Title: Howards End
Author: E.M. Forster
Copyright: 2003 (1910)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Howards End is one of my favorite books, and every couple of years I pull it down off the shelf to reacquaint myself with it. It's one of those books that has become an old friend over the years.
The story revolves around the Schlegels, Wilcoxes and Basts, three families whose lives interconnect over the course of several years and not necessarily always for the better, and at the center of the story is always the country home, Howards End. The book is an amazing study of class distinctions; passion versus intellect; constraint versus action; wealth versus poverty.
The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, are passionate for life; they want to experience as much as they can from it. The Wilcoxes come from a more conservative stock, more it tune with their wealth and possessions than anything else. After a hastily announced (as just as hastily broken) engagement between the youngest Wilcox son, Paul, and Helen, the families find themselves at odds, until an unlikely friendship forms between Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel. Upon Mrs. Wilcox's death, she leaves Howards End to Margaret, but the Wilcoxes as a whole do not feel that Mrs. Wilcox was in her right frame of mind and never let Margaret know of Mrs. Wilcox's bequest. In amidst these settings we are also introduced to Leonard Bast, who lives on the brink of poverty and feels that through education and enlightenment he might better his life and that of his fiancée, Jacky.
There are so many subtle nuances to this story, I have a hard time getting it all down on paper. Forster has created an amazing story that is poignant in its telling and staggering in it depth. No matter how many times I read Howards End, I am always amazed at the intricacies of the story and feel that I take something new away with each reading.
I don't usually feel that movies made from books are all that memorable, but the film version of Howards End is one of those rare exceptions. Released in 1992 by the amazing film making duo of Ismail Merchant (producer) and James Ivory (director) with a screen-play by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and starring Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter, the movie stays true throughout to the essence and feel of the book. The acting is simply amazing, the cinematography is beautiful and the direction is superb. If you've never watched it, I'd highly recommend it.