A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The one word that kept coming to mind as I read this and even after I finished, is: "Remarkable".
Honestly, even if I had never been told that E. M. Forster is one of those legendary greats, as mysterious as he is beloved, I would point to his writing and say the same damn thing.
I'm genuinely awed.
Beyond simple, clear prose, I was enraptured by the humor and odd observations in the dialogues, the irony of Colonial England ladies wanting to see "The Real India", or the great way that every single character is painted without bias or slant. It's definitely a humanist novel. But beyond that, for a novel out of 1925 and dealing with the heart of English occupation of India and the enormous prejudices and idiocies on BOTH sides of the debate, I'm flabbergasted with the number of courageous turns and observations.
It's not just a condemnation of the occupation, but there's plenty of that. It's about ignorance across the board, about true friendship, understanding and, of course, rampant misunderstanding.
India is painted in a gloriously chaotic fashion and England as is stolid, claustrophobic self, but there's lots of humor and heart and simple plain erroneous humanity on both sides.
Don't mistake my ramblings as a description of a travel tale. Misfortunes abound and innocent people's lives are or are nearly ruined. Who's to blame? Everyone. Is it a comedy? Yes. Is it tragic? Yes. Is it thoughtful and emotional and wise? Yes.
What really stuck with me was the preoccupation with the idea of marriage. Not actual marriage, but the perception of it. So many faults and accidents and a weight of tradition conspired to make a real hash out of the MC's engagement. But what made this novel brilliant was the way it perfectly dovetailed and highlighted, or was reverse-highlighting the reality of the English Occupation.
Marriage and occupation are so VERY alike, are they not? And Forster is no slouch on any front. He's clever and wide-ranging with his portrayals of women. Each is as different as can be. The good, the bad, and everything in-between. :) Like anyone. But the important bit is WHEN this came out. It's no knee-jerk reaction to women's right's movements. It's just seeing them with clear eyes. Or seeing the people of India the same way, for that matter. :)
But again, don't let me persuade you that this is all the novel is about. These are just a few tastes to a VERY rich and remarkable novel. :) I think I could read it 4 or 5 times and still find new gems or facets inside it. :)
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