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Words of a Bibliophile

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." —Bee Gees


Howards End by E.M. Forster

Howards End - E.M. Forster

At the center of this novel is the contrast between two upper-class English families in the early 20th century, the cultured, idealistic Schlegels and the capitalist, materialistic Wilcoxes. I was expecting drama mixed with romance and maybe a bit of comedy along the lines of A Room with a View, but the drama ends up being more serious than I thought, with some unexpected topics including adultery, illegitimate pregnancy and manslaughter. The book contains larger themes about the social, economic and political situations of the era, but in my opinion they tend to overpower the actual plot and characters. The narration goes off on rambling meditations on these themes a little too often.

The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, reminded me a bit of Elinor and Marianne from Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and I thought the elder sister Margaret would be the more sensible one like Elinor. But she proves me wrong when she decides to fall in love with old Henry Wilcox—at best insufferably patronizing and at worst a hypocritical, sexist jerk. The ending is also unsatisfying and seems too good to be true. After a convenient time skip, Helen and Henry suddenly stop disliking each other in the final chapter after doing so throughout most of the book. Margaret, whom I was cheering for when she resolved to not forgive Henry for his wrongs and to leave for Germany with Helen, has a change of heart and absolves him. And so they all live together (unrealistically) happily at Howards End. All in all, I liked this the least out of the four Forster novels that I've read.