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A Passage to India

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When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced 'Anglo-Indian' community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and explore the 'real India', they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A masterful portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.

In his introduction, Pankaj Mishra outlines Forster's complex engagement with Indian society and culture. This edition reproduces the Abinger text and notes, and also includes four of Forster's essays on India, a chronology and further reading.

376 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1924

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About the author

E.M. Forster

505 books3,473 followers
Edward Morgan Forster, generally published as E.M. Forster, was an novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. His humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: "Only connect".

He had five novels published in his lifetime, achieving his greatest success with A Passage to India (1924) which takes as its subject the relationship between East and West, seen through the lens of India in the later days of the British Raj.

Forster's views as a secular humanist are at the heart of his work, which often depicts the pursuit of personal connections in spite of the restrictions of contemporary society. He is noted for his use of symbolism as a technique in his novels, and he has been criticised for his attachment to mysticism. His other works include Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908) and Maurice (1971), his posthumously published novel which tells of the coming of age of an explicitly gay male character.

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Profile Image for Baba.
3,621 reviews993 followers
July 22, 2023
Oh wow... did I not see this coming! First published in 1924 and set in India in the 1920s the time when the British Raj was under observation, critique and ultimately the threat of the Indian Independence Movement, this drama centred around a woman seeking a more fulfilling life in India as she seeks a relationship with a high ranking Englishman juxtaposed with the story of a Muslim doctor who dared to have a real friendship with a (liberal) Englishman pulls no punches at looking at the failing of not just the British Empire, but Britons themselves as they seek to maintain a hold over 'British-India'.

Even read through a 21st century lens this book stands tall, leaving no stone unturned at the despicable, but normalised attitudes, behaviours and actions of most of the Brits in India. It also casts unflattering eyes at women's lot and how they're treated and perceived in both communities. And notwithstanding all that good work the writer manages to give insight to the complexity of the many religions, castes, creeds etc. in India itself.

The story itself is a compelling and interesting read, and most of the characters with the omniscient narrator playing a strong part are pretty multi-faceted. He moves to another level as a writer for me, as even though he is immensely critical of the Empire, he does mot make the main Indian cast angels at all, but each of them have several layers, both good and bad as well.

I never understood the defence of people doing / promoting / normalising really unpleasant behaviour because of the age they lived / were published in, and the likes of E.M. Forster shows that right is right, and wrong is wrong regardless of the supposed status quo. A truly surprisingly good read... I am a Forster fan off of the back of my first venture into his work. 8.5 out of 12.

2022 read
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,683 followers
February 19, 2015
Make no mistake. This, to me, will always be Forster's magnum opus even though I am yet to even acquaint myself with the synopses of either Howards End or Maurice. Maybe it is the handicap of my Indian sentimentality that I cannot remedy on whim to fine-tune my capacity for objective assessment. But strip away a colonial India from this layered narrative. Peel away the British Raj too and the concomitant censure that its historical injustices invite. And you will find this to be Forster's unambiguous, lucid vision of humanity languishing in a zone of resentful sociocultural synthesis, his unhesitant condemnation not merely of racism, casteism, religion-ism and what other noxious, vindictive 'ism's we have had throughout the history of our collective existence but of the fatalistic human tendency of rejecting a simple truth in favour of self-justifying contrivances.

Yes there's the much hyped 'crime' analyzed in the broader context of presupposed guilt and innocence . There's the issue of race, class and privilege factoring into the ensuing judicial process. The ripples of the eventual fallout of this mishap disrupt the frail status quo that all parties on either side of the race divide were tacitly maintaining so far and pose crucial existential questions before people of all communities.
Then there are hypocritical Englishmen who cannot choose between preserving the sanctity of the Empire's administrative machinery and upholding their own prejudices. And hypocritical Indians who righteously accuse the Englishmen of institutionalized hatred while stringently maintaining their own brand of intolerance. But greater than the sum of all these thematic veins is the connecting thread of Forster's sure-footed, measured prose which explores not only the inner lives of the central characters but tries to penetrate the heart of a nation-state in the making.

The India depicted here is a foreign country to me - a time and a place yet to be demarcated irreversibly along lines of communal identities that are presently dominating our political rhetoric. It is of little appeal to the newly arrived umpteenth Englishman but, nonetheless, presents itself as an amalgamation of unrealized possibilities. Not once did my brows knit together in frustration on the discovery of any passage or line even casting a whiff of Forster's bias against the people or the land. My senses were stretched taut all the time in an effort to detect any. Sure, Dr. Aziz is a little infantilized and his importance is sometimes reduced to that of a plot device used for manufacturing the central conflict while Adela Quested, Mrs Moore and Mr Fielding appear before a reader as upright individuals who stand for the truth. The other Indian characters seem to be defined by their general pettiness. But these imperfect characterizations can be more than forgiven in the light of what Forster does accomplish.
The song of the future must transcend creed.

There are times when the narrator's voice dissects the drama unfolding against unfamiliar Indian landscapes with a kind of fond exasperation and times when it dissolves into a withering regret for the way the engines of civilization continue to trundle along towards some catastrophic destiny without ever pausing for the purpose of self-assessment. And it is the profound clarity of Forster's worldviews and his sensitivity and forthrightness in deconstructing the enigma of the 'Orient' that elevates his writing even further.
Perhaps life is a mystery, not a muddle; they could not tell. Perhaps the hundred Indias which fuss and squabble so tiresomely are one, and the universe they mirror is one.

It's not the 'handicap of my Indian sentimentality' after all. Forster sought to extract the kernel of truth buried underneath layers of artifice and his craft could successfully flesh out the blank spaces between that which can be expressed with ease. Those are always worthy enough literary achievements in my eyes.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
July 28, 2018
“Adventures do occur, but not punctually. Life rarely gives us what we want at the moment we consider appropriate.”

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Illustrations from the Folio Edition by Ian Ribbons.

Adela Quested and Mrs. Moore have journeyed to India with the intention of arranging a marriage between Adela and Mrs. Moore’s son Ronny Heaslop. He is the British magistrate of the city of Chandrapore. He is imperial, much more so than when Adela knew him in England.

”India had developed sides of his character that she had never admired. His self-complacency, his censoriousness, his lack of subtlety, all grew vivid beneath a tropic sky; he seemed more indifferent than of old to what was passing in the minds of his fellows, more certain that he was right about them or that if he was wrong it didn’t matter.”

My impression is that Heaslop may have been elevated rather quickly and had no time to develop his own ideas of the way things were in India, but simply borrowed the established views of the more senior British officials in India. In this new role he was required to play he is a very different person than the young lad that Adela knew in England.

She had decided to break off the engagement and then fate intercedes with a near death experience that allows her to see Heaslop in a different light.

The engagement is back on.

“Sometimes I think too much fuss is made about marriage. Century after century of carnal embracement and we're still no nearer to understanding one another.”

It is always interesting to listen to people talk about marriage. Sometimes people can be too cerebral and talk themselves out of a perfectly acceptable relationship. Others give the commitment of marriage the same amount of thought as they do to deciding what they want for lunch. Arranged marriages used to work perfectly well simply because they were an alliance usually involving money and future offspring. We decided, at some point, that romance was the elixir that we must desire the most in a relationship. Divorce rates have skyrocketed and most people are not any happier than when marriages were arranged for them by their relatives, but free will has given people the idea that happiness can be achieved if they can just find that right person. It is always better to own your unhappiness or happiness instead of having it decided for you.

Adela is not very pretty, but she does have some money. Heaslop seems rather indifferent about the whole arrangement. Yes, he wants the marriage, but more for fulfilling a necessary obligation. The sooner it is settled the sooner he can move on to other things of more importance. Adela is trying to decide whether to accept this situation or wait to see if their is a better one on the horizon.

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Dr. Aziz meets Mrs. Moore by chance in a mosque and though their meeting is rocky in the beginning a friendship quickly blossoms. Adela wants to see the real India, by, well, interacting with real Indians. A meeting is arranged with Dr. Aziz and in the course of their conversations with one another Aziz extends an invitation to take them on a journey to see the Marabar Caves. This is one of those invitations that are extended as a courtesy during a party that are never expected to be fulfilled. To his horror, he discovers, a few days later through an intermediary that the women fully expect him to take them to the caves. At great expense to himself he arranges this outing.

Aziz has always been a friend of the British, in fact, one of his best friends is a British teacher named Cyril Fielding. He had arranged for Fielding and another friend to go with them on this journey to provide the much needed cultural bridge between him and the ladies.

His friends miss the train.

Disaster looms.

Aziz is accused of physically assaulting Adela in one of the caves.

Ridiculous Fielding says.

Of course he attacked her the British community insists. All these brutes desire our women.

As events unfold it becomes more and more unclear as to what really happened, but even as doubt is raised the Colonialists continue to believe that Aziz is guilty.

He must be guilty.

This is considered E. M. Forster’s masterpiece and lands on most top 100 books of all time lists. I personally did not enjoy this book as much as I have some of his other books, but because of the subject matter of this book and when it was published, I fully understand why people look on this novel as his most significant book. He was poking a finger in the eye of his own government and their insistence on continuing to try to rule the world with brutality laced with blatant racism. I can see the men, who returned triumphantly from their postings abroad, sitting around their clubs back in London angrily discussing this book.

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I won’t tell you what happened to Adela or what happened to Aziz, but tragically there was a realignment of thought for both of them. Adela never wanted to see India again. Aziz never wanted to see an Englishman/woman again. In fact, for the first time he feels at peace with who he is…”I am an Indian at last.”

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
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
June 15, 2018
In a rather ironic piece of narration, E.M. Forster sums up my opinion of this book perfectly:

“Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the books and talk that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence.”

Indeed, this book was so terribly dull. Ordinary, bland and mundane are all words that spring to mind. Nothing happened other than a single piece of melodrama that somehow managed to dominate the book.

I understand why this book is so widely read and studied. From a critical postcolonial perspective, there are lots of juicy bits in here to dissect. There’s a lot to talk about, and I could easily write an essay on it because it raises so many important debates about race and national identity in the wake of colonialism. Seeing the true face of India becomes a difficult task because it has become so obscured with foreign influence and prejudices.

Indeed, the book is fiercely anti-imperialist and presents a compelling case for the benefits of an independent India. It also highlights the injustices the Indian native faced. Colonial rule is never good, and the coloniser always thinks his ways are better to the detriment of local culture, education and employment. He takes over and ruins everything despite how much he naively believes that he is improving the life of those he is oppressing.

Despite all this the plot has no energy. There were perhaps a few chapters, no more that forty pages or so, where the narrative managed to gain some momentum. The protagonist was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t do and the bits leading up to his trial were quite engaging. When the verdict was eventually reached the rest of the novel dribbled on. There was no story left! Yet it continued for another hundred pages. This meant that for a relatively short book, this felt like a really, really, long book.

This is a book I SHOULD have liked

I was really surprised at my reaction to this. This is a book that appeals directly to my interests; yet, it just seemed so painfully convoluted and dull. I did, however, really appreciate E.M. Forster’s prose. He is a very skilful writer and a wordsmith, his sentences and paragraphs roll into each other perfectly. (This seems like a generic point, though I only make it because the surface level of his writing is so eloquent in places.) It’s just a shame the plot did not carry the same level of mastery. It just needed to be tighter and more focused to be effective.

Like Heart of Darkness it occupies an uncertain place in the cannon of English literature; it’s not quite radical enough (and prejudice free) to be fully anti-colonial yet is still demonstrates the need for change. It’s a book I could study, but never one I could enjoy. Although I didn’t like this, I will still be trying another one of E.M. Forster's novels in the future.
Profile Image for William2.
758 reviews3,079 followers
June 16, 2022
A Passage to India seems a bolder statement on Colonialism and racism than ever. The Indians are thoughtful and droll, speaking about the trouble making friends with Englishmen, who become less personable the longer they are in India. The British seem to a man all about keeping the Indian down, of holding the colony by force. The writing is beautiful. I just finished E.L. Doctorow's The March, which errs on the purplish side at times. There's no such overwriting here. Even when one reads more slowly the prose constantly surprises. And this is my second or third reading, too.

Few books I have found can sustain such interest over the years. Lolita, Madame Bovary, Germinal, they are rare. This time through I find myself astonished by Forster's skill at under-describing his characters. This technique adds to the fleeting, lighter than air aspect of the writing. He'd much rather talk about a gesture, say, or the layout of a house. But the characters are left very flat, if not without description altogether. We must go by their voices. Under-description of this sort was highly recommended by Elmore Leonard, too, in his day. He was another master of it.

Part Two opens with the story of the developing geology the India. Venturing into the Marabar Caves, whose substance is hundreds of millions of years old, is to enter the primordial. It is to be shown something ancient, far outside the mental and emotional scope of homo sapiens, who are no older than 200,000 years. Forster's fascination is with the numinous. Adela and Mrs Moore have since their arrival talked of nothing more than seeing the "real India." In her quest for this passage to India, Adela enters the caves with little knowledge of their history, and there finds herself face to face with the numinous. But in its most primitive essence, which of course includes the erotic, and just like that her heretofore admirable open mindedness is overwhelmed by the true otherness of India. Overwhelmed by fear, she makes an egregious category mistake—a reductio ad absurdum—that upends the lives of all the main characters. An unwarranted charge of attempted rape is lodged against Dr Aziz.

Aziz's arrest reminded of the U.S.'s current epidemic of frightened white cops shooting unarmed black men. These events are equitable only to the extent that both are examples of raw racism run amok. Aziz, however, will get a trial and be acquitted. Our shooting victims will never get that, even posthumously, as we have seen.

The novel is a big nail in the coffin of the Old India Hands. My God, how Forster must have been hated for writing it. How dare he besmirch their generations of "service" in keeping the Indian down. It's a very brave book. Forster indicts his nation in 1924, twenty-three years before Partition. All the insipid reasons for being in India are trotted out and shown to be lies. Britain was not in India to pass down a legacy of democratic administration, that was an unexpected and lucky outcome. It doesn't matter what Niall Ferguson says about the benevolence of the so-called Raj in Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order. This was commercial exploitation at its basest. That the British left slightly fewer corpses in their wake than King Leopold of Belgium did in the Congo is not an argument in their favor.

One final note on this Folio Society edition. It's a beautiful book on acid-free paper with sewn signatures, wonderful to handle. Even turning the pages is a joy. But the illustrations by Glynn Boyd Harte are wretched and annoying. The book is best unadorned.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews496 followers
September 24, 2022
A Passage to India is set in the time the British ruled India. Forster wrote this book after visiting India and having first hand seen the real relationship of the ruling British and the ruled natives. Since he had personal experience, it was easy for him to paint a true and accurate picture of how the British administrators governed the natives. First and foremost, Forster saw it was to be oppressive; he was not happy with the way the natives were treated. He observed a difference in the British who ruled India on behalf of the British Crown and couldn't comprehend how the liberal minded youth who were full of goodwill toward the native brethren became hard conservatives once in India in official capacity. He also observed that when the Indians live in British soil the personal relations between the two races were on friendly grounds; but in Indian soil, the relationship between the two races were strained with distrust and hostility. All his observations and his personal views over them led him in producing one of the best written fictions on East and West.

The cultural and religious difference between the two races was, according to Forster, the main impediment for closer relations. The different cultures have different manners and different ways of lives. They cannot be compared with one another to determine which is more superior. They are just different. If one culture tries and acts superior, then hostility is the inevitable result. This was the major mistake the British administrators did. From their point of view the natives were "uncivilized"; and they wanted to make them "civilized". By trying to make them "civilized", the British were imposing their culture and their way of life on the natives. They were of the view that what Indians needed were justice, discipline and peace. There they made the mistake, for the natives greatly resented this. What they really wanted was the British to understand, accept and respect their culture, their religion and their way of life. To be treated as a nonentity in your own country is a painful experience. Every race has their pride and wounded pride can lead to calamities. Failure to understand this was the key to hostility between the ruling and the ruled.

On the other hand, Forster doesn't defend the natives either. He exposes their weakness, their flaws and their hypocrisies which made me ponder that after all we should view all these actions from pure human perspective. Irrespective of the difference in race, ethnicity, culture and religion, we are all human and as humans we do have inherent flaws; and if we want to live harmoniously and with peaceful human relations, we have to check our flaws and be kind and tolerant towards others.

The story through which Forster says it all is good but not great. The first part of this three part story was so slow that my first impression was that I would not be able to push it through. I love Forster's writing. It is absolutely beautiful. And that is what held the thread for me without breaking. But I admit that it was very trying. In part two, the story picks up the pace and although I still struggled through some of the chapters, the reading experience became much more pleasing.

Forster had chosen a good set of characters to set out the story. Although I didn't like many of the characters (except Mr. Fielding who I personally thought resemble the author) they essentially contributed well to his story. I feel that it never crosses Forster's mind that the reader should like his characters. I think he is more concerned that we understand them rather than like them.

Before I end the review I would like to share a conversation in the story that really struck me hard. During this conversation, Dr. Aziz tells Mr. Fielding that once they become free of British rule that they can be fully friends. That was the most thought provoking sentence of the entire book. Although he cannot hear me, I just wanted to shout out and tell him "Well done, Forster!"
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,258 followers
September 4, 2020
Adela Quested a plain looking young , affable and naive English school teacher travels to distant India in the early 1920's accompanied by the elderly , kind Mrs. Moore (maybe her future mother-in-law) a widow twice and see the real country, more important to decide if she will marry Mrs. Moore's son the magistrate, of the unimportant city of Chandrapore disillusioned Ronny Heaslop ( he dislikes Indians now)...Conditions are very uneasy in India the natives hate the British rulers and seek independence and in turn the conquerors, despise what they perceive as an inferior local race, besides the Hindu and Muslim populations are always ready to riot against their enemies, foreign and domestic the tense, volatile situation needs the strong hand of the British army to keep peace but for how long ? Mrs. Moore like her female companion Adela, wants to see and feel India, experience its atmosphere no matter how alien, breathe in the romantic flavors, customs and particularly the strange exotic, mysterious and nevertheless engaging people of this dangerous but fascinating nation. Warned not to go alone the old lady does, visits a mosque and hears a voice in the dark telling her to take off her shoes, she had by Dr. Aziz a young Indian Muslim physician, ignorant foreigners in the past had shown disrespect, unexpectedly they later become great friends the two so completely different... Cyril Fielding the head of the modest local college is the only British man to show any sympathy for the poor native people, he hates how they are treated, the Indians especially the English women who do not hide their contempt . Yet can friendships develop and last between the Indian and the British in the colonial era, such as the emotional Dr. Aziz and the calm Mr.Fielding ? There is not much to see in the unattractive dirty city, no spectacular monuments or building, nothing the Ganges River flows leisurely by not causing any impact mostly ignored by the population, it isn't sacred here occasionally a dead body is spotted, not devoured by the crocodiles as it floats down to the ocean...In the local British Club no Indian members of course, they gossip drink play cards and the highlight, tennis when the notorious weather permits, scorching heat waves that crush the spirit and monsoon rains pouring ceaselessly down, causing widespread devastating flooding. Still twenty miles away in the Marabar Hills are countless caves to explore, nobody knows what makes them exciting though the areas only attraction, a tour is organized and led by Dr.Aziz composed also of Mrs.Moore, Miss Quested, Mr.Fielding and prominent Indians both Hindu and Muslims yet plans are not facts they do not go accordingly, a disaster ensues which will effect many people, lives are changed...A very interesting exploration of India during an unique period in its history, even today is still relevant to her destination as a rising superpower both economically and militarily...Yes things change...
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,927 followers
August 27, 2020

Forster deals blows right and left in this novel and modern readers will grimace when they read the intricately exposed racism of the British in India (the lofty British ladies learning just enough Urdu to be able to give instructions to the servants); but alas, some of the generalisations about Indians will jar as the narrator throws out stuff like

Like most Orientals, Aziz overrated hospitality, mistaking it for intimacy, and not seeing that it is tainted with the sense of possession.


What they [the Indians] said and what they felt were (except in the case of affection) seldom the same. They had numerous mental conventions and when these were flouted they found it very difficult to function.


Suspicion in the Oriental is a sort of malignant tumour, a mental malady, that makes him self-conscious and unfriendly suddenly; he trusts and mistrusts at the same time in a way the Westerner cannot comprehend.

That doesn’t sound very nice to me, I had thought that Mr Forster was a nice man. Well, he was a nice man. This book was published in 1924 and is brilliantly anti-colonialist but even progressive minds could not help generalising about The Oriental.


Part of the opposition displayed between western colonialists and Indian subjects is expressed as the English demanding facts and figures and making religion a department of the Colonial Office (“God who saves the King will surely support the police”) versus continual suffocating Indian religious fervency, both Islamic and Hindu. This cliché had caterpillar legs, it was very strong 40 years later when the Beatles set up a tax avoidance scheme called Apple and then immediately left for Rishikesh to meditate on ineffability with the Maharishi. But the insistence on the hardnosed versus the floaty mystical-twistical can be irritating and possibly strike the reader as crypto-racist. Forster himself seems to participate in this Mystic East schtick. Here is the narrator waxing not so much lyrical as borderline incomprehensible :

All over the city and over much of India the same retreat on the part of humanity was beginning, into cellars, up hills, under trees. April, herald of horrors, is at hand. The sun was returning to his kingdom with power but without beauty – that was the sinister feature. If only there had been beauty! His cruelty would have been tolerable then. Through excess of light, he failed to triumph, he also; in his yellowy-white overflow not only matter, but brightness itself lay drowned. He was not the unattainable friend, either of men or birds or other suns, he was not the eternal promise, the never-withdrawn suggestion that haunts our consciousness; he was merely a creature, like the rest, and so debarred from glory.


The action of the plot turns into a big courtroom drama. This is the second classic in a row that I read with a John Grisham tendency, the other one was The Brothers Karamazov. The case collapses in dramatic fashion and after that comes a lot of ruefulness and bumbling and personal bitterness but not too much happens. There is maybe seventy pages of deflation. I could imagine that some reader might be a trifle impatient with that.


You have to love zingers like

A friendliness, as of dwarfs shaking hands, was in the air.

And a crafty observation like

There is always trouble when two people do not think of sex at the same moment

Ha ha, EM, so true.

May 10, 2017
It's a Saturday evening, and you and your significant other have just arrived at an outdoor barbecue, hosted by your sweetheart's employer.

As you step out on to the patio, you do a quick visual sweep of the social atmosphere. At first glance, it looks as though the party is dominated by your partner's coworkers, which is unfortunate, as they are all metallurgists. That's right. They're all metallurgists, and you're. . . well, you're you.

You've got your fingers crossed that someone's significant other will turn out to be a pole dancer or a comedian, but as you approach the first pockets of people, you realize that, as usual, you're dreaming.

You dash off to find alcohol to sustain you, only to discover that the host is a recovering alcoholic and the only beverage that will be served on this night is a cucumber-infused water. What in the hell?

Soldiering on, you bravely break into one or two of these small social packs, trying to crack a joke, entertaining yourself by balancing the sliced cucumbers on your eyes, pretending they are pennies and you are blessedly dead.

No such luck. You're alive, but you're invisible, and you are stone-cold-sober and this may be the most boring evening of your life. Your partner has abandoned you to some work-related issue, and you are completely hopeless until you stumble upon a group of three people, standing off to the side. You hear something about a “Dr. Aziz” and some accusations that are damning, that apparently have been made by a female coworker. Two of the people reveal in the conversation that they are HR employees, and they are investigating the claim. You are suddenly a fly on the. . . paper plate? You can't hover closely enough. You are riveted. You hate to admit it, but you've always loved a good scandal. . . as long as it doesn't involve you.

You listen for as long as possible, until the small group breaks apart and walks away. Your partner startles you, returning to you, pulling you out of the trance of the story, and indicates to you that it's time to leave. Time to leave? But it just FINALLY got interesting.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,566 reviews1,895 followers
November 11, 2019
In a novel with the line “a perfectly adjusted organism would be silent” it is no surprise that the centre of this cloud of writing is the idea of the difficulty, or the possible impossibility of communication and direct connection between people.

Instead understanding has to be intuitive and incommunicable, Mrs Moore knows nothing has happened but can’t convince her son, how she knows or how Professor Godbole knows about her and the wasp is unclear and if we don’t like telepathy as an answer then we are best off not asking the question, just as we are best off not asking what, if anything, happened in the Marabar caves. Miss Quested experienced something, but even E.M. Forster screwed up the draft versions that attempted to give her point of view as that something occurred. A clear statement would run counter to the intuitive direction of this novel. Nothing can make sense in the unreality of our group think, some alternative means of perception, something more is required to understand.

Miss Quested speaks of wanting to experience the real India, but because she lives, as almost all the characters do, in the world of illusion, her quest will be concluded but the object missed. A failed seeker after the Holy Grail.

In the beginning “they were discussing as to whether or no it is possible to be friends with an Englishman” (p33) As evidence of the potential of intimacy: “he has shown me his stamp collection” (p34). I wasn’t expecting Forster to have a sense of humour , nor quite the brutality implicit in Dr Aziz showing the picture of wife to Fielding only for the chest of drawers to be later forced open and that photograph presented in court as evidence of his immoral and degenerate character.

The characters exist very firmly in their environments. The English, at the slightest suggestion that something is not right flip back to 1857, the dominance signalled in 1757 so provisional that everybody has to be continually on watch . There are no innocent conversations. No exchange of views. Every gesture has its own sub-text of resistance and opposition, if one chooses to live on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But this is also unreal or at least only an aspect of reality. Change the air and of a sudden there are “problems so totally different from those of Chandrapore. For here the cleavage was between Brahman and non-Brahman; Moslems and English were quite out of the running, and sometimes not mentioned for days” (p289). The novel doesn’t claim to completeness only to offer up a few shards to work upon the imagination .

Apparently the last two Viceroys of India read this novel. Pushed in conversation Dr Aziz at first looks to the Afghans, for the Mughal Empire to strike back and replace the British, only then to imagine an Indian community as a viable future . Nodding to Benedict Anderson then there is no divide between the realm of the imagination and the realm of tangible reality. The one flows into the other. The boats collide and overturn. Despite the different directions and tools the experience is one.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews9,006 followers
July 13, 2020
I read A Passage To India for my Completist Book Club on Goodreads. This is a book that I may have never even heard of if it was not for that group. For those who are curious, it is a club that chooses books from must read lists to read each month. Because of this club, I have been able to find some interesting, some challenging, and, sadly, even some boring books that I cannot figure out why they are must reads. But, whatever the case, I am always glad to be a part of the group because it has really expanded my reading horizons.

In the case of A Passage To India, I can see why it is a classic. It is a tale of British Imperial rule in India and how people on both sides - British and Indian - handle all the tensions and issues this causes. Also, the main Indian character is not Hindu but Muslim and there is a lot about being Muslim in a country where that is not the main religion. It is all very relatable to modern day issues.

I have been going back and forth between 3 and 4 stars. Some of the parts were very riveting, but others left me wanting. I think it was about 50/50. But, I am going to go with 4 stars because the message and the historical significance of this story solidify it as a classic.

Funny thing, I was planning to go 3 stars when I started writing this review, but I talked myself into 4 stars!
Profile Image for Warwick.
845 reviews14.6k followers
August 19, 2017
‘The past! the infinite greatness of the past!’ thrilled Walt Whitman in ‘A Passage to India’. A quarter of a century later, Forster borrowed Whitman's title, but with a very different mood in mind. In place of the American's wild-eyed certainties, Forster gives us echoes and confusion; instead of epic quests of the soul, there is only an eternal impasse of personal and cultural misunderstanding.

Animals and birds are half-seen, unidentified; the landscape is a featureless blur; motives are illogical and rest on miscommunication. All human language, in the final analysis, amounts to nothing more than the dull ou-boum thrown back from the Malabar caves during the fateful expedition at the heart of the novel. ‘If one had spoken vileness in that place, or quoted lofty poetry, the comment would have been the same – “ou-boum”.’

Will Self once recommend as an exercise reducing a novel to a single word (he suggested in the case of The Naked Lunch, for instance, that it would be ‘insect’). For A Passage to India, that keyword would be ‘muddle’ – a term that recurs, gradually shedding its cosiness and accreting a sense of existential indistinctness, a kind of cosmic flou that renders good intentions, indeed all human endeavour, futile. ‘I like mysteries,’ says Mrs Moore, the novel's moral core, ‘but I rather dislike muddles.’ Elsewhere, Forster talks with something like dread of a ‘spiritual muddledom’ for which ‘no high-sounding words can be found’.

The plot of this book is, at times, heart-poundingly dramatic, but Forster is careful to make sure that even this is founded on doubt and indecision. In fact, what one thinks of as ‘the plot’ of A Passage to India is a storyline that arises, reaches its climax, and is resolved entirely within the second of the book's three acts. What then, you might ask, is the point of parts one and three? Well, among other things they prevent the plot from seeming too tidy – there is always something before the beginning, something after the end, to frustrate neat conclusions. ‘Adventures do occur,’ he says, ‘but not punctually.’ Life isn't tidy – it's a muddle.

British India is a perfect setting for this kind of exploration: not only does it play host to numerous individual confusions, it is itself, as it were, the political embodiment of such a confusion. One of the wonderful things about this book is that the obvious hypocrisy and conflict between the English and the Indians is not left to stand alone, as a heavy-handed message, but is echoed by similar divisions between Muslim and Hindu, man and woman, young and old, devotee and atheist. Still, it is the gulf of understanding between the British rulers and their Indian subjects that provides the most interesting material for Forster's bitter social comedy. Most of the Brits are deliciously dislikable, couching their racism in patriotic slogans, droning through the national anthem every evening at the Club, and – like one of the wives – learning only enough of the language to speak to the servants (‘so she knew none of the politer forms, and of the verbs only the imperative mood’).

The heroes of this book are those that try to reach across this divide, or to challenge the assumptions of their own side.

‘Your sentiments are those of a god,’ she said quietly, but it was his manner rather than his sentiments that annoyed her.

Trying to recover his temper, he said, ‘India likes gods.’

‘And Englishmen like posing as gods.’

These attempts don't work, and the reason they don't work is that cultural or racial divides are – the book suggests – only a special case of that ‘spiritual muddledom’ that is a universal constant. Still, the worldview isn't as bleak as it might seem. That famous ‘not yet’ in the book's closing lines is a lot more hopeful than a ‘no’, and if we're prevented from coming together by our tangled and violent past, that also raises the possibility that a better future can be laid down by the present we choose to enact now, every day, with each other. ‘For what is the present, after all,’ as Walt Whitman asked, ‘but a growth out of the past?’
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
792 reviews
June 13, 2017
So easy going - and then wham!
Quentin Tarantino could learn a lot from E M Forster. He'd learn that there's no need to pile on the menace in the early stages. The shock, when it comes is much more effective if the reader/viewer has been led into thinking all is ordinary and relatively safe. Forster is a master story teller, and a true philosopher as well.
Profile Image for Katia N.
587 reviews706 followers
January 31, 2021
I started to listen to this novel, but then I loved it so much that I’ve bought the actual book. It is a superb realistic novel: the characters, social conflict, the plot, the setting and also something intangible which is hard to express in words. But that, intangible is what really matters.

Through my reading experience, I could not shrug off the feeling how little the dramatic development depended on the action of any individual character. How there was a certain inevitability and logic where everything was going. And each action by a character would be predetermined by some intangible factors be it her/his background or the situation they’ve found themselves in. It is like people happened to be in certain circumstances; and though in theory they would have an option to choose how to act, they would end up doing what the like of them have done before again and again. It wasn’t a hint of the historicism in Hegel’s sense or the Eastern karma. It was more like people “drifting” through their lives in spite of all the drama happening to them.

It was like those little English people (and the locals as well) were placed into a vastness of space and time. And even when they try to learn this place they would fall the victims of their own preconceptions. It was like a fight of collective evil with the collective good. But both of the sides of the battle were illusive and impossible to grasp.

Later, I understood from reading the intro, it was intentional. Forster “tried to indicate the human predicament in a universe which is not so far comprehensible to our minds.“ But it was so well done that it never felt far-fetched or fake.

It was the last novel Forster has written. He became “wearisome” of the “studied ignorance of the novelist”. He lived almost 50 years after that without writing any new novels. I have a split feelings about this. On the one hand, I wish he would write many more books of fiction. He was a rare talent based upon this novel. On the other hand, I appreciate he had not. I think he has squeezed everything he could out of the combination of the form and his talent; and he knew when to stop. This is a rare gift as well to know when to stop.

And this novel is alive. Reading it, I was full of emotions, both basic and complicated. At some point I was brimming with rage, at the other - I felt overwhelming compassion for one character. And as the people in the novel, I felt something behind the scenes “not so far comprehensible to our minds”.

The novel is the result of Foster’s time lived and travel in India. I thought his desire to understand and explain the clash of different systems of belief was a very nuanced one for the Westerner. So many things changed since almost 100 years this novel was written. But so many things stayed totally the same. This feeling when a group of people, a nation or a person feels inherently and not justifiably superior to the other did not diminish or disappear at all.

I loved the book. But I have a few “problems” with the novel. The main one is that I felt Forster played safe in the resolution of the main conflict in the book. Was it a realistic resolution? Yes, it was. And, It underscored underlying fairness and decency of some individuals within the grossly unfair colonial set up. But was it the most likely scenario that this conflict would resolved in such a way? I doubt. And it would be even more revealing if the novel would lead us that way. But alas, Foster it seems has stuck to the inherent sense of English “fairness” in some of his characters. Another minor peeve - he got rid of my favourite character before long.

Still, it is this rare beast of a wonderful, complicated novel that is also a pleasure to read.
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
February 17, 2021
When I first encountered this book,it felt like a chore. It was required reading for class,and had to be crammed.

Years later,I saw David Lean's magnificent film adaptation.It was a superb effort,which quickly became one of my favourite films.I can watch it again and again.

When this book was written,the end of British rule in the sub-continent was still decades away. Unusually for an Englishman of that era,Forster depicts the growing resentment against the British Raj in India. George Orwell's Burmese Days also explores a similar theme.

Forster shows sympathy for the Indian character,Aziz,as he is accused of assault by an Englishwoman in a cave. The character of Fielding,is also sympathetic to Aziz's plight.

And then,of course,there is the mistrust bordering on hatred,between the rulers and the ruled. It all comes to a head,in the wake of the assault allegations against Aziz.

It was a very unusual book for its time,very bold in its themes. The ideas are great,but the book is a bit too lengthy.It is slow going at times and Forster's writing style isn't too attractive for me.

But the movie had my rapt attention,from start to finish.A sumptuous,grand and lavish production,a masterpiece.My favourite character from the film,Adela Quested,as played by Judy Davis.

In this case,the movie gets five stars.
Profile Image for Jean-Luke.
Author 1 book394 followers
January 23, 2021
So there's this book, and every summary you read says it's about what happens one afternoon in one of these caves. So you pick up the book and begin to read. There's the caves, and there's the event, and as you turn the final page you realize you have never been so happily deceived, for this book has been one of the most memorable tales of a friendship you have read. Is it wrong that in future you may consider reading only Part III? It begins with a collar stud, and somewhere in the middle there is something about some caves, and a trial, but in many respects it is a story about two friends. I would read it again just for the beautiful Part III.
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews887 followers
July 12, 2011
Written in 1924 this so called literary classic and 1001 book is set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the slow move towards Independence. This book has been showered with awards - I gave my copy of a good shake just to see if any of the awards had got stuck between the pages - although personally the only award I would be inclined to hand out for E.M Forster's most famous novel would be the highly coveted shovelmonkey1 pillow award for producing an epic snooze fest.

I read this book while I was commuting back and forward to office HQ and even the act of opening the pages of this beautifully covered Penguin volume was enough to send my eyeballs rolling to the back of my skull. I suspect on the whole that perhaps I am being a tad harsh, and maybe this can be attributed to the fact that I have read too many novels detailing the colonial dumb-wittedness of the British abroad, particularly swooning laydees.

Poor Dr Aziz, despite running around attending to the whims and mores of the ex-pat populace and doing everything with the very best of intentions ends up in a spot of bother after Adela Quested unjustly accuses him of trying to "cop a feel" while they're out on a day trip to the Malabar caves. Aziz had previously mused on the premise of whether Indian gentlemen might ever truly manage to be friends with an Englishman and this episode surely gives him a fairly definite answer. As the trial unfolds Adela is forced to confront the fact that everything which happened the in the caves was a product of her delicate and overwrought laydee-mind, thus presumably giving the men in the courtroom further excuse to argue, over brandy and cigars, that the colonies are no place for the "wimmin folk".

I can see the point of this book, the message it was trying to convey and I can even understand why it is regarded to be literary significance but even the memory of reading it make me prone to... ZZZZZz zzzz.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 2 books2,968 followers
February 18, 2020
I really loved this. Such an interesting novel, with such well-crafted characters. E.M. Forster is a fantastic writer, and never ceases to impress me.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,184 followers
July 27, 2017
The more I explore E.M. Forster’s books, the more I come to realize that he was a man who held very unconventional views for his days. In “A Room with a View”, he discussed the independence of spirit of women, in “Howards’ End”, the subtle ways the class division separates people and in “A Passage to India”, he expresses very anti-colonialist views about what was once the jewel of the crown: British-occupied India.

Racial tensions and prejudices turn a misunderstanding into quite a drama. The portrait Forster paints of the British occupants is very far from flattering: they consider the natives to be inferior in every way, often can’t be bothered to be civil to them and easily blame them for anything not going as smoothly as they wished, even when they are very obviously the ones at fault. The Indians in turn view the English as untrustworthy – except of course for those who seek to emulate them in every way. These combined attitudes reinforce many levels of animosity between races, religions and castes. Loyalty and justice are not easily defined for those living in this strange setting, and this further muddles the water.

After just a few pages, I knew that Aziz would get himself in trouble: he is just too candid and honest to play the hypocritical social game required to stay on the good side of the British. No one directly accuses him of anything, but people assume right off the bat that he has done something wrong, that like all members of his race, he is deviant and has a natural inclination towards criminal activities. A strange series of event makes him look guiltier and brings to the surface a lot of anger and resentment that proper social behavior had simply concealed under the surface. And the end result of that is the amplification of the negative prejudices both sides have towards each other. It is so easy to say – out of innocent ignorance – something that will be interpreted as appalling to the other side, but if there is no sensible and open dialogue, there is no resolution.

Forster went to India twice, and wrote this book soon after returning to England. Obviously, the experience had not been a positive one, and the racist attitudes of his compatriots disgusted him. But the novel is not didactic: the complexity of the situation is described in great details, to really convey to the reader that no easy solution can reconcile the politics of colonialism and personal relationship between diverse groups. Tensions are unavoidable, as are disagreement, but without openness and compassion, the conflict will remain irreconcilable.

The cultural differences in this book feel impossible to overcome because of power dynamics, but it is interesting to note that the different groups of Indians are just as virulent in their opposition to each other as the British are towards them. I was worried at first that this would be a Rousseauist story about noble savages and big bad white dudes, but Forster does not idealize the Indians and demonize the British; he simply shows that all humans are flawed despite their best intentions. He also makes clear that some of his characters’ attitude do not come from ingrained prejudices, but from parroting the hateful nonsense spewed by their superiors. By simply emulating senior officers, Mr. Heaslop doesn’t have to think too much about his direct experience of India, but he unwittingly propagates the disdainful attitudes of the racists at the top.

I’m from a corner of the world where there is a linguistic divide: English-speakers and French-speakers have been (metaphorically and literally) at each other’s throat for about 300 years and despite the historical rearview mirror, people still feed each other’s prejudices by generalizing intolerant attitudes and accusing each other of cultural colonialism with the only result of driving a wedge between perfectly decent people who just can’t give up this idea of colonial oppression. “A Passage to India” echoed this strange contemporary dynamic, and also made me think of the racial profiling police forces can’t seem to help in the United-States. Some things are very hard to overcome, and institutionalized hatred is certainly one of them.

Forster’s humanist views are expressed with great sensibility and intelligence in all of his books. His prose is beautiful and takes you right to this exotic setting that you discover along with Miss Quested and Mrs. Moore. You will turn the last page and think about it for a long time. I gave it four stars simply because as interesting and well-written a book as it is, I did not enjoy it as much as “Howards End” or “A Room with a View”: maybe because the subject matter, while important, is a lot less pleasant, or maybe because I couldn’t get attached to any characters the way I did to Lucy or Margaret. In other words, this is a wonderful book that touched me less personally than Mr. Forster’s other works.
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,107 reviews533 followers
October 17, 2021

I read this one shortly after I inhaled A Room with a View. I was way, way too young (read "naive") to understand everything that was going on in the story, but the writing was lovely, and I did get the gist of all the injustice, corruption and racism that was Colonialism.

I remember thinking: when will humans stop conquering each other and just live in peace?

But, then, of course, I had yet to learn the bitter fact that money makes the world go around. Time for a reread? I think there is a film adaptation of this novel. Might dig that up too!

Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,784 reviews1,458 followers
March 16, 2021
This is so far my favorite book by E.M. Forster. I tried A Room with a View first and gave that three stars. This one, set in India probably about a decade or two before independence, mirrors British colonialism and the multicultural diversity of the land. This one has much more meat on its bones. Religion, multi-ethnicity, colonialism, imperialism, the dogged belief in the superiority of the rulers over the ruled and most specifically how very difficult it is to communicate over cultural barriers. These are the topics we look at in this book.

And friendship. How does it begin? How is it kept alive? Dr. Aziz says one is an Oriental if when meeting a stranger you know if he is or is not a friend. It says in the book, “friend” is the Persian expression for God. Another character says to Dr. Aziz, “Your hands are unkind….There is no pain, but there is cruelty.” He is an Oriental (in spirit), but he isn’t since he is British. Am I confusing? Does this interest you? Well read the book.

In both books readers see how well Forster draws the feel of a place, of an era and of the people. What distinguishes Forster’s writing from others is his ability to create an atmosphere that feels utterly tangible. Wherever the scene is set you see, feel, hear and sense a distinguishable tone, mood or ambience. I did feel this in both books. This seems to be a common denominator for Forster’s writing style. It is worth reading one of Forster’s books just to experience this. Having experienced it you will not forget it.

Secondly, Forster’s lines not only draw a memorable atmosphere, but they also give the reader food for thought. Here follow a few very short quotes:

-Until his heart was involved he heard nothing.

-The original sound may be harmless but the echo was evil.

-We may hate one another, but we hate you most
(the British).

-Nothing is private in India.

-No one here matters. Those who matter don’t come.

-The moon caught in the shawl of night with its stars…..

For me the last line is utterly beautiful. I should have jotted down more of the beautiful lines, not just the ones that got me thinking.

I do not believe this book will satisfy everyone. It is not for those who are looking for action. It is instead the kind of book you put down and then go on thinking about. Who the characters are can best be judged on completion of the book, when you have properly seen and thought carefully about all that has occurred.

I loved how diverse cultures are shown, primarily Hindu and Muslim and British expatriates. I didn’t understand, but did appreciate the different religious traditions and celebrations depicted.

The audiobook narration by Sam Dastor was OK, so that I have given two stars. In the beginning I had trouble with the speed and pronunciation of foreign names. The voice he uses for women could certainly be improved, particularly the younger ones. They are all too squeaky and shrill. He dramatizes too much for my liking. When he just plain reads what is happening without added dramatics, it is good.

I liked the book a lot. I really appreciate the writing, how India is drawn and how the book makes you think.
Profile Image for emma.
1,872 reviews54.8k followers
May 12, 2021
once upon a time, i used to buy paperback classics three for a dollar from my library book sale and keep them in my backpack to read in free moments at school. because i was very cool and popular.

as you can see, this 300-page little guy took me 23 days to finish, and as you cannot see, my copy of it looks like it went through a book-on-backpack war.

this was extremely boring to 17-year-old me, to the extent that i remember wishing that my science class would reconvene so i could put it away and stop reading it. which is quite an insult because i am not nor have i ever been #WomeninSTEM material, and science is my natural enemy.

however, as this went on, i a) felt very smart for reading it and b) enjoyed it more.

i wish i could say i think i'd reread it someday, but there are just...so many must-read books out there.

i have no time to waste. and also no means of bringing books to school in order to force myself to read them.

i'm not at the level of desperate where i would just hang around a school. yet.

this is part of a project i'm doing where i review books i read a long time ago, and continually impress myself with how much i remember. which isn't even that much.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,107 followers
September 16, 2018
The one word that kept coming to mind as I read this and even after I finished, is: "Remarkable".

Honestly, even if I had never been told that E. M. Forster is one of those legendary greats, as mysterious as he is beloved, I would point to his writing and say the same damn thing.

I'm genuinely awed.

Beyond simple, clear prose, I was enraptured by the humor and odd observations in the dialogues, the irony of Colonial England ladies wanting to see "The Real India", or the great way that every single character is painted without bias or slant. It's definitely a humanist novel. But beyond that, for a novel out of 1925 and dealing with the heart of English occupation of India and the enormous prejudices and idiocies on BOTH sides of the debate, I'm flabbergasted with the number of courageous turns and observations.

It's not just a condemnation of the occupation, but there's plenty of that. It's about ignorance across the board, about true friendship, understanding and, of course, rampant misunderstanding.

India is painted in a gloriously chaotic fashion and England as is stolid, claustrophobic self, but there's lots of humor and heart and simple plain erroneous humanity on both sides.

Don't mistake my ramblings as a description of a travel tale. Misfortunes abound and innocent people's lives are or are nearly ruined. Who's to blame? Everyone. Is it a comedy? Yes. Is it tragic? Yes. Is it thoughtful and emotional and wise? Yes.

What really stuck with me was the preoccupation with the idea of marriage. Not actual marriage, but the perception of it. So many faults and accidents and a weight of tradition conspired to make a real hash out of the MC's engagement. But what made this novel brilliant was the way it perfectly dovetailed and highlighted, or was reverse-highlighting the reality of the English Occupation.

Marriage and occupation are so VERY alike, are they not? And Forster is no slouch on any front. He's clever and wide-ranging with his portrayals of women. Each is as different as can be. The good, the bad, and everything in-between. :) Like anyone. But the important bit is WHEN this came out. It's no knee-jerk reaction to women's right's movements. It's just seeing them with clear eyes. Or seeing the people of India the same way, for that matter. :)

But again, don't let me persuade you that this is all the novel is about. These are just a few tastes to a VERY rich and remarkable novel. :) I think I could read it 4 or 5 times and still find new gems or facets inside it. :)
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
November 5, 2015
This tediously long 362 page story set in a 1924 British ruled India begins when an "old" (twice married) Mrs. Moore brings a plain freckled-faced Adela Quested on a visit to meet her son Ronny Heaslop, the City Magistrate, with hopes of marriage. Mrs. Moore soon befriends a local Indian and Surgeon, Dr. Aziz causing a political uproar.

At this point in the novel.....a little over 160 pages, I just could not take the re-reading due to boredom any longer.....began skimming pages.....and discovered...... If I missed anything important, please feel free to tell me, but I truly don't much care!

Anyway......this classic and noted influential story is filled with racial tension between the Indians and British throughout the telling which I believe to be the whole point of the book, but OMYGOSH.....what a soporific read! Whew!

Profile Image for Daren.
1,330 reviews4,401 followers
June 4, 2022
If I interpret EM Forster's writing correctly, he held an unconventional view of colonialism for his time. Published in 1924, over 20 years before India gained independence, this novel shows a the mutual distrust of the British and Indians, and racial prejudices take a fairly innocuous event and turn it into a major drama.

Colonialism and the British in India are painted in very poor light in this novel, and while the Indian characters are not necessarily much better with their own conspiratorial views and their quickness to riot they are at least the hard done by ones. Poor communication and cultural differences are key factors throughout this novel, highlighted in many ways throughout the narrative.

The conclusions jumped to continually throughout the story tell of the distrust, the pessimistic view the British have of the Indian's (and vice versa) and the the cultural misunderstandings. Even when Adela acts in the most unexpected way she is afforded nothing but spite from both sides (I won't explain more on the off chance there is someone left who has left this to read for longer than I have!)

Even Cyril Fielding, the most sympathetic of the British with the strongest friendship with Indian characters comes unstuck through mistrust and issues with communication.

The setting and characters are well described. Forster's writing, while slightly dated, is tidy and thoughtful, although for me it could have been shortened a bit with an edit. I enjoyed it, but it was a slow burn book for me.

There is plenty of analysis, better than I can offer, in other reviews.

4 stars
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews664 followers
May 19, 2014
Can there ever be friendship between the colonizer and colonized? Individuals from each group? Can that trust last? Can it flourish? What happens when events put it under stress?

Forster has no easy answers in this book, as he dissects British colonial rule in India, and its impact on Indians and the British who have come there expressly to rule over India.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Tahera.
590 reviews235 followers
December 2, 2018
Set against the back drop of the British Raj this books explores the question of whether there could ever be a real bond of friendship and brotherhood between people belonging to two different nations, religion, culture. Although published in 1924, this book is suggestive of the mood which eventually led to the events of 1947 in the Sub Continent.
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews513 followers
November 10, 2012

In some ways it's hard to believe that this was published in 1924, given the prescience Forster demonstrates in relation to the future of the British Raj. Towards the end of the novel, one of the central characters, Dr Aziz, effectively predicts that Indians will throw out the British when England is is involved in another war in Europe and articulates - albeit not in so many words - the need for Indians to identify as Indians rather than as members of their individual religious communities in order for that happen.

This is a story of the distrust and misunderstanding inherent in the relationship between colonisers and the colonised and poses the question of whether cultural differences can be overcome to find real friendship and understanding. It centres on the consequences of an incident in which a young English woman, Adela Quested, accuses the Indian Dr Aziz of assaulting her during an excursion to the Marabar Caves.

Forster's portrayal of the British colonial rulers is trenchantly critical. He exposes their hypocrisy, their fundamental fear of Indians and their desperation to retain control. While Forster's portrayal of Indian characters is largely - although not completely - sympathetic, he was a still a man of his time and there are some aspects of his portrayal of Indian characters which a contemporary reader is likely to find patronising.

Forster evokes a sense of time and place in beautiful prose and he provides plenty of food for thought. That said, there were times when the narrative seemed to meander and I wasn't always sure where Forster was going with it. This is one of those books I'm glad I listened to rather than read, because it allowed me to complete productive tasks while listening to those few parts of the novel which I might otherwise have skimmed. I knew that Sam Dastor's voices for both the English and the Indian characters would be excellent, having listened to his narration of Kipling's Kim. However, the downside of listening to Dastor is that he does not do female voices well. This wasn't an issue with Kim, because it contains no female characters to speak of, but Miss Quested is a central character in this novel and Dastor's voice for her is simply awful. I enjoyed listening much more when Miss Quested wasn't around.

The only other of Forster's novels I've read is A Room with a View, which I love. This one I like a little less. But I'm very glad that I finally tackled it and I don't know why it took me so long to do so.

Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
September 12, 2013
"The sky settles everything - not only climates and seasons but when the earth shall be beautiful. By herself she can do little - only feeble outbursts of flowers. But when the sky chooses, glory can rain into the Chandrapore bazaars or a benediction pass from horizon to horizon. The sky can do this because it is so strong and so enormous. Strength comes from the sun, infused in it daily; size from the prostrate earth. No mountains infringe on the curve. League after league the earth lies flat, heaves a little, is flat again. Only in the south, where a group of fists and fingers are thrust up through the soil, is the endless expanse interrupted. These fists and fingers are the Marabar Hills, containing the extraordinary caves."

Taking place in the waning years of British rule in India (although Forster, writing the book in 1924, could not have know that India would become independent in less than twenty-five years), A Passage to India is, at the surface, the story of a misunderstanding and its long-ranging consequences. But that's only the barest plot description. The book is an exploration of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed, human imperfections and mistakes, and whether friendship can ever exist between the colonizer and the colonized. It's also a thoughtful and powerful critique of the British presence in India, which Forster shows us by shrinking the conflict to a handful of people.

Our main characters are Dr. Aziz, a native Muslim; Mr. Fielding, a British teacher who has not yet become one of the "Anglo-Indians"; and Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested, fresh off the boat from England. Miss Quested is in India to marry Mrs. Moore's son, and both women express an interest in seeing "the real India." Mrs. Moore befriends Dr. Aziz when she meets him in a mosque, and this leads to a friendship between her, Aziz, Miss Quested, and Fielding. After the women express an interest in seeing the Marabar caves, Dr. Aziz offers to be their guide. (The trip doesn't occur until halfway through the book, but the caves are a constant presence in the story, always looming somewhat menacingly in the background) While Aziz is at the caves with the women, an incident occurs, and due to a misunderstanding, Aziz finds himself accused by Miss Quested. An unfortunate series of events makes him seem guiltier than he is, and he is arrested. Miss Quested's accusation, and the sides the characters take in the ensuing trial, bring long-standing resentments and issues bubbling to the surface, and no one gets out unscathed.

This was the second Forster book I've read, and I enjoyed it more than A Room With A View. The latter didn't really grab me until about a hundred pages in, but this had me enthralled from the beginning. I loved Forster's beautiful descriptions of India, his look into people's minds, and the fact that a British author could write such a blistering portrayal of colonization. Better yet, he doesn't simply villify the English and idealize the Indians - everyone is flawed here, but no one is outwardly evil. Characters are all well-intentioned, but not always sympathetic. And once Aziz is arrested, Forster's description of the panic that grips the British is evocative and sadly familiar to 21st-century readers:

"They had started speaking of 'women and children' - that phrase that exempts the male from sanity when it has been repeated a few times. Each felt that all he loved best in the world was at stake, demanded revenge, and was filled with a not-unpleasing glow, in which the chilly and half-known features of Miss Quested vanished, and were replaced by all that is sweetest and warmest in the private life."
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