pronounce foreign names correctly! Oh, to be well informed, discoursing at ease on every subject that a lady started! But it would take one years. With an hour at lunch and a few shattered hours in the evening, how was it possible to catch up with leisured women who had been reading steadily from childhood?" "Life's very difficult, and full of surprises. At all events, I've got as far as that. To be humble and kind, to go straight ahead, to love people rather than pity them, to remember the submerged — well, one can't do all these things at once, worse luck, because they're so contradictory. It's then that proportion comes in — to live by proportion. Don't begin with proportion. Only prigs do that. Let proportion come in as a last resource, when the better things have failed." "The German is always on the lookout for beauty. He may miss it through stupidity, or misinterpret it, but he is always asking beauty to enter his life, and I believe that in the end it will come." "Discussion keeps a house alive. It cannot stand by bricks and mortar alone." "Was Mrs. Wilcox one of the unsatisfactory people — there are many of them — who dangle intimacy and then withdraw it? They evoke our interests and affections, and keep the life of the spirit dawdling round them. Then they withdraw. When physical passion is involved, there is a definite name for such behavior — flirting — and if carried far enough, it is punishable by law. But no law — not even public opinion, even — punishes those who coquette with friendship, though the dull ache that they inflict, the sense of misdirected effort and exhaustion, may be as intolerable." "Can what they call civilization be right, if people mayn't die in the room where they were born?" "Their grief, though less poignant than their father's, grew from deeper roots, for a wife may be replaced; a mother never." "Looking back on the past six months, Margaret realized the chaotic nature of our daily life, and its difference from the orderly sequence that has been fabricated by historians. Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes." "To speak against London is no longer fashionable. The Earth as an artistic cult has had its day, and the literature of the near future will probably ignore the country and seek inspiration from the town." "Oh, hang it all! what's the good — I mean, the good of living in a room for ever? There one goes on day after day, same old game, same up and down to town, until you forget there is any other game. You ought to see once in a way what's going on outside, if it's only nothing particular after all." "I believe we shall come to care about people less and less, Helen. The more people one knows, the easier it becomes to replace them. It's one of the curses of London. I quite expect to end my life caring most for a place." "What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives? ... Haven't we all to struggle against life's daily grayness, against pettiness, against mechanical cheerfulness, against suspicious? I struggle by remembering my friends." "The age of property holds bitter moments even for a proprietor. When a move is imminent, furniture becomes ridiculous, and Margaret now lay awake at nights wondering where, where on earth they and all their belongings, would be deposited in September next. Chairs, tables, pictures, books, that had rumbled down to them through the generations, must rumble forward again like a slide of rubbish to which she longed to give the final push and send toppling into the sea." "I was thinking of Father. How could he settle to leave Germany as he did, when he had fought for it as a young man, and all his feelings and friends were Prussian? How could he break loose with patriotism and begin aiming at something else? It would have killed me. When he was nearly forty he could change countries and ideals — and we, at our age, can't change houses. It's humiliating." "If Welcomes hadn't worked and died in England for thousands of years, you and I couldn't sit here without having our throats cut. There would be no trains, no ships to carry us literary people about in, no fields even. Just savagery. No — perhaps not even that. Without their spirit, life might never have moved out of protoplasm. More and more do I refuse to draw my income and sneer at those who guarantee it." "Margaret had often wondered at the disturbance that takes place in the world's waters when Love, who seems so tiny a pebble, slips in. Whom does Love concern beyond the beloved and the lover? Yet his impact deluges a hundred shores." "A younger woman might have resented his masterly ways, but Margaret had too firm a grip of life to make a fuss. She was, in her own way, as masterly. If he was a fortress she was a mountain peak, whom all might tread, but whom the snows made nightly virginal." "By all means subscribe to charities — subscribe to them largely — but don't get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question — except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be." "Love and Truth — their warfare seems eternal. Perhaps the whole visible world rests on it, and if they were one, life itself, like the spirits when Prospero was reconciled to his brother, might vanish into air, into thin air." "Why has not England a great mythology? Our folklore has never advanced beyond daintiness, and the greater melodies about our countryside have all issued through the pipes of Greece. Deep and true as the native imagination can be, it seems to have failed here. It has stopped with the witches and the fairies. It cannot vivify one fraction of a summer field, or give names to half a dozen stars. England still waits for the supreme moment of her literature — for the great poet who shall voice her, or, better still, for the thousand little poets whose voices shall pass into our common talk." "Nothing matters, except one's self-respect and that of one's friends."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    Forster is the Jane Austen of the 20th century. He clearly read her novels and fell in love. And this makes him rather unusual amongst his literary peers. He didn’t do anything new; he didn’t write with any particular passion or any attempt at breaking a literary boundary. His writing is relatively safe compared to the likes of Joyce or Woolf. But in such safety a certain simple beauty can be found because Howard’s End is a novel about reconciliation; it’s about conflict and resolution; it’s Forster is the Jane Austen of the 20th century. He clearly read her novels and fell in love. And this makes him rather unusual amongst his literary peers. He didn’t do anything new; he didn’t write with any particular passion or any attempt at breaking a literary boundary. His writing is relatively safe compared to the likes of Joyce or Woolf. But in such safety a certain simple beauty can be found because Howard’s End is a novel about reconciliation; it’s about conflict and resolution; it’s about bringing people who are so radically different together. And I love this. I love the way he spends the entire novel showing how the two families (Wilcox & Schlegel) are so opposed in traditions and values; yet, for all that, he offers no comment on which way is right but instead brings them together in one big union at the end: it’s a celebration of life and love. "Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is part of the battle against sameness. Differences - eternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow, perhaps, but colour in the daily grey.” The house, Howard's End, is at the centre of the action. It’s bequeathed by Mrs Wilcox to Margaret who (unlike the Wilcox’s) is the only one capable of seeing, and feeling, it’s true value. The remaining Wilcox’s decide to destroy the evidence and rent the house out because they want the money. And with this begins a discussion about the importance of death and life, about respecting wishes and understanding the importance of sentiments. So the plot was immediate; it didn’t mess around and started flowing from the first page. And that’s kind of important with novels like this, novels that are largely about domestic life and the complications of class and money. The Wilcox’s are overly concerned with money and status (and acquiring more of it.) The Schlegel’s care about education, art, books and the passions of the soul. The two families become unlikely acquaintances and eventually friends (though not without an early embarrassment over an impromptu and insincere marriage proposal.) It’s a nice easy read (a little lacklustre) but one is quite clearly content with its calm and subtle evocation of the variety of life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    3.5 stars "A place, as well as a person, may catch the glow. Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is part of the battle against sameness. Differences--eternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow perhaps, but colour in the daily grey." Howards End is the second book in my endeavor to re-read all of E.M. Forster’s major novels. Having read five of these in my late teens, I decided that it would be fun to approach them with 3.5 stars "A place, as well as a person, may catch the glow. Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is part of the battle against sameness. Differences--eternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow perhaps, but colour in the daily grey." Howards End is the second book in my endeavor to re-read all of E.M. Forster’s major novels. Having read five of these in my late teens, I decided that it would be fun to approach them with more years, wisdom, and appreciation for literature on my side. Well, I don’t necessarily claim much more in the way of wisdom (in fact, I sure felt a lot ‘smarter’ back in the day), so perhaps experience would be a better word! In any case, my first book on the list – A Room with a View – proved to be a marvelous success. I had high hopes for Howards End. The result? Well, I will say that I am still a great admirer of Forster’s vision and brilliance. I adored this more in theory than in the execution, perhaps. If I could boil down this piece to those passages I highlighted – and there were loads of them – then this would have been five stars without a doubt. If I could have removed some of the superfluous philosophizing that sometimes left me literally closing my eyes from time to time, then this would be sitting on my favorites shelf. I wanted to love this! Instead, I appreciated it and ultimately liked it. There is so much one could say about the themes in this book. There is of course the overlying theme ‘to connect’. This word ‘connect’ appears repeatedly throughout. Forster introduces us to the Schlegels, a very comfortable, perhaps middle-class family. They appreciate art, literature, and discussion - much like us dear Goodreaders. One can’t help but become attached to them – in particular the two sisters, Margaret and Helen. Oh, how I would love to sit down with them and have an intelligent conversation about books, music, and women's rights. Their lives become decisively intertwined with the Wilcox family, representing the wealthy, conservative and less imaginative set. "… they avoided the personal note in life. All Wilcoxes did. It did not seem to them of supreme importance." The Schlegel’s desire to connect with one and all further entangles them with the impoverished Basts, in particular, Leonard Bast, an intelligent young man who aspires to more than what his lower class would readily allow. "He felt that he was being done good to, and that if he kept on with Ruskin, and the Queen's Hall Concerts, and some pictures by Watts, he would one day push his head out of the grey waters and see the universe." The three families clearly illustrate the distinct differences in the social classes existing within pre-World War I England. Is it possible to cross these social boundaries? The Schlegels would like to think so and in fact strive to do just that. Their efforts are always endearing, occasionally comical, and sometimes disastrous. At the heart of this novel, too, is Howards End, the house, one of the Wilcox’s family homes. Howards End is where Ruth Wilcox was born. To her, the house has a spirit. Her husband and children do not feel the same affinity to the house as she. But Margaret Schlegel, with whom she strikes up a friendship, understands places and homes. Howards End takes on a life of its own until it becomes akin to a vital character in the novel. "She paced back into the hall, and as she did so the house reverberated… But it was the heart of the house beating, faintly at first, then loudly, martially. It dominated the rain." The rural setting of Howards End is further contrasted with the chaos of London. It seems to be the heart of the country for those like the Schlegels. "She recaptured the sense of space, which is the basis of all earthly beauty, and, starting from Howards End, she attempted to realize England." Eventually, good-intentioned meddling has serious consequences, unlikely romances form, and a rift develops and deepens both within and across families. Is it possible to mend such a fracture or will it always be necessary to separate one class from another? Aside from the relevant commentary regarding social and economic classes, this novel also examines the differences between genders. Forster is clearly an early champion for feminism; and I applaud him once again for his progressive views regarding women’s rights. I admire the way he paints his female characters and they are turning out to be among my favorites in the literary world. So you see, there is much I truly liked about Howards End. The themes, the dialogue, and many of the characters – those elements shine. Subtract the labored philosophizing as well as the frequent trespass of the author into the story and this would be all I had imagined it to be. The other day I had the opportunity to watch the superb 1992 Merchant Ivory film adaptation, which I highly recommend. It truly sparkles and brings this to a whole new level. I daresay I prefer the movie over the book – you really must watch it if you haven’t done so already. It remains true to the heart of the story, those parts I loved best. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 "Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    I've read three of Forster's most well known novels, and yet, I don't feel I know them at all. Even this one, as I read it, was fading from memory. I don't mean to say that his work is forgettable, but with every Forster book I've read - amazing human portraits and elegant, occasionally profound turns of phrase - somehow they all flitter on out of my head. It's as if they were witty clouds: intelligent and incorporeal. Heck, I've even seen movie versions for a couple of them and I still don't I've read three of Forster's most well known novels, and yet, I don't feel I know them at all. Even this one, as I read it, was fading from memory. I don't mean to say that his work is forgettable, but with every Forster book I've read - amazing human portraits and elegant, occasionally profound turns of phrase - somehow they all flitter on out of my head. It's as if they were witty clouds: intelligent and incorporeal. Heck, I've even seen movie versions for a couple of them and I still don't recall what the stories are about. Why is that? If I could pinpoint it, well, then I wouldn't have started this review with that first paragraph. Perhaps it is because of Forster's penchant for pleasant diversions. He expounds upon ideas as the action unfolds, and that's wonderful! He gives the reader some very nice theories on human behavior to ponder upon. My problem is that I ponder too frickin' much! A writer like Forster is a danger to me. My imagination likes to fly and it's not very well tethered, so when I read books like Howards End with lines like "And of all means to regeneration remorse is surely the most wasteful. It cuts away healthy tissues with the poisoned. It is a knife that probes far deeper than the evil."...oh boy, off goes my mind in another direction and the next thing I know I've spent 20 minutes on a single page. Ah, but they are wondrous pages to linger upon. Perhaps it is worth the time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jaidee (Away from Goodreads until Feb 2...happy reading)

    2.5 "This Champagne has gone flat and don't tell me that Vanilla is from Madagascar" stars !! In my late teens I read all of Mr. Forster's books and although not my favorites I enjoyed them thoroughly. I wanted to re-read one at random and see what my forty-something self thought and felt. Alas, this particular reading of Howard's End did not hold up for me the way I had expected it too. I want to to be clear though that I found parts of it sparkling but the majority of it was simply ho-hum and 2.5 "This Champagne has gone flat and don't tell me that Vanilla is from Madagascar" stars !! In my late teens I read all of Mr. Forster's books and although not my favorites I enjoyed them thoroughly. I wanted to re-read one at random and see what my forty-something self thought and felt. Alas, this particular reading of Howard's End did not hold up for me the way I had expected it too. I want to to be clear though that I found parts of it sparkling but the majority of it was simply ho-hum and did not stand the test of time. This is a novel that writes about particular substrates of class in early twentieth Century England. We have the cultured and idle rich, the brash and industrious nouveau riche and the struggling working classes. There is also commentary on city vs. rural living, relations between the genders and the superiority of anything British over anything continental never mind foreign. A novel about social commentary and where England was headed during that period of time. This is all very good but Mr. Forster forces it down our throats between absolutely brilliant and hilarious dialogue that if left alone would have stood on their own in a thought provoking and very pleasant way. The characters are not well drawn out, the men are either blustering dominants, idle entitled layabouts or over-romantic zealots. The women are mostly hysterical, over-emotional, irrational and if sensible than dull either in appearance or imagination or intelligence. The plot is convenient. This novel does shine though in its dialogue and some of the description of both cityscape and rural living as well as the quirky descriptions of some of the more minor characters. An enjoyable read that to me is more a bagatelle than a substantial sonata.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This novel from 1910 has a lovely Shakespearean flavor of good intentions leading to unintended consequences. Urgent letters between sisters kicks off its engaging plot about the collision between two very different families. The younger sister Helen Schlegel, visiting the rural “Howard’s End” estate of the conservative, wealthy Wilcox family, writes to Margaret that she is love with and wants to marry one of their sons Paul (which grew out of a single impulsive kiss). Margaret urges her aunt to This novel from 1910 has a lovely Shakespearean flavor of good intentions leading to unintended consequences. Urgent letters between sisters kicks off its engaging plot about the collision between two very different families. The younger sister Helen Schlegel, visiting the rural “Howard’s End” estate of the conservative, wealthy Wilcox family, writes to Margaret that she is love with and wants to marry one of their sons Paul (which grew out of a single impulsive kiss). Margaret urges her aunt to travel there to make sure the Wilcoxes are “their kind of people.” By the time she arrives, Helen has already fallen out with Paul, who is headed for Nigeria to manage the family’s rubber plantation. Later, when the Wilcoxes move near the Schlegels in London, and Margaret tries to make amends by reaching out to the mother Ruth Wilcox. I loved experiencing how their brief friendship blossomed over discussions of the meaning of a home and the value she places in the family homestead of Howard’s End, which her husband Henry considers only in light of its real estate value. Early in the plot, Ruth dies and the discovery by Henry of a handwritten bequeathment of the estate to Margaret leads to the Wilcox family deciding to ignore the request. Already we see how Helen’s impulse toward romance with Paul has the unintended consequence of a special friendship of Margaret with Ruth and a hidden act of generosity. It has also brought Margaret into more contact with the widower Henry and a surprising romance between opposites: she an early feminist who admires literature and arts and supports programs for the poor, and he a pragmatic industrialist who is a true believer in the genetic superiority of his class. The other unintended consequence comes when Helen mistakenly takes the umbrella of Leonard Bast after a theater performance. When he drops by to retrieve it, the sisters kindly draw him out and find they admire his ambitions to imbibe literature and work his way up in class from his lowly position as a bank clerk. His dreamy account of tuning into nature by tramps in the woods a la Ruskin makes them admire him more than bumbling life probably deserves. Margaret presses Henry for advice to help him better his circumstances, which turns out to be disastrous for Leonard and his wife when they follow through with his recommendation. This fate turns Helen even more against the Wilcoxes and makes for a serious wedge in her relationship with Margaret. There is tragedy in the tale, but all key characters make a satisfactory transformation toward becoming better, more empathetic human beings despite the boundaries of class. I liked this even better than “Passage to India”. I absolutely loved Margaret’s outlook and continual efforts to build bridges. Her charm for me equals that of Woolf’s indomitable Mrs. Dalloway. Immediately after the delightful read (by LibriVox audiobook), I had the great pleasure of experiencing Emma Thompson nail the role in the sumptious Merchant Ivory production. Helena Bonham Carter rendered a great adaptation for the flighty, idealistic Helen.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    The beginning started off slow but not boring. It was just trying to get into the plot but once it got into it was nice and flowing. Forster for being hardly into his 30s writing this amazing eye opening story is just incredible. His major understandings of society at that age are things people barely start to grasp in their 50s.... Howards End is the beginning of the story and the end to it. The house is more like a metaphor of all rich and poor dying but structures will always be standing and The beginning started off slow but not boring. It was just trying to get into the plot but once it got into it was nice and flowing. Forster for being hardly into his 30s writing this amazing eye opening story is just incredible. His major understandings of society at that age are things people barely start to grasp in their 50s.... Howards End is the beginning of the story and the end to it. The house is more like a metaphor of all rich and poor dying but structures will always be standing and mean more than any man alive. Forster incorporates class warfare through the Wilcox's, the Schlegel sisters, and the Basts. Helen upon meeting and introducing the Wilcox's to her family, sets off a chain of events that cannot be helped. Margaret is the most significant character in the story because she has the most obvious change in personality from beginning, middle, and end. This is a clever drama that one cannot forget ever reading. It will make you mad and thoughtful and laugh and then think again about your own society. Just because he saw an English societal conflict in the 1910s doesn't mean it can't pertain to today to any other country. Forster tackles the errors and selfishness and hopeful love of humans. This story can be read over and over and will always feel relevant. I am sorry if I am botching it but it is hard to explain. It's a book that makes you feel.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    No good deed goes unpunished. That could be the unofficial theme of this novel. I read this as a young adult, loved it, and decided to re-read it after seeing Jeffrey Keeten's excellent review a few months ago. And yes, I still love it, but for different reasons this time around. A much simplified plot synopsis gives us Meg Schlegel, a practical but plain lady of the middle class in England, who, with her sister and brother, live a comfortable life in London, espousing liberal causes and No good deed goes unpunished. That could be the unofficial theme of this novel. I read this as a young adult, loved it, and decided to re-read it after seeing Jeffrey Keeten's excellent review a few months ago. And yes, I still love it, but for different reasons this time around. A much simplified plot synopsis gives us Meg Schlegel, a practical but plain lady of the middle class in England, who, with her sister and brother, live a comfortable life in London, espousing liberal causes and following her heart. She marries a wealthy business man, who is decidedly conservative in his views, and of course trouble ensues on both sides of the families. As I said, this is the bare bones of this story, because the plot zigs and zags, dances and weaves,with lies, secrets, coincidences, maneuvering and manipulation on both sides. The story begins and ends at Howard's End, a country house belonging to the first wife of Henry Wilcox, the aforementioned wealthy businessman. Whenever I'm reading a classic of whatever period, (This one takes place around 1910), I am always surprised to read about conversations and scenes that could have happened just yesterday as far as human emotions and liberal versus conservative viewpoints are concerned. This is not a political novel at all, and I found myself agreeing with both sides at different times, for different reasons. Suffice it to say that do-gooders can sometimes do more harm than good, and poor people are always the losers. I have to compare this novel to finishing a great meal, rising from the table completely satisfied. That's how I felt turning the last page. Man oh man, that was good!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    "Only connect" is doubtless the most famous line from this book, and typical of Forster's knack for sprinkling unexpectedly modern-sounding phrases into his prose. PLOT This is the story of the Schlegel sisters: half German Edwardians living in London. They are intellectual and comfortably off, but more bohemian/Bloomsbury than establishment. They encounter the wealthier and more conservative Wilcoxes and the struggling clerk Leonard Bast. Their altruistic attempts at social engineering are "Only connect" is doubtless the most famous line from this book, and typical of Forster's knack for sprinkling unexpectedly modern-sounding phrases into his prose. PLOT This is the story of the Schlegel sisters: half German Edwardians living in London. They are intellectual and comfortably off, but more bohemian/Bloomsbury than establishment. They encounter the wealthier and more conservative Wilcoxes and the struggling clerk Leonard Bast. Their altruistic attempts at social engineering are sometimes amusing but ultimately tragic. HOWARD "Howard's End" is the name of a house that has great significance in the story; it doesn't refer to the death of someone called Howard. But why no apostrophe? THE FILM My fondness for the film is heightened by the fact the house used as Howards End is in the village where I grew up (and my mother still lives). It's always fun spotting familiar locations. When I saw it in the cinema, a couple of women behind me were discussing the locations and eventually agreed with each other that it was a particular place in East Anglia. I didn't disabuse them of that (they weren't talking to me), but having a little inside knowledge felt like a special secret. Related trivia: the film stars Helena Bonham-Carter, whose great aunt was a long-time resident of the village and pillar of the community, until she died in her 90s.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Reading this at the time I did is an event I can only describe as 'lucky', seeing as how both my reasoning and the circumstances hardly heralded how much I would love this work. The facts: Carson's The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos left me with a craving for something white and male and English, a rare beast these days that has made this the seventh work out of 45 read this year that fits that all too often ubiquitous combination of characteristics. I turned to the Reading this at the time I did is an event I can only describe as 'lucky', seeing as how both my reasoning and the circumstances hardly heralded how much I would love this work. The facts: Carson's The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos left me with a craving for something white and male and English, a rare beast these days that has made this the seventh work out of 45 read this year that fits that all too often ubiquitous combination of characteristics. I turned to the stacks, thinking on the days of Maugham and James and pondering the latter's The Ambassadors as the likely candidate before remembrance of the author's hate for feminists dampened my mood. Then I remembered Forster and his A Room with a View, filmed but never read, and pulled out my combined edition that despite never having wished to read Howards End I had never seen fit to replace. I flipped to the front and lo! the cover had lied, and HE proceeded ARwaV. After muddling through the Listopia lists left me scoffing yet intrigued by HE's place on 'Best Feminist Books' (ha!), I began to read. This is not Middlemarch, or Shirley, or some flavor of androgynous voice, but of the same strain of warm insight that paints a picture of privilege without pretense. There is acknowledgement of classism, anti-intellectualism, Imperialism, even the overarching sexism that initially drew me on to testing these waters, and yet here are humans that I feel for utterly. Forster must have read his Hugo to have such a taste for daydreaming digressions on Place and Time and the usual Big Ideas, but not too much, else the politickings would have been more in evidence in both composition and biography. He also made a wonderful effort to portray the Female Voice, something that the French master for all his overt empathy never quite achieved. Where Hugo rhapsodizes on war and justice, Forster contemplates domesticity and the everyday, less admirable in his lack of stridency, more appreciated for his keen insight into what powers these lives of ours when the climax is through and we're left to ride out the rest. I've stolen the phrase "soap opera with brains" from an unfortunately forgotten individual for a review before and I'll steal it again, for a world in which we denigrate our humble to's and fro's as not fit for "quality" entertainment is a sad world indeed. As often as I speak of social justice, I would go mad if I were to live in the mindset forevermore, the strain of dwelling on idealism too long in this reality of ours being what it is. Sometimes, I must rest my hat on the guarantee that I'll be coming back to it for the rest of my life, and go off to a place where the need for equality is recognized without forbearing the sentiment of simple pleasures. Although Forster has his moments of naive whimsy that forbid me from declaring this a favorite, I will admit to loving this book, balancing as it does action with thought, practicality with philosophy, efficiency with insight. Best of all, letting each side appeal to the other with the necessary determination to see the attraction through without sudden windfall or other poor excuses of deus ex machina. Also, scenes of women ferociously ripping apart double-standards of gender, mental health, and love, setting forth to develop their own sense of things and given the capability to achieve their vision? Yes please. And now, off to the long intended A Room with a View!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Many critics consider this to be Forster’s masterpiece, and it is hard to imagine a more searing and poignant examination of the social, philosophic, and economic issues facing England during the fascinating window between Queen Victoria and World War I. Forster uses three families—the intellectual and impractical Schlegels, the materialistic and empire-building Wilcoxes (who drove through the bucolic Shropshire countryside and “spoke of Tariff Reform”), and the working class Basts—to explore Many critics consider this to be Forster’s masterpiece, and it is hard to imagine a more searing and poignant examination of the social, philosophic, and economic issues facing England during the fascinating window between Queen Victoria and World War I. Forster uses three families—the intellectual and impractical Schlegels, the materialistic and empire-building Wilcoxes (who drove through the bucolic Shropshire countryside and “spoke of Tariff Reform”), and the working class Basts—to explore the central question: “Who will inherit England?” The three families form unlikely and problematic friendships, but when inter-marriage and inter-breeding occur, things really get interesting. Readable, fascinating, and supremely eloquent, Howard’s End explores the tragedies that result from failures to “connect”, both among groups of people and within individual characters, yet in the end offers hope and redemption.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    The Schlegel sisters seemed like characters plucked straight out of a Jane Austen book, or books. Some combination of Emma Woodhouse (Emma) and the Dashwood sisters (Sense and Sensibility). But the story and the style are entirely Forster's. The focus of the story is the social class differences in English society. The setting is Edwardian Era England, sandwiched tightly between the end of the Victorian Era and the beginning of World War I. Most of Forster's novels were published in this 1st The Schlegel sisters seemed like characters plucked straight out of a Jane Austen book, or books. Some combination of Emma Woodhouse (Emma) and the Dashwood sisters (Sense and Sensibility). But the story and the style are entirely Forster's. The focus of the story is the social class differences in English society. The setting is Edwardian Era England, sandwiched tightly between the end of the Victorian Era and the beginning of World War I. Most of Forster's novels were published in this 1st decade of the century. I have read them all and what strikes me is their easiness to read, and how different each one is to the other. This one, Howard's End, is considered his masterpiece, and who am I to disagree. 4.5 stars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Howards End is Forster's attempt to explore the social, political, cultural and philosophical changes that were at force at the turn of the 20th century. Using three families - the Wilcoxes, the Schlegels and the Basts, he writes an intricate story expounding the changes that were slowly engulfing England during the Edwardian era. The three families Forster has used for his story represents three sectors. The Wilcoxes are the solid, materialistic and practical imperialists. They are the rich Howards End is Forster's attempt to explore the social, political, cultural and philosophical changes that were at force at the turn of the 20th century. Using three families - the Wilcoxes, the Schlegels and the Basts, he writes an intricate story expounding the changes that were slowly engulfing England during the Edwardian era. The three families Forster has used for his story represents three sectors. The Wilcoxes are the solid, materialistic and practical imperialists. They are the rich upper middle class who keep the economic wheel of England going and who controls the working ethics. They represent more or less the Victorian conventional rigidity. The Schlegels are the intellectual and cultural idealists. They are a different sector of upper middle class. They represent the modern visionary. And the Basts represent the underprivileged or rather "victimized" lower middle class who lack the wealth and culture to better them. Through his story Forster forces these three families on one another and exposes the class difference and inherent hypocrisy of the conventional rich. Forster favoures the themes of class difference and hypocrisy and as I've already mentioned they play a major role in Howards End too. This is very much expressed through Wilcoxes treatment towards the Schlegels and the Basts, and at times Schlegels treatment towards Basts. But the most important theme was the philosophical debate on what was life? Was it the outer world of "telegrams and anger" as Forster called it or the inner world of personal relations and emotions? Margaret Schlegel thinks the life's glory is "only to connect" meaning the connection with people personally and emotionally while Henry Wilcox thinks that only "concentration" which is the rigid, conventional and emotionally devoid conduct of outer world is the "real life". This was quite an interesting and in depth debate of which Forster chooses the winner to be the philosophy of "connecting". One criticism against Forster is that the characters he brings into his novels are not likable. This was perhaps true in A Passage to India but in both A Room with a View and Howards End such criticism is groundless. In Howards End the personal growth of the characters developed and altered their personalities so much that at the end I was able to like them very much. However, out of all I favoured the Schelgel sisters - the strong but emotional and romantic Margaret and the emotional yet impulsive Helen. I also ended up liking the rigid, emotionally devoid and hypocritical Henry Wilcox who was properly humbled by reason of personal tragedy. There was a lot of symbolism at play in the novel. And so much of importance was given to the different houses through which the personalities of the characters were expressed. Howards End, the property on which the novel derives the title, was practically a symbol for England. Written at a time when England was slowly coming out of convention and moving towards liberalism, Forster raises the question to whom England belong? Howards End finally belongs to Henry, Margaret, Helen and Helen's son from Leonard Bast. And symbolically this indicates of a merging of classes obscuring the boundaries. This perhaps was Forster's prophecy as to the collapse of the class system in the future. And it is also noteworthy to mention at this point that it was Margaret Schlegel/Wilcox who unites the opposing factions at the end. It is as if Forster saw a woman or rather women as being the deciding factor in changing the conventional English society in to a more liberal and tolerant one. Forster was one of the early feminists and his feminist perspective is clearly displayed here. Finally it would be quite amiss if I don't comment on Forster's writing. It is exquisite. The poetic and flowery prose and the beautiful metaphors made it an exceedingly pleasurable read. The colourful and picturesque description made the writing more in line with the Victorian time. I felt Forster's writing in the Howards End to be a tribute to the great Victorian literature. The reading was absolutely a pleasure. I enjoyed it very much. Many say that Howards End is Forster's masterpiece. And I heartily agree.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Howards End is a chatty, witty, philosophical novel about the state of England in the years leading up to the first world war. There’s a sharp sense of place (Howards End, the estate, was modelled after Forster’s childhood home), and by focusing on three separate families, you certainly understand the social hierarchy of Edwardian England. The book’s famous epigraph (“Only connect...”) refers to the need for humans to empathize with others, cutting across boundaries of class, culture, geography Howards End is a chatty, witty, philosophical novel about the state of England in the years leading up to the first world war. There’s a sharp sense of place (Howards End, the estate, was modelled after Forster’s childhood home), and by focusing on three separate families, you certainly understand the social hierarchy of Edwardian England. The book’s famous epigraph (“Only connect...”) refers to the need for humans to empathize with others, cutting across boundaries of class, culture, geography and the sins of the past. This theme comes through vividly. The characters often feel a little thin, however, and the plot slightly contrived. Forster’s omniscient narrator can be wonderfully casual, as in the relaxed, conversational opening: “One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister.” But we never get too deep into anyone’s consciousness, so occasionally characters’ actions seem perplexing. Sometimes you can feel Forster overworking his symbols, not letting them emerge organically. A few passages are so densely poetic that they require several readings to grasp. And the climax – in which all three families’ fates intersect irrevocably – seems forced. But you get the sense throughout that Forster is trying to root out deep human truths and question the basis of charity, forgiveness, duty and mercy. Noble goals. And there are passages of great beauty and intelligence. Despite its period setting, the themes still feel relevant. In light of the recent economic crisis, and things like the Occupy movement, Forster's examination of the haves and the have-nots hits home powerfully.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    “Howards End” is E.M. Forster’s statement on classism, and because he is E.M. Forster, it is the most elegant and romantic comment on the struggle of classes that you will ever read. It begins with a rich, old money family getting deeply upset by the idea of their youngest son getting entangled with a middle-class, bohemian half-German young woman… The Schlegel sisters are from a comfortable but middle-class family, that cares about literature and art more than they do about money and status. “Howards End” is E.M. Forster’s statement on classism, and because he is E.M. Forster, it is the most elegant and romantic comment on the struggle of classes that you will ever read. It begins with a rich, old money family getting deeply upset by the idea of their youngest son getting entangled with a middle-class, bohemian half-German young woman… The Schlegel sisters are from a comfortable but middle-class family, that cares about literature and art more than they do about money and status. They meet and befriend the Wilcoxes, a wealthy family who care very much about appearances, and also form a friendship with Leonard Bast, a clerk with financial and personal struggles. These friendships will transform their existences, as Mrs. Wilcox develops a deep friendship for the older sister, Margaret, and decides on her deathbed to leave her the house of Howards End. The social entanglements of this story are fascinating, the dialogues and characterization very strong. Having read and loved “A Room with a View”, I had an idea of what I was getting into with “Howards End”, but this novel is much more mature: the social and political commentary is much more pointed and focused. The same element of proto-feminism that made Lucy Honeychurch the great heroine she was is taken one step further with Margaret Schlegel: she is older than Lucy at the begining of the story, a spinster who lives with her younger siblings and runs the house their father left them. She is strong-willed, opinionated and outspoken from the start; I for one was a bit surprised at Mr. Wilcox’s interest in her, she simply didn’t seem like the kind of person he’d be attracted to – especially when she is pushed to the point of calling him on his bullshit! I grew up in a family very much like the Schlegel: intellectual, middle-class, obsessed with books, art, culture, music, philosophy, very disdainful of the gaudy excesses of richer people. My family is more likely to judge you for not knowing who Albert Camus is than to form an opinion of you based on your outfit. In my decade-long career as an executive administrative assistant, I have seen the other side of the looking glass: suits with vacuous trophy-wives who had probably never opened a book and who started at my Payless Shoe Source heels the way I look at moldy cheese… It’s hard not to feel like we live on completely different planets... When I was young, I had a strong prejudice against the rich, I assumed that they were all cold and selfish. Of course, the world is a little more complicated than that, and many wealthy people are absolutely decent and generous human beings: but they do take some things for granted that are simply unrealistic for most. Their money liberates the from some stresses less wealthy people will struggle with their entire lives, and Forster does a wonderful job of painting a picture of that reality for his readers. When Mrs. Wilcox realizes that Margaret needs a new home because the lease on her family house will be up soon, she is devastated because it never occurred to her before that this sort of thing can happen to “real people”. Mr. Wilcox can only see the potential repercussion of his acquaintance with the Basts on himself and his reputation, and is blind to how his actions might affect them. This lack of empathy made me cringe. Mrs. Wilcox’ spontaneous gesture of kindness contrasted with the senseless selfishness of her family (they won’t give the house away but they also won’t live in it!) shows the varying shades of moral grayness one can find in human nature. This book is a really interesting study of class, things we take for granted and the role money plays in our vision of the world. It made me want to push “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” to the top of my “to-read” pile to get a more political perspective on the subject, as both books take place in the first decade of the 20th century. The characters see classes as a “sort” of people, and would probably find the very word “class” distasteful, but the very real distance they insist on putting between themselves and others – based on their arbitrary standards of wealth and education and how this distance can improve or worsen some people’s living conditions is touching and thought-provoking. This is a fantastic book, and the gorgeous Merchant-Ivory adaptation is well-worth watching. I enjoyed both immensely and recommend them to all fans of British literature.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    I started out liking this. I was even thinking this was going to be my first four-star novel of the year. However, as Howards End progressed I found myself caring less and less about what was going on. By the time I was 50% of the way through I was just waiting for it to finish. I felt the exact same way about Where Angels Fear to Tread. Maybe it's Forster's prose? I don't know. I think Forster and I are going to have a turbulent relationship.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    It is the little things one bungles at. The big, real ones are nothing when they come. The last time I reviewed a novel by E.M. Forster, I wound up blubbering with praise; and now I find myself in similar circumstances. As with A Passage to India, I find Howards End exemplary in every respect: the themes, characterization, the prose, the pacing, the plot. I ought also to mention Forster’s versatility. Though rarely funny, Forster is capable of romantic lyricism, gritty realism, and flighty It is the little things one bungles at. The big, real ones are nothing when they come. The last time I reviewed a novel by E.M. Forster, I wound up blubbering with praise; and now I find myself in similar circumstances. As with A Passage to India, I find Howards End exemplary in every respect: the themes, characterization, the prose, the pacing, the plot. I ought also to mention Forster’s versatility. Though rarely funny, Forster is capable of romantic lyricism, gritty realism, and flighty philosophy. Most convincing of all is his control. Nothing is overdone or heavy-handed—which requires a mixture of technique and taste. While exploring social problems, one never feels that the novel is being unduly interrupted; while constructing a character into an archetype, one never feels that the individual is lost; and the story, though carefully plotted, rarely feels predictable or contrived. Yet Forster is not a great novelist for his skill alone. He is great because of his insight. More than any novelist I know, Forster is able to connect the inner with the outer life (which is the theme of this novel, and the source of its most famous quote: “Only connect”). Forster is able to show, in other words, how social and economic circumstances breed characters; and how even intelligent and well-meaning characters fail to escape the bounds of their class and nation. He shows, for example, how the money inherited by Margaret and Helen allows for their mental freedom; how Mr. Wilcox's business life molds him into a well-meaning shell; and how, despite his best efforts, Leonard Bast cannot help but be shaped by his poverty. However, if the novel has a message, it is this: even if the inner life is powerless to change material circumstances, it is ultimately the more important aspect of life. This is because, when a tragedy strikes, and mere business acumen or worldly knowledge will not suffice, it is emotional fortitude that is required. Mr. Wilcox has a sort of false strength—a fragile ego he hides behind, a sort of masculine bluff which is easily shattered. Margaret, by contrast, is able to endure tragedies because of her self-knowledge. She is not afraid of the darker aspects of her mind; thus she can look with equanimity upon herself and others, accepting their flaws while seeing their potential. This is what Forster means by “connect”: connecting “the beast” with “the monk”—that is, admitting one’s desires instead of hiding behind a false screen of decency. Only so can we achieve self-knowledge.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    Howards End is considered the masterpiece of Forster's career. It takes place in early 20th Century England. The story revolves around three families: the cultural idealism of the Schlegels, the pragmatic idealism of the Wilcoxes, and the poverty of the Basts. This is an astounding, well-written book full of symbolism and shocking events. Forster exhibits a mastery of imagination in portraying the many ways and times these representatives of the three classes interact. This is a book about the Howards End is considered the masterpiece of Forster's career. It takes place in early 20th Century England. The story revolves around three families: the cultural idealism of the Schlegels, the pragmatic idealism of the Wilcoxes, and the poverty of the Basts. This is an astounding, well-written book full of symbolism and shocking events. Forster exhibits a mastery of imagination in portraying the many ways and times these representatives of the three classes interact. This is a book about the social mores and classes of the early 20th Century England. The basic questions are this: Will England survive and who will inherit it? I am very impressed with this book despite the fact I enjoyed Room with a View more. I did not have to think and reflect so much on that one. Howards End IS worth the effort. 5 stars

  22. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    I vaguely remember seeing the film adaptation of Howards (no apostrophe-s!) End decades ago. I don’t remember much about the plot, I just vaguely (mis)remembered it as a story of some mad old biddy giving a house to Emma Thompson. I suppose if you must give away a house to someone Emma Thompson is not a bad choice, she is pretty cool. Anyway, after recently reading A Room with a View and The Machine Stops I have added E.M. Forster to my much coveted list of favorite classic authors (he missed I vaguely remember seeing the film adaptation of Howards (no apostrophe-s!) End decades ago. I don’t remember much about the plot, I just vaguely (mis)remembered it as a story of some mad old biddy giving a house to Emma Thompson. I suppose if you must give away a house to someone Emma Thompson is not a bad choice, she is pretty cool. Anyway, after recently reading A Room with a View and The Machine Stops I have added E.M. Forster to my much coveted list of favorite classic authors (he missed my sci-fi list by a hair, having written only one novella, albeit an excellent one). The nice lady who gives away the eponymous Howards End house is not an old biddy at all. She is roughly the same age as myself and is actually one of the least annoying characters in the book so I will retract both “old” and “biddy”. She is in poor health though and after spending some time with the kindly, friendly, clever and generally awesome Margaret Schlegel decided to write a note in pencil expressing her wish to give the house to her friend upon her death. This sounds like a ridiculous premise for a novel but Forster knew very well such a note would not be legally binding and the book is not about some kind of legal battle for the house, besides Margaret has no idea of the brief existence of the note until almost the end of the book. What Howards End is really about (unless I am very much mistaken) is social classes and their perception and relation to each other. The central characters represent the intellectual, the materialistic, and the poor. Their interactions in this book are on the whole not a happy one even though Margaret marries the stuffy businessman Henry Wilcox (whose wife – who is not an old biddy –snuffs it fairly early in the book). The book is not particularly densely plotted and any further description of the storyline seems like spoiler to me. Certainly it is full of themes and symbolisms about social classes, culture vs practicality etc. but as a reader I am more interested in the readability of it, the themes always come after the story for me. I find Howards End to be immensely readable and never drag at any time even though nothing much seems to happen in it; quite a triumphant achievement by Forster I think. I enjoy reading Forster’s observations of different kinds of people, their “lights and shades” as he puts it. The awkward romance between the two main characters who have nothing in common is peculiarly charming, especially when Henry, a man devoid of passion, tries to express touchy feely sentiments. The prose is characteristically top notch. I like Margaret’s notion of taming the stiff upper lipped Henry: “She might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man.” It can’t be easy constructing rainbow bridges. I don’t have a lot more to say about Howards End really because it is all about the characters, even the titular house is a character of sorts. Once you get to know these characters, their idiosyncrasies become quite absorbing. Anyway, I have no problem recommending this book, I enjoyed it from beginning to end. If you like characters study novels set in the Edwardian era this one is for you. ______________________ Notes Audiobook: I listened to the free Librivox edition, beautifully read (as always) by Elizabeth Klett, who is one of the very best readers on there. Thank you very much! I feel like I ought to rate it at 4 stars because I'm always throwing 5 stars about, but I can't think what to deduct the one star for.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    What can I say about this book. I loved it!!! I would never have picked it up normally but having seen it recently on BBC, a great adaptation by the way, I was interested in learning more. You know the type of stuff I mean, real feelings and inner thoughts that you can only guess at from the screen. I really liked Margaret. She's a very strong character and the family depend on her totally. She's loyal and loving while still being quite a modern woman for her time. She manages Henry very well. What can I say about this book. I loved it!!! I would never have picked it up normally but having seen it recently on BBC, a great adaptation by the way, I was interested in learning more. You know the type of stuff I mean, real feelings and inner thoughts that you can only guess at from the screen. I really liked Margaret. She's a very strong character and the family depend on her totally. She's loyal and loving while still being quite a modern woman for her time. She manages Henry very well. Knowing exactly when to push forward with him and when to withdraw. That is until that fateful day. Then afterwards, I think life gets better for her in that regard and she's not so 'careful' with him and he seems to accept it and respect her for it. This is a very prosy book. There are chunks of it which baffled me at times and had me wondering was the man wool gathering while writing it. It could have been shortened a bit and it wouldn't have detracted from the story. So reading this has encouraged me to read more of the classics. I'll definitely try another of his books.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Introduction Suggestions for Further Reading A Note on the Text --Howards End Explanatory Notes

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    It's difficult for me to judge this book on its own merit and not have it suffer in comparison to A Room with a View and Maurice, two books by Forster I recommend. But this book, while interesting at times and full of insights into human nature, as well as it being a meditation on a changing England at the beginning of the twentieth century, fell short for me. Most of the characters were unlikable or unsympathetic people who were either self-centered snobs or well meaning, but clueless about It's difficult for me to judge this book on its own merit and not have it suffer in comparison to A Room with a View and Maurice, two books by Forster I recommend. But this book, while interesting at times and full of insights into human nature, as well as it being a meditation on a changing England at the beginning of the twentieth century, fell short for me. Most of the characters were unlikable or unsympathetic people who were either self-centered snobs or well meaning, but clueless about others, especially those not of their own class. I felt the author created them that way to show a certain realism and to show strife on a low simmer between the various classes during that time in English society, setting up a story to have them collide in often improbable ways. There were The Wilcoxes who owned a home in the countryside called Howards End and were well to do business owners and non intellectuals. There were The Schlegels, cultured intellectuals of German and English descent who were comfortable financially due to inherited money. They met The Wilcoxes on holiday one year and met their fate. And finally, there were The Basts, relatively poor and yearning for a better life financially, and in the case of Mr. Bast, hoping for a richer life culturally. They intersected with the other two families and unknowingly acted as catalysts for what was to come. Through a series of chance encounters and later, chosen ones, they all affected each other for better or worse as they mingled. Running throughout this story was a heavy handed message about the disintegration of an English way of life formerly based on the land and the disintegration of the souls of people along with it, for those who failed to connect, not only with the land, but with one another and with themselves. The intent of this story, as I saw it, to enlighten and to warn, was a worthy one and kept my interest, but the messages the author wished to convey became repetitive, the story manipulated by him, with one disaster after another befalling the characters or disastrous decisions by them used to illustrate the themes. In a word, this story felt calculated and became muddled, leaving me dissatisfied, even though I admired the keen observations of the author and his intent to enlighten people by showing them at their worst. I wish I could say I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in honor of an author I respect, but by the end, it had become a depressing soap opera and something to endure.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    "He has a way with words" is probably a trite expression but it certainly applies to E.M. Forster. His writing is fluid, beautiful, and his stories well thought out. This book, written in 1910 certainly reflects the style of authors of that time but Forster is readable while some others at the turn of the 20th century appear stilted and formal. The book, set in the time of the publication, is the story of England at the highest point of its hopes but also reveals the one word upon which the "He has a way with words" is probably a trite expression but it certainly applies to E.M. Forster. His writing is fluid, beautiful, and his stories well thought out. This book, written in 1910 certainly reflects the style of authors of that time but Forster is readable while some others at the turn of the 20th century appear stilted and formal. The book, set in the time of the publication, is the story of England at the highest point of its hopes but also reveals the one word upon which the country was based.......class. The distinction between those with money, property or titles and "all the rest" was the accepted norm and it plays a major part in this story of two sisters whose lives take different paths. Forster hoped for a class free England and the image of the house Howard's End symbolizes the stability and peace that could be attained if class were put aside (or at least temporized). The well-off Schlegel sisters, who love each other as only sisters can, have a temporary parting of the ways when Helen, the more liberal of the two, gets involved with a couple, the Basts, who are poverty stricken and "lower class" while Margaret becomes friends with the Wilcox family who have money and status. What happens over the next three years is heartbreaking and some of the events are unexpected and may take the reader by surprise. But in the end the spirit and magic of Howard's End prevails, bringing peace and understanding. This is a classic work, written poetically, and full of emotion without being overwrought. Recommended highly.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    There are a million books about the inner lives of English people. Here is one of them.

  28. 4 out of 5

    classic reverie

    When I write my reviews besides focusing on what the stories mean to me, I also include thoughts that run through my mind that may seem of the mark but in my mind makes sense. Before I read E. M. Forster's Howards End, I had read William Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale. Why do I mention Maugham here? I don't know why my brain keeps these two authors so close together in my mind, they are unique in their own ways but many times I have to remember exactly who wrote which story and so I sometimes When I write my reviews besides focusing on what the stories mean to me, I also include thoughts that run through my mind that may seem of the mark but in my mind makes sense. Before I read E. M. Forster's Howards End, I had read William Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale. Why do I mention Maugham here? I don't know why my brain keeps these two authors so close together in my mind, they are unique in their own ways but many times I have to remember exactly who wrote which story and so I sometimes mix them up. They both were born in the 1870's and both died at the ripe age of 91. But when I think of the deeper reason I think that both know how to bring tragedy to their work which brings thought about human nature and to all the beings surrounding them. They show us characters that defy reasoning at times which sucks them deeper into despair. The stories may have a sort of happy ending but they are surely not a happily ever after as in fairy tales. Also both authors though men show us a stronger female, strong in her own way which shows she can think and reason but certainly may not be perfect; and they both give us women who are also are eager to please the men folk. I still have many novels left on both these authors, so I can assess if my thoughts change as I read on. In the 1990's I was a fan of Helena Bonham Carter and saw many movies she made back then, 1992 Howards End which I saw but can not remember the whole movie, so in reading the novel now, it was not so clear. I had known certain things would happen but thankfully my memory was fairly poor here and I was able to enjoy the book almost like new. I would like to see that version again and when I do I will add to this review and add a "spoiler alert" to warn you. That being said my thoughts on "Howards End" when I finished reading last night, I had to take a step back and see the genius of this novel. It started out rather slowly, I would not say boring but more circumvent in coming to the motif of it all which came about halfway into the book. Before that I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of the characters in life in London, families and books. I enjoyed reading what authors and stories E. M. Forster thought it important to mention, some I had read already and others I added to my list. I should have read this quicker but life kept it at bay but as soon as the story picked up, so did my reading speed. This has characteristics of a bildungsroman novel in my mind when a character in a story changes and comes to a better understanding in life, I label it as such. It might not be the technical definition but I call it such. Both sisters Margaret and Helen Schlegel are similar but different as night and day but both have a transformation of sorts as the story unfolds. The Schlegels have an English mother and a German father, both no longer living and the girls and younger brother, Tibby have learned to fend for their own with the help of legacies. What I find most interesting in this part is my wondering if E. M. Forster was thinking of his young charges of Elizabeth von Arnim and her Prussian husband, von Arnim-Schlagenthin. Forster and Hugh Walpole were the tutors for their children. I just wonder about some of his comments and his experiences. There is the class distinction of rich verses poor and where the responsibility lies which even today there is not an easy answer and probably never will be. The sisters befriend the Wilcoxs on vacation and that chance meeting changes all of their lives. To add to the tangle barely making ends meet, Leonard Bates and his wife bring drama and sadness to the story. Leonard wants to grab the rope that all other cultured beings hold on to but he seems never to be in reach and the sisters represent what he longs for in his life, have a good hold on the rope. One thing that Margaret's theories about some men is they don't use the word "I" but they expect to be a ruler to others and thinks of his way and himself. I understand what he was saying but the "I" is misplaced because if you think of "I" you have to consider others. This I can not agree with "I" can be used with never a thought about others and is the thinking of some people who have only regard for themselves. The story in brief, Helen Schlegel is invited to stay at Howards End with her new friends and life will never be the same for all involved! This is my favorite Forster so far and it is deemed a favorite.💕💞🌸 I did not read this edition but a Delphi collection of his works, if interested my notes and highlights are there. You can look above for my E. M. Forster shelf for the edition.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    While this book has an interesting plot and deals with various themes, it wasn't executed as well as I would've hoped. It basically deals with two sisters, Helen and Margaret, and their sister dynamics and family dynamics. However, this is also a story of differences between the middle class and the poor, love, death, hope and revenge. As you can see, the plot contains multiple strong elements, but what had me puzzled was the fact that Forster centers everything around the estate called Howards While this book has an interesting plot and deals with various themes, it wasn't executed as well as I would've hoped. It basically deals with two sisters, Helen and Margaret, and their sister dynamics and family dynamics. However, this is also a story of differences between the middle class and the poor, love, death, hope and revenge. As you can see, the plot contains multiple strong elements, but what had me puzzled was the fact that Forster centers everything around the estate called Howards End. To me, it seemed like Forster tried to make Howards End fit into the story - in other words, the role of Howards End seemed forced. During this story, I experienced quite a wave of feelings. At times, I was intrigued with the sisters and their destiny, at other times I was bored when Forster became too reflective. He lost me in his observations and long passages of descriptions, and I couldn't be bothered with paying too much attention. After having finished the book, I'm not sure why Forster decided to write about this many elements. In my eyes, it all became too jumbled, and when it comes down to it, it's basically just a story about two sisters and them growing up. I felt like Forster was doing too much with this story; however, I was entertained for most of it, and I did appreciate reading about the development and relationship between the two sisters (with or without all of the sub-themes).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I found rating this book extremely difficult because my feelings about it were all over the place during the reading. There are parts of the book that are so deftly done that they sparkle, there are parts where I wanted to scream “Seriously?” at the top of my lungs. For the parts I loved, there is the save-the-world good works of the sisters, particularly Helen, that are rooted in imagination rather than reality and cause far more harm than they can grasp. If you have never been hungry, it is I found rating this book extremely difficult because my feelings about it were all over the place during the reading. There are parts of the book that are so deftly done that they sparkle, there are parts where I wanted to scream “Seriously?” at the top of my lungs. For the parts I loved, there is the save-the-world good works of the sisters, particularly Helen, that are rooted in imagination rather than reality and cause far more harm than they can grasp. If you have never been hungry, it is obviously hard to conceive of what starvation feels like. There is the house itself, which is drawn with lovely prose and feels quite real to me. I could easy construct its gardens and furnishings in my mind’s eye, and wondered why anyone would leave it for the bustle of London in any case. There is the final one-quarter of the book that ties everything together, without condemning any particular point of view expressed by either side (and for my thinking, both sides had their points). The first Mrs. Wilcox shed her shadow over the house and its occupants without being eerie--a nice touch. And, I liked Margaret. I liked her honesty and her attempt to spare the feelings of others. She must remain herself, for his sake as well as her own, since a shadowy wife degrades the husband whom she accompanies; and she must assimilate for reasons of common honesty, since she had no right to marry a man and make him uncomfortable. On the reverse, however, there were a few characters who seemed a bit over or under developed. I have never met anyone like Leonard, and I sort of doubt anyone else has either. Same with Tibby, who I found downright irritating. There were sections in which I wanted to put a hand over Forster’s mouth and tell him to quit intruding in my story, and there were sections where I wanted to dismiss the clamor and unnecessary detail. So, I have arrived at a middle-ground. I had wanted to read this book for a long time, so I confess a smidgeon of disappointment, but on the whole happy to have done it. His masterpiece would still be A Passage to India for me.

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