Zelda's Reviews > Howards End

Howards End by E.M. Forster
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May 08, 2014

it was amazing
Read in August, 2008

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.


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02/02 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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Robert Yep - "Only connect" seems entirely as relevant now as any other time in history, possibly more so.


Kathy Dou It certainly gave me the feeling of talking about China's present situation when I read how the charcoals and oil are eating up the road. I do feel its teach still works today.At least in China.


Carolyn I just loved this book. I don't know what else I can add to your perfect review.


Terri Lynn Well said. I loved this book. For me, one of the purposes of reading is to learn and grow and discover other times and places. For those who find this book to be too much, well, Stephenie Meyer and Harlequin romances has some silly beach reads for you.


Sharon Well said. This is the first review on this book I am reading, so I haven't come across the reviewers you mention. If they exist -- well, I can only sey they are unworthy of this book.


Katy What a fantastic review. I liked the book, but I can't write reviews. So I read other people's


message 7: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin Sold, Zelda. I will now read this book.
Thanks for your thoughtful opinion.


Jennifer Really insightful review. Thanks for sharing!


message 9: by Maria (new)

Maria Hill Well said. I like you.


message 10: by P.J. (new)

P.J. Sullivan All authors get negative reviews, some of them outrageously unfair. It is good to see someone rise to the defense of a defenseless author. The usual problem is subjectivity. Few people write objective reviews that are about the book, not about the reviewer.


message 11: by Mia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mia Oh gosh, I just loved this review; well said. I adore this book and am currently rereading it a second time.


message 12: by H. P. (new) - added it

H. P. Reed Well written. Not everything has to be "relevant" to today's plugged in culture.


Jessica A passing knowledge of England at the time and immersion in the contradictions of human beings should be enough to see anyone through this novel. I loved this book and I love your review.


message 14: by Candace (new) - added it

Candace Holan Howards End is my favorite book. I have read it at least five times and love it more after each reading. Bravo to your review!


message 15: by Nusrah (new) - added it

Nusrah Javed Stories do not have to be relateable to be enjoyable, but if they are, then its a bonus. I myself do not feel the necessity to relate to every place or every thing I read, because that is like closing up the opportunity of being taken places, that books so amicably provide. I haven't read this work of Forster's, but am familiar with his use of jargon from my experience with A room with a view, and I think it only makes his work better and much more unique.


message 16: by Marsi (new) - added it

Marsi Kajsiu Great review!


message 17: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Excellent review! It is like a book introduction that provides context for what you are about to read and like a book talk that explains why you should read it.


message 18: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Fitzsimons Howards End, like Forster's other novels (esp Passage to India), remains utterly and urgently relevant--speaking to every one of us from 100+ years ago about the here and now. Like Shakespeare, like Woolf, like other rare genius authors, Forster has an incandescent mind--he translates into prose the timeless human experience, in this case involving love and class and sex and nature and place and more and more. The text is deeply but seamlessly feminist--all women are Margaret Schlegel, navigating entrenched patriarchy, listening patiently to mansplaining.... The novel also has so much to say about contemporary class divisions and today's corrosive income inequality--no matter how hard he tries, Leonard Bast hasn't a snowball's chance in hell to better himself. And in a time of mass shootings, terrorist attacks, threats of forced deportations, political gridlock, etc, etc, its central message--"only connect"--is more relevant than ever. So, like you, I don't quite understand the argument that this book has "nothing to do" with its readers.


message 19: by Wenche (new)

Wenche Dyngeland I just want to say that I really love the novel and the movie. I have no problem relating to it


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