Howards End by E.M. Forster

Everything about English culture of the early 20th century shows up in this book. Differences in social class, the intellectual class versus the merchant class, illicit and proper love and a vivid plot keep the pages turning.

An impulsive act by Helen Schlegel and Paul Wilcox gets the Schlegel and Wilcox families off to a rocky beginning.

Margaret Schlegel, the main character, is a peacemaker and an intellectual, who has great love and respect for everyone. When Margaret Schlegel meets Mrs. Wilcox a chain of events is set in motion that alters the future for many people. Mrs. Wilcox soon dies and wills her beloved childhood home Howards End to Margaret on a scrap of paper. Margaret and her brother and sister have been living in a house that is about to be demolished and are looking for lodgings. They eventually rent Howards End. Henry Wilcox decides not to honor his wife’s wish, but eventually courts and marries Margaret, whose family is so completely different from his.

Henry Wilcox is a rich merchant, whose overbearing personality does not sit well with Helen, Margaret’s impulsive, passionate, romantic sister. Meanwhile, a poor young man named Leonard Bast has entered the picture and will have great influence upon the family. The interactions of all these elements and characters drive the book. Henry Wilcox’s past history and subsequent behavior has an unfortunate consequence in several lives.

This is a rich, complex book with much to say. If I had to choose a favorite book, this is it and it was made into a beautiful Merchant-Ivory film.

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