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A Passage to India [Paperback]

E.M. Forster
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 17, 1965 0156711427 978-0156711425
Among the greatest novels of the twentieth century and the basis for director David Lean’s Academy Award-winning film, A Passage to India tells of the clash of cultures in British India after the turn of the century. In exquisite prose, Forster reveals the menace that lurks just beneath the surface of ordinary life, as a common misunderstanding erupts into a devastating affair.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What really happened in the Marabar caves? This is the mystery at the heart of E.M. Forster's 1924 novel, A Passage to India, the puzzle that sets in motion events highlighting an even larger question: Can an Englishman and an Indian be friends?

"It is impossible here," an Indian character tells his friend, Dr. Aziz, early in the novel.

"They come out intending to be gentlemen, and are told it will not do.... Why, I remember when Turton came out first. It was in another part of the Province. You fellows will not believe me, but I have driven with Turton in his carriage--Turton! Oh yes, we were once quite intimate. He has shown me his stamp collection.

"He would expect you to steal it now. Turton! But red-nosed boy will be far worse than Turton!

"I do not think so. They all become exactly the same, not worse, not better. I give any Englishman two years, be he Turton or Burton. It is only the difference of a letter. And I give any Englishwoman six months. All are exactly alike."

Written while England was still firmly in control of India, Forster's novel follows the fortunes of three English newcomers to India--Miss Adela Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Cyril Fielding--and the Indian, Dr. Aziz, with whom they cross destinies. The idea of true friendship between the races was a radical one in Forster's time, and he makes it abundantly clear that it was not one that either side welcomed. If Aziz's friend, Hamidullah, believed it impossible, the British representatives of the Raj were equally discouraging.
"Why, the kindest thing one can do to a native is to let him die," said Mrs. Callendar.
"How if he went to heaven?" asked Mrs. Moore, with a gentle but crooked smile.
"He can go where he likes as long as he doesn't come near me. They give me the creeps."
Despite their countrymen's disapproval, Miss Quested, Mrs. Moore, and Mr. Fielding are all eager to meet Indians, and in Dr. Aziz they find a perfect companion: educated, westernized, and open-minded. Slowly, the friendships ripen, especially between Aziz and Fielding. Having created the possibility of esteem based on trust and mutual affection, Forster then subjects it to the crucible of racial hatred: during a visit to the famed Marabar caves, Miss Quested accuses Dr. Aziz of sexually assaulting her, then later recants during the frenzied trial that follows. Under such circumstances, affection proves to be a very fragile commodity indeed.

Arguably Forster's greatest novel, A Passage to India limns a troubling portrait of colonialism at its worst, and is remarkable for the complexity of its characters. Here the personal becomes the political and in the breach between Aziz and his English "friends," Forster foreshadows the eventual end of the Raj. --Alix Wilber

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-By E.M. Forster. Narrated by Flo Gibson.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (March 17, 1965)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156711427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156711425
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
96 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Classic June 21, 2002
I've read and enjoyed several Forster books, but "A Passage to India" tops them all. The plot concerns the arrival in Chandrapore, India of Ms. Quested and her potential mother-in-law, Mrs. Moore. They come to visit Mrs. Moore's son, Ronny, who is engaged to Ms. Quested. Ms. Quested and Mrs. Moore are the typical new arrivals, and they desire to see more of the "real" India than they can see with their fellow Brits, who tend to gather in the state Club and socialize only with each other. They become involved with Dr. Aziz, a local Indian physician, who promises to show them the famous, nearby Marabar caves. Dr. Aziz is solicitous toward the Brits and craves their friendship, but he clearly has negative feelings toward them also.

At the Marabar caves, an incident occurs (or does not occur) to Ms. Quested that alters all of the characters and their town inextricably. There is a trial and a bit of a mystery, but the focus is always on the characters and their conflicts. In particular, the tension between the English and the people of India is beautifully portrayed. The characters are multi-dimensional, as are their motives, which makes for a fascinating read. I found the book to be quite moving and sad - a true classic.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece. December 22, 1999
This is book is incredible, and one of my personal favorites. Its beauty is too easily overlooked, because it is so elegantly subtle. Every aspect of the storytelling is masterful: the prose is lush and nuanced, and every character is exquisitely drawn. Drawing from the slimmest of plots, Forster weaves what seems to be an isolated incident into a complex tapestry of emotion. The central focus are the characters, who are sharply realistic and utterly, utterly human. Another aspect that I liked very much is that it takes an era, the British Raj in India, which is otherwise interpreted only with the most hotly colored emotions, and presents it with a marked neutrality, presenting it only through the eyes of the characters. A marvelous read.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clash of Two Cultures Basis for Tragic Tale December 13, 2007
Britishers Mrs. Moore and her prospective daughter-in-law, Adela Quested, make the arduous journey to India to visit Mrs. Moore's son, Ronny Heslop. He is a magistrate in Chandrapore, India, during the British occupation of that country. The two ladies make the acquaintance of Dr. Aziz, a local doctor who offers them a chance to see the "real India" by visiting the Marabar caves. Hoping to please the British ladies, he plans a wonderfully complicated and expensive journey. However, an unfortunate misunderstanding erupts into a tragic affair that point up the cultural differences and seething anger between the two cultures.

Was Miss Quested attacked by Dr. Aziz in the caves? This question becomes the central issue which propels the plot and lays bare the hostility and polarizing feelings of superiority and inferiority prevalent at the time. The reader is swept into the life of Dr. Aziz as more misunderstandings cause a permanent rift with his dearest friend and gives him a genuine hatred of the English. While the pompous Heslop contends his countrymen are in India to do justice and keep the peace, the appalling behavior on both sides explodes at a trial and lingers long after.

Forster is adept at not taking sides, at showing both the British as well as the Indian side of the issues. In his fair and balanced telling, the reader can alternately sympathize with Dr. Aziz or Miss Quested. Neither wins when the truth is revealed and both are forever scarred by the incident in the Marabar caves.

In 1984, David Lean brought this drama to the big screen and, in my opinion, actually improved on the source material by making the characters more sympathetic and capturing visually the beauty of India. Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested atop an elephant riding to the Marabar caves is a breath-taking scene and one any viewer will long remember.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forster's Best Work, a masterpiece on so many levels October 3, 1999
By A Customer
E.M. Forsters book "A passage to India" is indeed one of the best books I have ever read in my life. Forster shows great skill in bringing the tragic tale of an attempted friendship between Aziz and Fielding.
The book revolves around what may be termed the secret understanding of the heart. This is an understanding of people, their feelings and their interaction with other humans.
In a story which is not primarily political, Forster makes a political comment on what was happening in India at that time.
The issue of the Marabar caves is not really an issue at all because even Forster says that it doesn't really matter what if anything happened in the caves, because it is the repercussions of what did of didn't happen that are important. I believe that the expedition into the Marabar caves merely amplified the emotions already inherent in the characters, for example Adela Quested tells us that she felt unwell since the teaparty with Fielding which took place long before the journey to the caves.
Forster also presents us with well rounded characters except in the case of the Anglo-Indians, who are presented as tyrannical oppressors, and yet even they aren't all bad as they stand for values like honour and chivalry. What really annoys me about the Anglo-Indians is their high and mighty attitude, and pompous ways.
I feel Forster uses character like Fielding, Moore, Godbole and Aziz to show us about true humanity.
He doesn't pretend to understand India, it is a 'muddle' but through India he brings universal quandries and boundries to light.
I recommend you read and reread this book as it is undoubtedly one of the best in english literature.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars but the inside is good.
Everything seems okay. The cover is a little worn, but the inside is good.
Published 14 days ago by Mary Jane Kieffer
5.0 out of 5 stars The world doesn't necessarily connect.
"East and West will never meet", as Gilbert and Sullivan or somebody said. This book said something subtly different, a hundred years ago, specifically about East and West as... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marco Buendia
5.0 out of 5 stars Passage to India
Passage to India. I first read this book in college many years ago as required reading. It's a great book with excellect descriptions! Beautifully written. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Margaret Scott
2.0 out of 5 stars for the "IN-CROWD"
The narrative doesn't create scenes for me. I don't find the narrative engaging. I feel that I got what I paid for.
Published 1 month ago by ijohnnyw
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
It arrived on time and the book was in great condition. It looked like a new book instead of a used one.
Published 1 month ago by Lav
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Insightful Prose BUT
This much lauded book was of interest in terms of its subject matter but I found it less absorbing in respect of its plot. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jefroc
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece!
E.M. Forrester weaves a wonderous web of a tale of Colonial India. Exquisitely crafted page-turner plunges the reader into all aspects of the untenable situation wherereby East is... Read more
Published 2 months ago by the Jewels
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a classic but showing its age
This is a book that I had been wanting to read for years and I finally came across it on Amazon. However, I found it heavy going and the characters did not come alive for me. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Imprecision of British India
This is as vivid a picture of certain elements of 19th century colonial India that's ever been published. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Drew Hunkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Without doubt one of the finest English-language novels of the...
I have read this novel twice and it has never failed to leave a deep impression on me. It is surprisingly readable for a book that was written nearly a hundred years ago, about a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Camilo Peralta
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This is one of my favorite books: Forster's language & storytelling are...
If you enjoy Forster, try Edith Wharton! And of course there's so much more Forster to read! "A Room with a View" is a quick, fun read. "Howards End" is also excellent, though you should break it up with something contemporary or you'll have Forster overload. Happy reading!
Feb 27, 2013 by Chris Panagakis |  See all 9 posts
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