If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have told you I didn’t plan on reading this book. In fact, I hadn’t even heard about it. I knew who E.M. Forster was, I knew about his other novels A Passage to India and A Room with a View, but reading them was not a priority of mine. I picked up this book because it was at the top of the reading list for my 20th Century Literature course.
Howards End tells the story of three families: the Wilcox family, the Schlegel sisters, and Mr and Mrs Bast. At the beginning of the novel, Helen Schlegel, the younger sister, becomes engaged to Paul Wilcox, but breaks off the engagement immediately. Both families assume that they won’t be seeing each other again and agree that it’s for the best, given that they’re so different. While the Schlegel sisters are well-educated, sensitive and intellectual, and they do not conform to the social expectations; the Wilcoxes are a very conservative family, with old-school values and prejudices. A few days later, the Schlegel sisters meet Leonard Bast, a working class man trying to overcome his position, and befriend him. To everyone’s surprise, the Wilcoxes leave their country house, Howards End, and move to London, becoming neighbors of the Schlegels. Over the course of the next years, their paths will intertwine with one another, influences will come and go, and life will take them to unexpected places.
This is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year. Written in an agile and entertaining way, it presents life in England during the Edwardian Period (1901-1910) as it truly was. It is a novel that reflects the thought that the author put into the ways of life and social conditions, but it doesn’t feel like a heavy philosophical novel.
Recommended for those who enjoy a good classic and/or, like me, are fans of 20th Century literature.