Barksdale Penick's Reviews > Howards End

Howards End by E.M. Forster
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's review
May 02, 11

Read in May, 2011

The beginning of this book is amusing, lighthearted and well paced, as we meet the sisters Helen and Margaret. It had the whimsical feel of Cold Comfort Farm. But as the themes developed it becomes ponderous and moralistic. The recurrent theme of the hardworking, stolid, business class as the backbone of British supremacy seems utterly dated in view of the relative decline of British glory. The theme of the differences in men and women, and society's double standards ring true, but are presented in such a heavy handed, overbearing fashion as to make the reader hold the book farther away and turn the pages as fast as possible. Portrait of a Lady is dated in a similar fashion, as the modern reader has trouble feeling the intense and utter anguish caused to our heroine by an unwanted kiss from the moody American suitor, but the prose of Henry James makes up for the dated sentiments. Not so with Foerster. The writing is self conscious and lacking in instrinsic appeal. The plot is also presented in somewhat cryptic fashion, with the reader regularly trying to decide if he missed an important clue or if the author is merely hinting at a Big Development to Come Shortly.

I did like Margaret very much--she and her husband were devoted and determined to make their marriage work. But that is not enough to rescue this story.

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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Trina Although I admit to not having read this book in 20 years, it has always been one of my favorites. For me the strength of the book is in Margaret's understanding of what a house can be, what home means. Of course it's dated, but Forster fought for the overlooked quality of groundedness that goes missing so early in a society based on industry and power. I agree he's not as skilled a writer as James, but Forster's remains a voice I respect for addressing the complicated condition of humanity in modern life.

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