Review: Maurice by E. M. Forster
Author: Forster, E. M.
Length: 232 pages
Genre: Fiction, GLBTQ
Publisher / Year: Penguin Classics / 2005
First Published by: Edward Arnold / 1972
Why I Read It: Cass had listed it in our GLBTQ readalong list.
Date Read: 25/03/11
Ah in the tradition of classic gay and lesbian texts, this book was both depressing and boring. Boring because it is a classic (sorry all, I just find so many of them boring!) and depressing because it is about gay characters. To be honest I found the introduction, by David Leavitt, to be the most interesting part of the book.
Maurice tells the story of a young man named Maurice and follows him as he grows up. It starts at the age of fourteen on a walk with his schoolmates and teachers. The book passes through his school and university days and tells the story of his growing realization that he is gay and in love with his friend. The two embark on a relationship that lasts for some time, though mostly platonic. It was an interesting relationship and the boundaries were maintained mostly by Clive who despised the fact that he liked men and so tried to keep it to only at a level of extreme friendship as he thought that would be better.
When Clive decides that he doesn’t love men anymore and that he must find and marry a woman, Maurice is lost and doesn’t know what to do or where to go, he can’t conceive that Clive would desert him such. He tries to be ‘cured’ through hypnotism and the doctor boasts that he can cure quite a number who have this affliction. In the end though Maurice isn’t sure that he wants to be cured and also isn’t sure that Clive is really doing what is best.
Through the novel, especially near the end, Maurice is slowly coming to himself and learning what is important in his life. He comes to see the hypocrisy evident in society and especially in his friends. I find it interesting in light of the hypocrisy shown in the novel to remember that Forster wouldn’t publish this work while h was alive because he didn’t want to deal with the fuss or the persecution that would most likely follow – especially in 1914 which is when he had finished writing it.
Another theme through the novel is that of warfare, as Leavitt explains so well in the introduction. Everything is a conquest and the language of the book is that of war. Leavitt says on page xiv:
As Forster writes, ‘only a struggle twists sentimentality and lust together into love.’ Maurice tells the story of that struggle.
An interesting book but I didn’t love it. Recommended to those who enjoy classics.