not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
this post was originally published on my Goodreads account.
A classic “country house” novel greatly informed by other writers that came before–anyone looking for class commentary, middle-class romance, and descriptions of countryside will find plenty to enjoy here. Forster’s novel, however, is much smaller and more compact than the Richardson/Austen/Eliot novels in whose steps he follows, and the result is agreeably fleet: it feels like a smaller, less momentous story than something like Middlemarch, but no less powerful, particularly in the last few chapters. The bulk of the plot concerns a young girl, Lucy Honeychurch, who is traveling through Europe hoping somewhat aimlessly that something important should happen to her, and then something does. Forster takes characters who may seem silly at first glance and makes them sympathetic and human.
So I’ll happily give the novel a full five stars owing to the skill with which it was created and the deftness with which it navigates a rich literary tradition. But it does get a little tiring reading books focused on the glory of romantic love, and Mr. Emerson’s speech near the end is a bit much. Imagine you were living in a society of epileptics, and epilepsy was considered a rite of passage, and everybody had somehow made seizures the center of their culture. “Wait until you get your first seizure!” they’d say, and “Ah, nothing like the joy of young seizures,” and people would write books about other people having seizures, by which instruction you were supposed to understand how to find the seizures that really triggered you. Eventually, you’d ask yourself if you were the weird one for never having this sensation, or if people didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.