Skip to main content

Howards End

I've just finished Howards End by EM Forster. Like The Fear Index, by Robert Harris, I read it completely on my iPhone. Howards End was one of the books that had rested in the periphery of my constant 'to read' pile. The only other Forster book that I'd read was Maurice, which I liked very much, although the misogyny is clearly there. Howards End, despite being denser in its prose style than Maurice, is feminist; it champions women. It is, more than anything else, a novel of ideas. There are maxims and philosophical nuggets galore, such as referring to the hopeless, remorseful Leonard Bast:
'Remorse is not among the eternal verities. The Greeks were right to dethrone her'.
Bast, though, does not quite meet any happy end. I found Forster's devices interesting in the way that they could be seen as opposite to those of Charles Dickens. The latter would always kill a fallen woman off, death being the only possible redemption. With Forster it is the fallen man. The woman - or rather the Schlegel women - are allowed to flourish. This is, though, a novel that pits capitalism against socialism - German idealism and the Romantic versus stolid pragmatism. Spirituality versus property. Imperialism versus internationalism. Man versus woman. One great scene is when Margaret confronts her husband, Henry, and, using the plain language he sets great store by, forces him to listen to his hypocrisies - his moral failings - the connections. The test of greatness of a book by any long dead author is whether it can relate to us here and now - and this does on so many levels. Henry Wilcox is your archetypal Tory. Enough said. I had also been surprised to discover that Howards End is set in Stevenage. I work part of the week in London, and the other part in Stevenage - the address being 'Six Hills Way' - this landmark is referred to frequently. Who knew, I thought, that Stevenage, the first 'new town' had such a heritage?

Location:Kew

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

So fed up am I of buying books that I don't finish, that I decided I would go to the local library for a copy of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, which has just been awarded the Costa Prize. Unfortunately, I could only borrow it on the proviso that it was return by 1 February. I returned it the day after, without having finished it. I was about three quarters through, and will now have to go out and buy it for the final quarter. I loved Barry's The Secret Scripture, and on every publication of a new work, his star rises. Days Without End follows two boys, one descended from native Americans, and the other having arrived on one of the notorious coffin ships from famine struck Sligo. The tale is brave, funny, touching, but most of all Barry has achieved the perfect pitch. It is quite remarkable.

Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.

Mo…