Book Review | Howards End by EM Forster

15822373Revolving around the theme of “Only Connect”, Howards End concerns love, lies, death, and living. From the feisty Schlegel sisters, Helen and Margaret, to the upper-class Wilcoxes, Howards End also sees to the struggling Basts amidst discussions of social convention, wealth, charity, and relationships. In this turn-of-the-century novel, widely regarded as Forster’s best, Margaret is our strong-willed, independent protagonist, who refuses to let her husband’s smugness and closed-mindedness affect her own life. 

This book is unequivocally English. Unlike Forster’s other novellas I have read (A Room With a View and Where Angels Fear To Tread) which both take place predominantly in Europe, Howards End takes place entirely in England, mostly in the rolling hills of the south, where I live.

I really loved the Schlegel sisters. For 1910, when this book was written, they would be seen as incredibly forward-thinking. Something I do love about EM Forster is his writing of women, because it’s not like the modern-day romance writer. Forster writes about women as real people, and Margaret and Helen have some of the most interesting, thought-provoking, and life-changing parts in the book. They are both catalysts for many of the events, and even in marriage, when a woman would be expected to submit to her husband, Margaret frequently stands her own ground and knows when she should and shouldn’t forgive her husband for doing something wrong.

The actual story, aside from ongoing thread of “who will inherit Howards End?” wasn’t entirely interesting, but something that carries Forster’s novels for me is the beautiful description. Whenever I open one of his books, I feel like I’ve jumped into the pages. The whole world melts away, and I just live the literature.

It may help that I actually live where much of the novel is set. The Schlegel sisters are from London, which was completely different in the turn of the century than now, but they often travel to Swanage, where I spent many summers, and to Hertfordshire and around the South Downs in general. I’ve read some criticism of the book that it wasn’t “universal” enough (whatever that means; when is a book ever “universal”?!) but for me, it was. It was like I’m standing on the same soil, just 100 years ago.

Whilst the main question of the story is “who will inherit Howards End?”, when we view the larger picture we end up asking, “Who will inherit England?” Forster uses three families, representing three different tiers of class in 1900s England – upper, middle, and working, and in many books, you’d expect these classes to remain separate. However, Forster mingles them with intermarriage and interbreeding. By the end of the novel, within the marriages and births and deaths, there are no clear cut “classes”; no one clear cut class ready to inherit Howards End – or England, as the metaphor goes.

I thoroughly enjoyed Howards End. It’s a book that I may not remember the exact story line of, but I am satisfied when I turn the last page.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads
Source: Bought from Waterstones

Book Review | The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

24874335Marx and Engels summon the working class to join the Communist party in one of the most influential writings of its time. 

I can’t actually believe I’m reviewing this, but I picked up this Little Black Classic and review it I wish to!

I actually agree with a lot of what the Manifesto says. I think that people should be equal – I really hate capitalism. (I highly recommend reading Animal Farm by George Orwell, by the way. It’s one of my favourite books of all time.) However, I feel like the way Marx and Engels go about it is really counter productive. As I wrote in my reading notes, “Why is there so much violence everywhere?”

I can see why the ideals of the Manifesto took off, especially in Russia during this time when there was a huge split between the rich, poor, and those in the middle. Marx and Engels seem to write about the people, and it’s easy to see why people believed in them.

However… I have to say, I did think I would get more from this. I expected to feel empowered, but I actually felt a little bit scared that this small, 52-page booklet changed so much of history. It’s humbling and entirely terrifying.

The Communist Manifesto is #20 of the Little Black Classics series. 

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads
Source: bought

Book Review | The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen

This Little Black Classic showcases a collection of short stories that Jane wrote to entertain her family when she was still a teenager. 

These stories are so sweet! They are definitely not up to the scale of Jane’s later works, so if that’s what you’re wanting, this isn’t the place to find it. However, Jane does real good in these short stories and I found myself laughing aloud with some of them.

Some of the reading matter really did shock me, though, from Jane’s era, so I can’t imagine what her family thought of them! The phrase “dead drunk” continually crops up, for instance. Either way, they were pretty mature stories – more of a teenager trying to both entertain and impress her family.  Continue reading “Book Review | The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Dent’s day hasn’t been going well. He’s been lying in the mud all morning to save his house from being demolished, and then his entire planet has been demolished. He, however, was saved by Ford Prefect from Betelgeuse. Ford takes Arthur on a journey over the galaxy, teaming up with Ford’s cousin to find a supposedly mythical planet.

Yeah, yeah, it’s taken me ages to finally read this book, and I only really read it for my book club. But still.

I still don’t really know why, but I actually expected this to be an actual guide to the galaxy, like JKR’s Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. It’s not, if you were wondering; it’s an actual book with characters and a plot. (WHICH, BY THE WAY, FINISHED ON A CLIFFHANGER. SO NOW I NEED THE NEXT ONE. (I really have to stop doing this.))

Anyway, onto the actual book. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I hoped. I tend to read quite fast, but this book forced me to read more slowly because there were so many odd concepts. Perhaps if I were less stressed and more able to be free with my time, I would have enjoyed it more (perhaps a re-read and an updated review in the future??) – which is why I think I boosted the star-rating on GoodReads (4/5), because it’s not the book’s fault.

However, I did like that there was a complete universe in the novel (I mean, obviously there is, but a complete fictional one). The concepts, whilst causing me to read slower, were rather humorous and I enjoyed them.

That’s another thing: the writing style! I really liked it. It was funny, and went perfectly off-topic. There were some great analogies too.

(I finally get all of this and it makes me so happy.)

Whilst I did love the characters and found them interesting, even a bit weird, I found that Hitchhiker didn’t have quite the ‘uumph’ for me that I was hoping for. However, I did still enjoy it and all of the cool creatures, loopy landscapes and baffling plot. Even if you can tell from the adjectives there I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve read…

(I’d recommend this, obviously, for sci-fi lovers, but I think that anyone could like this novel. Aside from my mother (I’ve just asked her.).)

Also, interestingly, I originally gave this a 5 star review on GR. Perhaps I’m just in a bad mood and my memory is suffering from too many grumpy Ancient Roman satirists.