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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2017
This is a small novel of just over 150 pages, split into 10 chapters and it's really easy to read. I have been given this book to read as part of a literature appreciation course - I read Room With A View many years ago but remember little of it and had not heard of this novel.
The writing is brilliant from the start. It's very funny and the characters are compelling. Every sentence seems to contain some witticism - this is a novel which needs to be read slowly in order to catch everything.
It is a short novel and the plot is straightforward - lots happens in such a few pages and it has to be straightforward. Forster clearly sets out back stories, relationships and potential for conflict.
The plot takes the form of a farce with the characters rushing about without thinking of consequence - everything happens quickly with people and actions being exaggerated for comic effect. There are several elements of the plot which are simply preposterous and made me gasp!
I found the book very implausible but understood that he was playing with stereotypes of the times. Once used to that then the book becomes quite sensitive as the characters are drawn to their fates.
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on 30 April 2017
A book I read as a teenager, still thought provoking and amazing!
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on 8 March 2017
Print too small to read
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on 24 August 2017
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on 24 August 2017
A quite delightful book.
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on 22 July 2014
Once again, I fear that I've read a book that is only truly exciting in the last pages. The story is thin, but the focus is more on the relationships and prejudices of the characters. Can I just say that I despised Harriet throughout this whole novel. She was conceited, prejudiced and hateful throughout, and it annoyed me thoroughly that she took no blame, or felt any guilt, for her actions and the disastrous consequences. Additionally, that she was not punished for her actions was shocking, and Philip taking the blame on himself, whilst noble, angered me because it allowed her to rid herself of guilt. Her mental breakdown counted for naught in my opinion, because we hear that it was not long-lasting, that she took on no guilt, and that it didn't change her character for the better.

Anyway, the novel was interesting, though not gripping. I have read that his later novels are far more interesting, so I can forgive that this was a first novel and thus perhaps his writing style was not fully established. I look forward to reading some of the author's other novels of note.
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on 8 September 2013
Published in 1905, when Forster was 26, this debut novel is regarded as a modern classic. He only published six novels. He was inspired by journeys to Italy with his mother (in 1901). For a young man's debut, it is accomplished.

It's written from an omniscient point of view, so that we hear the author as much as any character's thoughts, which was - and perhaps still is - the fashion in literary fiction. It begins as a comic piece but towards the end turns into a tragedy.

The young widow Lilia Herriton tours Italy, leaving her daughter with her mother-in-law. When Lilia announces her marriage to Gino, an Italian a dozen years younger than her, there are ructions at home and Philip is despatched to put matters right. However, Philip is ineffectual and fails in his mission. To say more would spoil the story.
Forster intended that the book should be about the improvement of Philip, according to one of his letters. Yet much of the first portion of the book is as much about Lilia and her rocky relationship with Gino and Philip's implacable mother, Mrs Herriton.

The editor for this book states that he finds the book `flawless - in the perfection of its structure, its subtle use of leitmotifs, etc.' Much of the `etc' I can agree with, but not the structure, which I found uneven, and some of the head-hopping annoying.

However, what won me over were Forster's acute observation and his humour.

Philip's sister Harriet accompanies him on another mercy mission to Italy and when asked about her ticket, she replied, `A single for me, I shall never get back alive.' Perhaps because she held the view `foreigners are a filthy nation.'

Towards the end, Philip deduced that `For our vanity is such that we hold our own characters immutable, and we are slow to acknowledge that they have changed, even for the better.' And that's the case, though there is a neat little twist ending.
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VINE VOICEon 6 December 2011
I always seem to struggle with Forster's work and I don't really know why. His style is eminently readable and well crafted, his characters are generally well rounded and develop well over the course of a novel, his subject matter is of the sort which usually appeals to me. And yet I found with this novel, as well as with Howards End, that something undefinable was missing for me.

Saying that, there were aspects of Where Angels Fear to Tread which I did enjoy. The plot is good and the subject matter it deals with interesting. Lilia is a young widow, who lives with her in-laws in London. She has a daughter to whom she is not exactly a doting mother, and is struggling to find a position for herself in the world since her husband has died. The family recommends that she undertake some foreign travel, most notably in Italy, a favourite of her brother-in-law, Philip. She is accompanied by Caroline Abbott, a single lady and friend of the family, who is to act as a sort of chaperone. Having arrived in Italy, it is not long before Lilia informs her familt she has married one of the local "nobles." The in-laws are furious at this development and send Philip to Italy. He discovers that Lilia's new husband, Gino, is actually the son of the town dentist and hence of low rank. Philip wants to have the marriage annuled but it is too late - Lilia is pregnant. She later dies after giving birth to a son. The family in Englans are now faced with another problem - the boy will be raised as an Italian. They cannot tolerate this and so Philip is sent off again to persuade Gino to allow him to bring up the child in England. I wont give away the ending, but suffice to say it is heart renching.

The story was a little slow in starting for me, but once Philip arrived in Italy for the first time it really picked up. The themes of cultural collision and prejudice are explored with great effect, as are the mores of British society in the early 20th century. Forster cleverly depicts the effect on people whose previously narrow life experience is suddenly expanded by foreign travel and exposure to people who live life passionately rather than within the restrictions of British societal values.

The real strength of the novel, though, is the characters. It has to be said, none of them are particularly likeable. They are largely selfish, narrow minded individuals motivated in their actions by the wrong reasons. However, they are developed well across the novel, most notably Philip and Caroline. Whilst they are not particularly likeable, they do feel very real and human, and you can understand through Forster's depiction why they act as they do. Philipat the start of the novel is disillusioned with false romance, bossed by his family and misled by his own prejudices. However, across the novel he developes a gradual understanding of love and humanity, and the scales of prejudice begin to fall from his eyes, and this is the real heart of the story.

Despite the good plot and character development, I think ultimately what left me feeling disappointed with this book was that it failed to move me. Despite all the tragedy and suffering the characters encounter, and the eventual partial redepmtion of the likes of Philip, the book just failed to touch me and I do not think will stick in my mind. The end of the story was tragic and yet felt a bit of a damp squib - like Forster just didn't know what to do next and so settled for "oh well, that was a shame". I can admire Forster's work as a lover of good writing, but I just haven't yet come to love it.
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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2008
The first novel written by E. M. Forster is a perfect introduction to his fiction. He is not yet a master so he will not frighten you off with his form and style but he will gently let you see the world the way he saw it. This relatively small and slight book can make a charming read if you are sensitive enough to detect delicate mood changes, notice off-hand remarks which reveal the true meaning of the story. The style and language alone make it worth your time.
And yet there is more to it. It is a book about "us" and "the other". Philosophers have pondered on the issue for years and brought hefty volumes of studies but Forster can make it without unnecessary ado. This history of an English widow who did not fit in affluent suburb and, when sent abroad, married an Italian youth only to become the victim of his macho ways will certainly make you think. The second part - the unfortunate family rescue operation sent to save a baby from being brought up in wrong faith and wrong part of the world will also be food for thought. Have we changed really? Are we ready to accept that other people's ways may be as good as ours? Forster leaves these questions unanswered and the ending open - you have to fill in the blanks of the novel and the way you see the world.
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on 16 April 2017
It's an amusing book about the English and their manners; louche young aristocrats being fenced with by the elders. The title is a quote from Pope.
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