Top positive review
10 people found this helpful
on 7 June 2012
A closely observed and tremendously atmospheric story of friendships, love and racism in British colonial India, exquisitely told - it is like reading lace.
Forster almost abandons plot and certainly abandons many of the conventions of novel writing in this, his last and some say greatest, novel. The central character is Aziz, a doctor of Indian birth working for the British. He meets a white woman - Mrs. Moore, newly arrived in India and it seems they fall in love. But Mrs. Moore's companion, Adele, accuses Aziz of assault, a charge that inflames tensions and personal relationships in the Chandrapore Township.
Mrs. Moore and Adele appear at first to be the centre of the book, but their characters fade away once Aziz is accused and instead it becomes clear that Forster is more interested in Aziz's friendship with Fielding - the British schoolmaster. He is the only white who believes that Aziz is innocent.
Forster beautifully captures the colours, sounds and spirit of India - he's obviously completely spellbound by India. His descriptions are more tender and subtle than Kipling's. Forster is just wonderful at capturing the cultural gulf between the two communities and between Hindus and Muslims. Tiny mannerisms, misunderstandings and different tastes are constantly explored and refined, often with a great deal of sly humour. India exists as a real person, there is a sense of history, beauty, spirituality and menace about the place, flies and snakes abound, cholera and disease is looked for, cars crash, carriages ride into hedges, boats capsize - danger is everywhere.
At the heart of this menace is the relationship between the British colonialists, who regard the Indians as inferior and believe that they are there for India's own good, and the Indians who can't make up their mind whether to fight each other or the British or to collaborate. With the impending trial of Aziz the atmosphere on both sides becomes murderous.
Ultimately this is a story about love and bigotry. Aziz and Mrs. Moore fall in love with hardly a word spoken, Adele finds herself incapable of loving either India or her fiancée, whilst Fielding and Aziz hate each other as oppressor and oppressed but also love like brothers.
If you are after plot and pace this may not be for you, but if you care about relationships and atmosphere, this is magical.