In my attempt to read Forster books in order of their being written, I deviated a bit by reading A Room with a View before The Longest Journey, only b...moreIn my attempt to read Forster books in order of their being written, I deviated a bit by reading A Room with a View before The Longest Journey, only because I wanted to read the well-known one first. I could tell before even picking it up that Journey had the reputation of being a lesser work and now, after reading it, I can agree it deserves that reputation.
What I had really liked about Room was the humor that wound its way through the story, a type of humor that I guess you would call ‘Forsterian’. Witty lines of dialogue or narrative kept the whole thing fun and lively, giving a unique flavor to what would have been just another usual ‘romance’ story. In Journey, though, the humor is scattershot and the characters aren’t as interesting or likable, and neither is the story. It feels like Forster threw together a bunch of characters and situations more for the philosophical points he could make rather than for an interesting or believable plot.
And it’s that philosophical bent that throws the book off. The characters, situations, and objects in the story all serve some philosophical point or symbolize some arcane idea that Forster just wants to cram down the reader's throat, a lot of which flew over this reader's head since many of the allusions are made but never explained. There must have been some kind of zeitgeist thinking that would have been familiar to readers at the time, speaking to some cultural touchstone that was present then, but to modern eyes it just comes across as annoyingly pedantic. There were copious notes to the text but when reading them stopped the story 10 minutes at a time every other line... when the tiny but numerous allusions are thoroughly explained, and you realize that they end up not adding anything to the plot at all... it made reading a very trying experience.
In each book I’ve read by Forster there have always been some great lines that speak some great truth about being human, and there are a few found here as well. What with the current focus in society about bullying (bringing attention to it and trying to stop it), this book has some surprisingly modern things to say about bullying.
So all in all I can safely say this is a lesser Forster work. Its over-reliance on philosophy and symbolism sucked the joy out of any story told here, and unfortunately the story told here wasn't too great either. Where Angels Fear to Tread had a good story but no heart or humor, Journey has too much brain and not enough story or humor or heart. Room is the perfect synthesis of everything so far, the one where Forster gets everything just right.
Read Journey only if you’re a Forster completest. (less)
As much as I liked the first two novels, I like the short stories even more, probably because of the different mysteries and all the varied locations...moreAs much as I liked the first two novels, I like the short stories even more, probably because of the different mysteries and all the varied locations and people.
As I do with any anthology I'll list my favorites here with a word or two.
A Scandal in Bohemia I think it's funny that in the very first short story Sherlock Holmes meets his female match.
The Red-headed League A truly bizarre mystery with one of the funniest reveals so far---it makes perfect sense, but you'd never have thought of it.
The Five Orange Pips The bad guys in this story show how international the stories can be, and how varied the subject matter.
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle A mystery with quite a funny slapstick explanation---worthy of a Seinfeld episode really.
The Adventure of the Speckled Band Always cited as one of the most eerie, and I agree.
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches Another bizarre setup with, of course, a logical explanation. Great fun.
All the stories in this collection are fun and deserve to be read at least once, but these are the ones I think are especially good.(less)