Book Review: Maurice by E.M. Forster (finished by 1914, published in 1971)

Maurice was actually the first Forster novel I grabbed a hold of, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it until now. This is a regrettable offense. It is a pure literary masterpiece.maurice_novel

Forster never had the opportunity to see the reception of his novel because it was published posthumously. Unfortunately the reason for this is (in my opinion) so banal that I can’t even begin to describe my incredulity. The novel focuses on same-sex relationships. While this is the focus of the novel and not to be dismissed, I believe that the novel is so much more complex than that. In this novel Forster explores the depths of the mixing of class, education, personal philosophies and religion, sexuality, sensuality, and even more. This novel wonderfully navigates all the intricacies of any type of relationship ever had. All of this is heightened because it is about a same-sex relationship.

Maurice is about, well, a boy named Maurice and his interesting relationship with another boy named Clive. While I wouldn’t call this a bildungsroman, Forster does give snippets of each of the boys’ childhood. While attending Cambridge the two meet. Going from casual, to intimate, to romantic, it appears as if this relationship will be one that will last forever. But Forster would never make it so easy for us, would he? After a oddly subdued split, Clive is off to be happily married, and Maurice is now alone. Enter Alec, a servant of Clive’s household, who will completely change Maurice and all that he believes.

Reading the book, I went through so many emotions, especially pertaining to the characters themselves. I loved, then hated, then liked, then loathed, and finally pitied Clive. With Alec, I ignored, then liked, then was turned off by, then hated, then fell hopelessly in love with. Funnily enough, I was completely ambivalent with Maurice’s character. He was like a blank slate that kept on being splashed on by the vibrant colors of Clive and Alec, and my reaction towards him was only colored by the people he was around. Never before have a read a book with a character like Maurice, and if I do, I doubt many could achieve the effect that Forster had.

As it is with Forster, we are taken on a journey that is not only captivating in its plot, but in the language itself. Each sentence blends into the next with a lyrical quality completely unique to its author. The pace of the novel is also intriguing. I found myself not even a fifth into the book and the relationship between Maurice and Clive had already culminated. Wondering how Forster will continue to drive the plot forward, I plunged ahead and soon realized I had only about a fifth of the book left and Alec’s first name had yet to be discovered! I was completely enthralled by the portraits of each of the character’s minds, which really is the bulk of the book. Never once did I wish for the plot to speed up. In fact, there were times that I wish it slowed down. I personally would have liked to have explored the newly formed relationship between Maurice and Alec, but I am completely satisfied by what was provided. The book ended on a hopeful note instead of a completely resolved one, and for those of you who are into music, you understand the power of an unresolved note. The last pages are composed of one last reunion between Maurice and Clive, and I believe that Forster did a brilliant job at concluding their relationship.

Of course you may have heard that this novel is a must read because it is a classic. This is true. But I say this is a must read because it is timeless, effortless, and frankly a good and easy book to read. Forster is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

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