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Posted on August 29, 2011

Howards End by E. M. Forster

Some books are notable for characters that are so real and alive that you feel like one might knock on the door at any time. Other books have prose that makes you feel like you’re looking at the most beautiful painting in the world. Still others keep you on the page because the plot twists and turns and surprises. There are even books which are notable because they espouse social ideals. And then there’s ‘Howard’s End’, which falls under the ‘all of the above’ category. There’s a reason this book is on just about every ‘top 100 books ever written’ list.

At the center of it all are the Schlegel sisters. They’re headstrong children of German immigrants who have made a name and home for themselves in London’s middle class social scene. ¬†And they are doing just fine until one of the sisters (Helen) almost gets engaged to a Wilcox child. It doesn’t work out but the Wilcoxes end up moving next door to the Schlegels. The Wilcox family, although far richer and ethnically more established, are paradoxically unprepared for London Society.

Due to a misunderstanding, the Basts are thrown into the mix. Leonard Bast, although from the lower class, is without a doubt the most cultured, always reading and going out to the orchestra. The wife (Jackie), we find out, has her own connection to the group. Things heat up and bad decisions are made.

And then we come to Howards End, the country estate of the Wilcox family. The matriarch of the Wilcox family, Ruth, knows that her family has no connection to the house, so she gives it to the other Schlegel sister (Margaret). The Wilcoxes find the deathbed will and burn it. But Margaret gets Howards End in her own way.

It gets complicated from there. All I’ll say is that more main characters die than get pregnant.

Maybe it’s just me. I grew up in a house that I have a very deep connection to. Maybe that’s what draws me to this book. Or maybe it’s the portrayal of the ironies that can be inherent in every social class. Or maybe it’s that this book asks deeper questions about what it means to be connected to country, land and family.

The thing is that you can be asked those questions, but they will never be presented in such a poetic and soulful way as they are in ‘Howards End.’ This book is a masterpiece and is one of those that reminds you that writing is art.

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