Howard’s End – EM Forster – (AUDIOBOOK) – 10.09.20

Howards End was written in 1910 and set in that contemporary era. It’s a novel that made thoughts boil over in my head as I listened – about the English class system and imperialism and sexism – at times I was so angry with the characters, and not sure whether the writer was sympathetic with one group or another (having just finished I’ve been reading the Spark Notes summaries of the chapters and even they admit that Forsters betrayal of the rights and wrongs of the issues raised are ‘nuanced’). The book follows three families – the Wilcox family: for the most part (in my mind anyway) hateful, arrogant, hypocritical, unimaginative, all round awful upper class prats that typify all that’s wrong with the entitled gentry classes that unfortunately still exist today. The Schlegel family – two young lady daughters and a teenaged son being raised by an aunt, also comfortably well off, but with a much more poetic and thoughtful outlook on life – they want to explore and if possible help with the injustices raised by the class system, while at the same time being pragmatic and realising that they only have the freedom to enjoy art and philosophy because they never need worry about having enough money to get by. And Leonard and Jacky Bast, a married couple from the working classes. Leonard Bast aspires to better himself by reading and visiting cultural events, but at the same time is suspicious and resentful of the very types he is trying to emulate. These three families become entangled in what is (according to the Spark Notes!) a metaphor for the time of upheaval between the old England of rural communities ruled over by landed gentry, and the changing times of industrialisation and more urban living and is a treatise on what effect this may have on the class system. Perhaps because of my modern sensibilities, I found it impossible to see why Margaret Schlegel would agree to marry Henry Wilcox when he was such a hateful chauvinist and she had to hide her greater intelligence in order not to upset his world view of ladies being dim but nice (if a little hysterical). It’s certainly an interesting read (or listen) and I loved the voice of the narrator (Edward Petherbridge) who is terrible posh (which usually puts me off a narrator) but who read with great sensitivity and, I though, gave perfect portrayals of the different characters’ voices, which made the experience very enjoyable.

Published by sarahrwray

I'm an erstwhile writer and forever reader and book reviewer.

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