on December 21, 2002
I think I'm setting myself up to be abused for an imperfect understanding of Forster's work, but I love Maurice, and I only like everything else he wrote. Forster's plots to me are so controlled that his novels become more like chess games than stories--his characters move entirely according to their classist/symbolic value; their minds are types, their types interact. Sometimes this interaction is delightful, as in Room with a View. Sometimes it is genuinely touching, as in Where Angels Fear to Tread. But it is always highly regimented. This criticism extends for me to his prose, which I find to be too rule-bound--he always leaves the same words out; his style is symbolic of delicate subtlety without necessarily being so.
But in Maurice, Forster lets go some of this reserve. His prose, which I find formulaic in his later stuff, is here undeveloped enough to be idiosyncratic, un-stylized, and gorgeous. Maurice as a character is wonderfully, wonderfully real, and I appreciate the detailed development of the plot because Forster brings home with such ability the hazards of Maurice's struggle, the ever-present possibility of failure, the balance between lesser and more important goals, and the way in which Forster makes clear that these goals, as Maurice knows when he "listens beneath" words, are not the ends that he is really achieving as he achieves them. Maurice himself is drawn with Jane Austen-ian precision: Forster mixes the divine heroism--beauty and brutality--in Maurice's essential, private life with his utterly mundane non-essentials--politics, understanding, relationships with family, opinions, way of talking, appearance, job.
This is a heroic book. It moves me to tears every time I read it.
on November 1, 2003
MAURICE is a novel of homosexual love, the first one I have ever read, but more than that it is a very direct description, perhaps as honest as could be---without either sensationalism or trivialization---of the inner feelings of a homosexual man. It begins when the main character, Maurice Hall, is a school boy, traces his emotional life through Cambridge and into the world of work, and ends in an upbeat, if rather abrupt fashion. In the confusion of early years, Maurice does not realize his true nature, but loses himself in sports, hi-jinks and studies. He devotes himself to his mother and two sisters. In short, his is the life of a typical English public school boy at the time (pre-WW I) Only at university does he recognize his real nature, though he'd had intimations mostly ignored, and truly falls in love with Clive Durham, a fellow student. Forster traces the ups and downs of this affair, leading the reader through all the ups and downs of homosexual love affairs. Maurice joins a financial investment firm, leading a totally conventional life in Britain's rigid class society, except for his sexual orientation. Eventually events take an unplanned course, Maurice winds up with another man, of a different class and nature. He experiences hitherto unknown problems. The ending, given Forster's rather pessimistic outlook on life, is unexpected.
This novel may not be for everybody, but if you attempt it, you will admire the skillful writing of E.M. Forster and you will come away appreciating his honesty. The dialogues sound very alien to an American in the early 21st century---a whole different way of using the English language---but no doubt they add a special flavor to the book, a period piece after all. I would say that a person who does not try to understand all aspects of the human condition has not truly lived, has not truly understood himself/herself. This is to readers who may not see the point of reading a novel about homosexual love. If you can't appreciate it as the great literature it is, perhaps you will think about the courage it took to write such a novel in 1914. Even then, it was not published until 1971, a year after Forster's death. Perhaps you will imagine what it is to become a great writer and still not touch upon a subject so close to your heart.
I have to confess, I watched the movie first (which I watched three times in a span of two days). I enjoyed the movie so much that after the third time, I ran out and bought the book. The book is absolutely beautiful. I remember sitting on the subway reading Maurice and forgetting where I was, ingnoring everyone around me, and letting the book whisk me away to a time and place obviously different, yet unfortunately similar in attitude towards same-sex relationships (I missed my stop). I couldn't believe Maurice was written over 80 years ago. The subject matter seems too contemporary to be written about during that time, and I suppose that's why E.M. Forster's novel is so great. He manages to capture effortlessly the relationship of Maurice and Clive, as well as to paint a picture of what life was like back then for gay folk. Readers can easily transpose many of the events and experiences in the novel to the present day, which makes empathizing with Maurice so much easier. This novel should no doubt be a required read. It shares many of the complexities as Forster's other work, yet perhaps it is glossed over more because of its subject matter--which, if true, is such a shame.
on August 5, 1999
The film of "Maurice" produced by Merchant Ivory a number of years ago is one my favorite films. I was curious, having never read E.M. Forster before, to see how much of the issue of homosexuality was a product of the book and how much was played-up for the film. The book did not dissapoint. An honest, self-aware writer, E.M. Forster tells a beautiful story of a fairly unremarkable young man who is forced to (by virtue of being gay) become remarkable. Problems of English repugnance at homosexuality (a feeling he shares himself at first) and of class make him into a grownup, into a real man. In the book this becomes a wonderful liberation--that does not come through as well in the film. A marvelous read. Not published until after his death in 1970. Only a few read it when he actually wrote it in the teens. Too dangerous. A shame. Far ahead of it's time.
on January 3, 2005
Why do I love this book? Is it because E. M. Forster presents a wide and believable spectrum of queer men? Because of how the title character is such a good example of the heroism ordinary people can have? Because of the fact that it's a piece of Edwardian queer literature that doesn't end with insanity, despair, or death? Because Alec Scudder is the best bisexual character in all of literature? Yeah, it's all of the above.
Various literary critics and historians have voiced the opinion that E. M. Forster was cowardly to have not published it during his lifetime, but given that he was a somewhat retiring person who came of age as Oscar Wilde was undergoing his trials, I think it's pretty brave that he wrote it at all. "Maurice" is never sensationalized, nor is it cliched. Things I found as flaws revealed themselves as underscored points upon re-reading. I will go so far as to say that this book should be read by every single person on the face of this earth.
on March 17, 2005
I saw the film "Maurice" long before I read the book. As delightful as the movie is, the book is even better, because we are able to get into the thoughts of the characters and the mind-set near the turn of the 20th century. At first, I did not like Forster's writing style; it's almost too economical, occasionally cryptic. Many times the prepositional referent isn't altogether clear, creating unnecessary ambiguity. Moreover, a lot of the jargon is particular to second-decade England, not to current U.S readers. But as the story picks up momentum, the economy of style turns almost poetic, and the linguistic particularities fade, making this novel into a real page-turner.
The story and the characters are highly realistic, even by today's standards (though written in 1914). There's the common issue of the conflict with "coming-out" gay vis-a-vis the desire to be "normal," which as Forster concludes, is essentially one and the same, regardless of nature's impulses. While to be gay is ultimately to be normal, it is not without its social and personal prejudices and misunderstandings, particularly at the time this book was written. Likewise, Forster demonstrates that gay people can (and most often do) lead quite normal, happy, even transforming lives, despite these difficulties. This is what gives the novel its joy.
Above all, this is a typical story of the vicissitudes of love, the only difference being that it involves three men (and several secondary women). One man (Clive), while thoroughly enjoying his same-sex love, ultimately represses it to make himself socially acceptable, politically viable, and personally miserable. Another man (Maurice), initially thinks he has to do likewise, but he cannot suppress the insuppressible, and finally does the inevitable and heeds his nature's call. The third man (Alec) discovers his unique love, and while initially angry that his love isn't immediately reciprocated, comes to love the man who really does love him after all. In many ways, this is the ultimate "homosexual" novel, but in many other ways, it is also the universal romantic novel.
Beyond the obvious love story, Forster weaves in various themes and ideas of the times (that are still with us). For the perspicuity in incorporating these themes and how they relate to being a human being first, and being gay second, Forster makes for a most satisfying reflection and examination of perennial issues. Not only is the single most important emotion, love, addressed in all its complexities, but so are certain theological, psychological, philosophical, business, and political nuances addressed. The whole enterprise is exceptionally satisfying. A novel worth anyone's time.
on August 18, 2001
I read Maurice after watching the film starring James Wilby and Hugh Grant.I thought the movie which was by the way really good has been touched by the hands of a screenplay writer from the nineties to make it look so convincing. I was skeptical about whether a "straight" author of the Edwardian age would be able to write convincingly about homosexual love so I bought the book to find out for myself .Well , it was money well spent .I read it all over one night (it is not that long anyway).The author's portrayal of human emotions is mesmerizing.His descripton of anger,frustration,despair and despondency experienced by a homosexual man at that time is outstanding.The escape routes utilized by the major characters in the novel(religion,psychiatry,hypnotism and marriage) are so authentic.I recommend it strongly to anyone who is serious about ridding themselves of the contempt our society feels toward homosexual people.It is a very well written book.
on July 23, 2013
I read "Maurice" when it first came out in 1971. I had voluntary gone into a psychiatric hospital because of an overwhelming depression caused by my homosexuality.
The problem was only partly my alienation from a straight society which largely scorned me. (Keep in mind this was only two years after Stonewall.)
A larger part of the problem was my alienation from a lot of the *gay* life I saw around me: the emphasis on sex and substances. It was fine if others enjoyed those focuses, but it just wasn't me.
In other words, I didn't feel I fit in *anywhere.*
And then I read "Maurice," and for the first time I could relate to a gay character. Maurice was neither femme nor cartoonish-macho, nor a glorifier in any way of decadence. Maurice was his own unique self, and that self was *noble.* And the relationship he sought--and ultimately achieved--was a noble one too.
Just as I was despairing that I'd always be "a queer even in queer circles," E.M. Forster gave me hope, understanding and the strength to live my own life. I can't thank him enough, and now--42 years later--I still cherish this book. It's a very big slice of my own life.
To those who want a more individualistic and sensitive view of being gay than so much gay literature offers--for those who relate to "Only connect" (Forster's credo in life) rather than "Only score"--I can't recommend this book enough.
on June 27, 2004
"Maurice" was written by E.M. Forster in 1914, but as he instructed, the novel was not published until after his death in 1970 as he did not want to shock "society" (specifically, "England") due to the strong homosexual theme (which was unacceptable then).
To me, this is Forster's best and most readable novel. It is also easily his most romantic and sexual. I was completely absorbed in the story right from page 1 and couldn't put the book down! The scenes, situations and dialogue are so richly and beautifully written, while the love story is simply one of the most moving I've ever read.
Maurice is our hero here - young, rich, Cambridge-educated and quite a snob. He is not aware of his true sexuality until it is "brought out" by his Cambridge friend, Clive who loves Maurice first. Their coming together and love affair are simply delicious to read and when the words "Maurice, I love you" and "I you" are uttered, tears just came to my eyes because it was so romantically-written, and I said to myself, "At last Maurice is happy". However, after some years of happiness, comes despair when Maurice is rather cruelly rejected by Clive who claims that he (Clive) has "suddenly become normal" and cannot love Maurice anymore. This novel succeeds because Forster had created a most believable and lovable hero in Maurice. His hope becomes your (i.e. the reader's) hope, his love your love, and his despair your despair. You desperately want him to find love and happiness again. And then when Maurice has decided to give up on love and life, his saviour appears on the scene in the form of the attractive, working-class man, Alec. The ending is a great triumph on the power of love and hope. I know I should be depressed for days (if not weeks) if this novel were to have a sad ending...
Unlike Forster's other novels, this one is much "braver" and contains real sexual situations. The scenes are rather erotic (especially between our hero and Alec) without being too revealing and they are written in such a romantic, honest and passionate manner that will certainly melt your heart.
This novel was filmed to critical success in 1987 by the Merchant-Ivory team (who did "A Room with a View" in 1985) and starred James Wilby (as Maurice), Hugh Grant (as Clive) and Rupert Graves (as Alec). I've ordered the DVD and can't wait to watch it.
I love "Maurice" so much and will remember its beauty forever. The romantic scenes made me cry, the funny scenes at the hypnotist's made me laugh and the ending of the novel made me feel very-very happy. I know that anyone who picks up this book will be in for a wonderful time. It is a novel that could be read again and again. Now, if I were to be stranded on a desert island and could only have 1 book for company, "Maurice" will definitely be it!
on June 14, 2002
According to the introduction of the book, this question was found after Forster's death scribbled by him on the cover of the 1960 typescript version of the novel. I think that while the answer for the reader has to be 'yes', it is also easy to see why Forster had his doubts.
The book was an intensely personal one for Forster, as it addresses the issue of homosexuality in the context of the early 20th century. Because of its subject matter, it was not published after it was written (1914) and Forster went on to significantly rewrite the book at different periods throughout his life. Although by the time of the last rewrite (1959-1960) Forster could have published the book in terms of its subject matter, he was not satisfied with the work itself. According to his biographers, he found it dated and had never been satisfied with the ending.
_Maurice_ tells the story of a conformist young man who finds himself increasingly attracted to his own sex. He moves from a disasterous relationship with an undergraduate friend to a more adult affair which finally causes him to break from the rules that he understood all his life.
While the book is historically fascinating, and actually quite emotionally affecting (Maurice is perhaps one of the fullest characters in Forster's novels) it suffers from its history of revision and uncertainly. There's a hesitance in the writing and a strangely jumpy character to many of the plot points. It doesn't make it less worth reading, but perhaps less perfect than some of Forster's other efforts.