Monday 18 April 2016

Reviewing the Classics #2 Maurice

Firstly i'd like to apologise for not sticking to my original schedule of reviewing a classic every other month! Lady Midnight completely consumed me last month and with it being huge and me being a slow reader I just didn't get round to reading a classic! However I intend to make up for this by reviewing a classic in both April and May. My classic for this month is Maurice by E.M Forster

                                Goodreads Summary:

Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life,this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. 

We follow him through public  school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him" except that his is homosexual.  

 Although I of course had heard of E.M Forster before, this was the first time that I actually picked up one of his books. The book follows Maurice throughout his adolescent years, including his time at Cambridge University and his time after working for his fathers firm. I immediately loved Maurice's character, as although he was stuck up and had little sympathy towards other people I identified with his initial view of not seeing others as individuals. Especially in the modern world, we often hide away in our own personal spaces and don't think of the stranger passing us in the street as someone with a life just as intricate as our own. I loved that after interacting with his fellow Cambridge students, he came to realise that these were people just like him.

I loved that Maurice's homosexuality was hinted at right from the start of the novel, which was shown by his fascination with George the gardener and the reason why he had left. It also foreshadowed his relationship with Alec and how class difference would be one of the obstacles in their relationship. I also loved that although Maurice is seen as privileged and someone who can afford to attend Cambridge, it is stated several times that he is of average intelligence, and that Clive is superior to him in this. I felt that this made Maurice seem more likeable and relatable, and set up Clive to be a bit of a snob.

Clive is the first romantic relationship Maurice has ever entered, and I loved how it started out slowly with Maurice trying to throw out little hints that he liked Clive in a romantic way. I found it both adorable and hilarious that Maurice waited outside for him for hours and lost his nerve at the last minute and ended up yelling goodnight at him. I loved how their relationship progressed and that they were finally comfortable with admitting their feelings to each other.

I felt myself liking Clive less and less as the novel went on, especially when he told Maurice that he didn't love him anymore and that he was now “normal.” I felt as if Clive was forcing himself to be straight, as he was afraid that his family would find out about his true relationship with Maurice. Society and Class are a huge theme in this book, and we are not shown any affection between Clive and his wife, so to me it felt as if he was hiding his homosexuality from everyone, including his former lover. It was also extremely frustrating that Clive made Maurice feel bad about his homosexuality and was often telling him that he should go and find a wife. Maurice is left to feel that the one person he trusted with his sexuality has abandoned him and is left isolated.

I loved the introduction of Alec, Clive's servant and gamekeeper. Alec is introduced into the story in a very subtle way until he becomes Maurice's main focus. I thought Alec was a completely adorable character and I loved him straight away. I loved that unlike Clive, he didn't see anything wrong with loving men, and never makes Maurice feel as if it is sinful. The character development that Maurice goes through is mainly due to Alec, as throughout the novel he sees his homosexuality as something that is sinful, and goes to great lengths to try to “cure” himself, including going to his doctor and a hypnotist. The ending of the novel made me extremely happy in that he accepted his homosexuality and even went to talk to Clive about his relationship with Alec.

I loved the fact that Alec was bisexual, as I feel as if even in the modern world people often see bisexuality as “not being real” or that the person is “greedy” so seeing it represented in a classic novel wasn't something I was expecting! I loved that although there was a class difference between Maurice and Alec, it was never shown in their personal relationship with each other, and the one time that Maurice calls Alec out for using his first name, Alec retaliates by telling Maurice that he is no better than him. I loved Alec's confidence despite the fact that he is a servant and that he doesn't let class difference stand in the way of loving Maurice.

Although this book was written in 1913, I felt that it was still relevant to modern life. For example, Clive telling his family that he was an atheist and their reactions to this mirrors someone coming out as gay to their family in the modern world. I loved that Christianity could literally be switched out for homosexuality and have exactly the same effect.

I have to talk about the ending because as the pessimist that I am I was not expecting it to be happy! I loved that Maurice and Alec got to stay together, and that the ending suggests that they lived happily ever after. The fact that this book was written at a time when homosexuality was a sin is heartbreaking, as Forster stated that he wrote them a happy ending as this meant that homosexual men would at least be able to live together happily in fiction. I found this extremely sad as Forster felt that if the book had ended with them not being together for whatever reason, then it would have easily been published.

This book covers extremely important themes and even if you're not a classics fan I would definitely recommend this one as I felt that it was way ahead of it's times! It is also relatively short, which makes a change from the daunting 500 page novels that come to mind when you hear the word classic. This has definitely made it's way into my top 5 classic books and I could not recommend it more!

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