Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Club: Howard's End by EM Forster

"All I write is, to me, sentimental. A book which doesn't leave people either happier or better than it found them, which doesn't add some permanent treasure to the world, isn't worth doing." -EM Forster, 1879-1970

I finished Howard's End last night. Honestly, the plot pyrotechnics in the latter half of the book didn't touch me quite as much as the simple truths and observations that, though less grand, putter innocuously through the novel's quieter moments; it's the stuff between action sequences that resonated with me. The structure is making me wonder about what I'll think of On Beauty, the Zadie Smith novel that pays homage to Howard's End by borrowing the EM Forster story line. Acton's read it and I've promised to bring the book as secondary reading to our book club later this month.

Here's EM Forster describing the awkwardness that guests can feel:
"Poor Mrs. Charles sat between her silent companions, terrified at the course of events, and a little bored... Crumbling her toast, too nervous to ask for the butter, she remained almost motionless, thankful only for this, her father in law was having his breakfast upstairs."p 95

Here's EM Forster on a chance encounter with acquaintances:
"With a good dinner inside him and an amiable but academic woman on either flank, he felt that his hands were on all the ropes of life, and that what he did not know could not be worth knowing."p137

On feeling like you've fallen off the proper track:
"Miss Wilcox had changed perceptibly since her engagement. Her voice was gruffer, her manner more downright, and she was inclined to patronize the more foolish virgin. Margaret was silly enough to be pained at this. Depressed at her isolation, she saw not only houses and furniture, but the vessel of life itseld slipping past her, with people like Evie and Mr. Cahill on board."

On annoying couples:
"Mr Cahill insisted on sirloin, but admitted that he had made a mistake later on. He and Evie soon fell into a conversation of the "No, I didn't; yes you did" type-conversation which, though fascinating to those who are engaged in it, neither desires nor deserves the attention of others." p159

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