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on 18 June 2008
This novel, whilst by no means the greatest of Foster's, does however strike at the heart of the values and ideals his works espoused. While his novels had been written as it were "professionally" (so that he said that of the immensely successful "Howards End", which had preceded "Maurice", that there was no character in it for whom he really cared), "Maurice" is an intensely personal novel. It seems funny to think nowadays, but Forster only fully realised his homosexuality about the age of 26. Initially preferring "Platonic" relationships, he came to value the phyisical aspect more and more, and "Maurice" to some extent documents this.

The plot is fairly simple. Maurice Hall, a highly conventional youth of the pre-World War One era, goes to Cambridge, and there is gradually shaken from his suburban preconceptions. He meets Risley, and through him Clive Durham, and they gradually fall in love. Their relationship is platonic and chaste, rather charmingly. However, Clive (somehow) decided to "go straight", leaving Maurice in an abyss of loneliness and despair. When Clive marries, he goes to visit, and there meets Clive's gamekeeper Alec Scudder, with whom he eventually has a happy, physically-fulfilling relationship.

The main imagery of the novel concerns self-knowledge and self-revelation. Light and darkness are used as appropriate symbols - Maurice seeking the light of (self)knowledge, and is "afraid of the dark". In contrast to "Howards End" the novel is deliberately fragmentary, with short chapters and often some (unexplained) time between them. This suits the subject matter, as Maurice's gradual self-revelation comes to him in fits and starts, not following a smooth trajectory.

Close to Forster's heart are the critique of the middling-classes (Maurice and Clive's mother's are often talking about central heating, i.e. "hot air"); the rejection of Christianity (which foreshadows Maurice's later "corruption); the preference of the countryside as more nourishing and stimulating than "civillisation); Forster's anti-government views (he celebrates "the greenwood" into which Maurice and Alec disappear in the terminal note); and, linked with this, his sexual prefernce for the working-classes, whom he thought freer and more vital than the middle-classes from which he hailed. All of these were particular concerns of Forster's, although he would work these more successfully in varying degrees into "Howards End" and "A Passage To India".

The novel has been criticised for the ending, which many people have found unconvincing. Either the character of Alec is not fully fleshed-out, or the circumstances of their meeting was too unlikey. I think that in the days of particular sexual repression that much had to be read into small hints and clues when people met, exciting little tokens that only those who knew could understand. As for their decision to have a life "underground", well, the novel does also chart Maurice's disillusion with conventional morals and standards, and Forster was excited by the idea of a life with the working-classes. Alec as a character is sketchier than the gamekeeper in "Lady Chatterley's Lover", and his motivations are unclear.

However, Forster aimed in this novel to restore to the human stock homosexuality as something fine and dignified. He undoubtedly acheived tht with this novel, perhaps the first of its kind in English literature.
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on 18 May 2008
This is a beautiful, and short, story of a gay man's search for love. Because it's set at the start of the 20th century, the main character, Maurice, doesn't know the name for what he feels, nor that it's completely normal. Through his eyes, we see the discovery of his affections for other men, in contrast to what society, church and government expects from him. We see how trapped he is by class, and how he ultimately must give up his social status if he wants to be free to love.

Maurice must have anachronistically influenced Mary Renault's The Charioteer because the same themes pop up: gay men's secret society in prudish England, the idea of first love versus mature love, the hypocrisy of the bourgeois, etc. But, unlike "The Charioteer", this novel is more about the exploration of three world views (the atheist, the christian and the hellenistic) attitude towards homosexuality; and the disappointments a man must go through before he finds true love. E. M. Forster later wrote that the novel would date and merely be interesting as a period piece; but he was wrong: there's a lot to learn from comparing how different our attitude is to homosexuality today in contrast to a hundred years ago; and there's a lot that has been lost now that so many men no longer know what exists beyond lust.
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on 2 November 2014
In many ways, 'Maurice' is a tragic novel. It was the most personal of Forster's novels, published in the year after his death. It is also a gay fairy-tale, a story of love between two men of two classes on two different paths, overcoming the odds to be together. Forster wrote the novel at a time when homosexuality was not only illegal, but considered a form of insanity. Perhaps, he wanted to write a novel that reflected an idyllic world.

Quentin Crisp condemned the film version, precisely because it gave gay men what they wanted as opposed to what they should expect. Nevertheless, it is hard to condemn Mr. Forster's novel. 'Maurice' is beautifully written and a well-observed social drama, revealing details of gay life in Edwardian England. There are moments in the novel which might strike one as outlandish, but, because of the compassionate tone, one is inclined to forgive.

In summary, 'Maurice' is an entertaining, nourishing, and moving novel, and comes highly recommended.
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on 22 February 2014
I've got school to thanks for turning me against E. M. Forster's books. A Passage to India saw me off for more than 30 years. I am glad that I have returned with Maurice.

It is a book which I have always meant to read. I recall watching the 1987 film version when it was on TV - probably in the early '90s. That would have been before I had even 'come out' to myself, but even then I had the hots for Rupert Graves's Scudder.

Maurice is a classic gay novel. It is a lovely romantic tale.

Set in 1912, it is about the loves of three men at a time when society was straight-jacketed by tradition. The world order is decaying. The class system is creaking. World War One is on the horizon. And all the central charcter, Maurice Hall, wants is to be free and to love as comes naturally to him.

It is an old fashioned world with Edwardian prose, attitudes and morals. But is is not entirely outdated. That is the sad thing. More than a century on, and some of our attitudes and morals are still outdated.

Maurice wants to escape with his lover to the greenwood to live as an outlaw. In moden Britain today, we are lucky that homosexuality is respected, at least by the state if not by the church. This particular battle is nearly won.

But we still have a long way to go in breaking down those class barriers. In Maurice, E. M. Forster underlines the appalling superiority felt by the upper classes over those who they consider to be the lower orders. Their Edwardian attitudes go some way to explaining the behaviour of our current Conservative-led government when it comes to dealing with benefit recipients and those on low incomes.

The greenwood for some groups is still a long way off.
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on 11 July 2010
Maurice is not among the pioneering works of gay literature in that, though written before World War I, it was only published in 1970, after Forster's death, so it did not carve out a new territory of freedom for gay men. Forster himself said that the book was, by the close of his life, dated. And so it is in that it portrays a society that is long gone. But the emotional torment of Maurice as he struggles, in real pain, with his sexuality still strikes a chord, as does the brilliant portrayal of Maurice's inner conviction that everything that is wrong with him is also everything that is right for him as well.
Forster's prose is taut and understated, full of striking images and strong on irony. He also, perceptively for the time when he was writing, portrays a society on the verge of being swept away. Penge, the grand but delapidated country house of Maurice's friend Clive, is a symbol of a crumbling class system. The uneasy relationship between Maurice and Alec Scudder, when they are in the position of master and servant, rather than equals as lovers, perfectly describes the ambiguity and injustice of a deeply unfair social order. Maurice remains a remarkable book in its own right, as well as a poignant insight into the inner turmoil of Forster's own life in an age when to be gay was a crime and a sickness. The love between Alec and Maurice can only be consummated in secret. Society is governed by hypocrisy. This is a fascinating and moving glimpse of a world which, praise be, has gone forever.
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on 7 March 2015
I was a big Forster fan before I read this, so maybe I'm biased, but this was the best of his work I've read so far. Not even in the literary sense, but more of a human way - it was lovely to see Forster write freely (ok, kind of) of homosexuality (granted, he wasn't exactly writing it for publication at the time) rather than the suppressed subtext in his other works. Secondly, it ends happily? A story of a gay character ends happily in pre-world war one england. Maurice deserves five stars just for that reason alone.
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on 21 December 2006
This novel, whilst by no means the greatest of Foster's, does however strike at the heart of the values and ideals his works espoused. While his novels had been written as it were "professionally" (so that he said that of the immensely successful "Howards End", which had preceded "Maurice", that there was no character in it for whom he really cared), "Maurice" is an intensely personal novel. It seems funny to think nowadays, but Forster only fully realised his homosexuality about the age of 26. Initially preferring "Platonic" relationships, he came to value the phyisical aspect more and more, and "Maurice" to some extent documents this.

The plot is fairly simple. Maurice Hall, a highly conventional youth of the pre-World War One era, goes to Cambridge, and there is gradually shaken from his suburban preconceptions. He meets Risley, and through him Clive Durham, and they gradually fall in love. Their relationship is platonic and chaste, rather charmingly. However, Clive (somehow) decided to "go straight", leaving Maurice in an abyss of loneliness and despair. When Clive marries, he goes to visit, and there meets Clive's gamekeeper Alec Scudder, with whom he eventually has a happy, physically-fulfilling relationship.

The main imagery of the novel concerns self-knowledge and self-revelation. Light and darkness are used as appropriate symbols - Maurice seeking the light of (self)knowledge, and is "afraid of the dark". In contrast to "Howards End" the novel is deliberately fragmentary, with short chapters and often some (unexplained) time between them. This suits the subject matter, as Maurice's gradual self-revelation comes to him in fits and starts, not following a smooth trajectory.

Close to Forster's heart are the critique of the middling-classes (Maurice and Clive's mother's are often talking about central heating, i.e. "hot air"); the rejection of Christianity (which foreshadows Maurice's later "corruption); the preference of the countryside as more nourishing and stimulating than "civillisation); Forster's anti-government views (he celebrates "the greenwood" into which Maurice and Alec disappear in the terminal note); and, linked with this, his sexual prefernce for the working-classes, whom he thought freer and more vital than the middle-classes from which he hailed. All of these were particular concerns of Forster's, although he would work these more successfully in varying degrees into "Howards End" and "A Passage To India".

The novel has been criticised for the ending, which many people have found unconvincing. Either the character of Alec is not fully fleshed-out, or the circumstances of their meeting was too unlikey. I think that in the days of particular sexual repression that much had to be read into small hints and clues when people met, exciting little tokens that only those who knew could understand. As for their decision to have a life "underground", well, the novel does also chart Maurice's disillusion with conventional morals and standards, and Forster was excited by the idea of a life with the working-classes. Alec as a character is sketchier than the gamekeeper in "Lady Chatterley's Lover", and his motivations are unclear.

However, Forster aimed in this novel to restore to the human stock homosexuality as something fine and dignified. He undoubtedly acheived tht with this novel, perhaps the first of its kind in English literature.
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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2009
E M Forster's "Maurice" is a classic of the gay novel but regardless of being a classic it still remains an interesting and engaging work of literature. However, we had to wait almost thirty years for a critical edition but the book seems to have been destined for delays from the moment it was conceived. Although the writer completed the first draft in just a few months by 1913, it took him another 46 years of correcting and amending the text before he decided to leave it alone for another decade in a folder marked "Publishable, but is it worth it?". The novel appeared for the first time in 1971, a year after its author's death. Rather in a hurry to get the last unknown Forster's novel, the editors apparently did not pay sufficient attention to variants of the text. Still the edition remained in print for another twenty-eight years before this corrected edition finally appeared on the market.
An average reader may find this volume a bit too much to handle - over fifty pages of detailed introduction and almost a hundred pages of textual notes. Still the text of the novel is worth the money (just as the introduction) even if the extended notes (the editors apparently decided against publishing a separate volume of "Manuscripts" as they did in case of "A Passage to India" and two other novels) are addressed only to few specialists.
A perfect gift for anybody interested in history of gay literature or Forster. Even if they already have a copy of "Maurice" this is so much more than another reprint they will be happy to have it.
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on 17 April 2014
I absolutely loved this novel. It was very touching and elegantly written, but never pretentious. Poignant and subtle threads of imagery throughout. Very Forster in it's themes of connecting, belonging and the struggle between the Muddle and the self.
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on 16 August 2000
This version of "Maurice" (ISBN 0233996044) is the Abinger edition - it comes with all the alterations Forster made to the novel over four decades, notes to clarify words like "pi-jaw", the Epilogue which Forster deleted from the later versions of "Maurice", and the Editor's Introduction - the best essay I have ever read about Forster and his work, which explains how and why Forster changed this novel over four decades of his life. This introduction is fascinating, and far better researched and more carefully thought out than the Furbank introduction normally used in copies of this book.
An excellent book to read if you love the novel, and utterly invaluable for students of Forster - I wish I'd had this when I was writing my dissertation - it would have saved me so much time, and given me lots of new things to think about. There is a good deal of information here that you are unlikely to find anywhere else including excerpts from unpublished letters. Don't let the price put you off - it's really amazingly cheap for something that is both useful and enjoyable and right now I'm working out which other Abinger edition to read next. Just buy it!
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