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Review: Maurice by E. M. Forster

June 9, 2011

Title: Maurice
Author: Forster, E. M.
Length: 232 pages
Genre: Fiction, GLBTQ
Publisher / Year: Penguin Classics / 2005
First Published by: Edward Arnold / 1972
Source: Amazon
Rating: 3/5
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.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2011 9:24 am

    I really loved all the Forster books I’ve read to date, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this more than you did. I can’t wait to read it.

    • June 13, 2011 10:48 pm

      OK OK, I’ll try something else by him some day Ana ;) I hope that you enjoy it!

  2. June 9, 2011 10:40 am

    In contrast to Nymwth, I doubt if I would enjoy this although I may want to give it a try.

  3. June 9, 2011 10:48 am

    ‘Recommended to those who enjoy classics.’ – I love that;P

    I think I watched the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of this (which had a very young Hugh Grant in it) ages ago but haven’t read the book. I don’t think I’ve read all that many novels by Forster, but would still like to read this one at some point. Nice review though, Amy.

    • June 13, 2011 10:50 pm

      Yes yes, I’m a tad crazy when it comes to classics. And not in a good way. heh. I will check out the film if you recommend it Sakura.

  4. June 9, 2011 11:39 am

    Sounds fascinating! I’ve never even heard of that novel . . .

  5. bookgazing permalink
    June 9, 2011 11:54 am

    I love EM Forster’s books so hard, but they can’t be for everyone otherwise the world would be terrible dull :) Have you read the recent biography about him out which says it provides new stuff about why Forster wouldn’t write any more novels (I know you like non-fiction but can’t remember if that’s come across your path).

    • June 13, 2011 10:51 pm

      Glad to hear you are such a fan Jodie! I haven’t read that biography but it does sound interesting :)

  6. June 9, 2011 2:39 pm

    Oh, I am sorry to hear that this one was depressing and boring! I have not read any gay or lesbian classics, so I will have to take you word for it that they are not very good, but I imagine that some may like them. Sounds like this one might not be for me though.

    • June 13, 2011 10:52 pm

      Well, not that they aren’t good, but rather just depressing. Classics in general don’t work well for me though zibilee so I’m not a good source for information!

  7. June 9, 2011 10:26 pm

    “Ah in the tradition of classic gay and lesbian texts, this book was both depressing and boring. ”

    Ha! I haven’t read a lot of GLBTQ literature, but I think of the classics I have picked up this is true because the books are so focused on the challenges of being gay. I think more contemporary stuff might be more interesting (and less depressing) because being gay isn’t always the main conflict — it’s just part of a character and they spend time dealing with more interesting problems. Or is that not an accurate statement?

    • June 12, 2011 6:14 pm

      Well, I mean, when we’re talking classics, being gay was significantly more difficult than it is today, soooo the classics reflect that, often in ways that make you want to cry in the corner for a while. It can still be INTERESTING, particularly from a historical and/or analytical perspective. The best modern GLBTQ books, in my humble opinion, are the ones that allow the GLBTQ characters to be gay/queer/trans and portraying the unique experiences of GLBTQ folks while also showing that they, you know, have more going on than just being gay/queer/trans.

    • June 13, 2011 10:57 pm

      Yes Cass, the classics are more depressing because that is how things were, I know, but you know me, classics in general turn me off. I much prefer the more current ones where, as you say Kim, the characters deal with issues besides the fact that they are gay. Being gay isn’t THE issue just part of who they are. Much better that way!

  8. June 9, 2011 10:34 pm

    Since I have a love/hate relationship with classics (some I love, most I hate), I think I’ll defer to your judgment and skip this one. Thanks for reading it so I don;t have to. :-D

    • June 13, 2011 10:57 pm

      I have a mostly hate relationship with the classics myself Jill so I’m not sure if I’m the best guide ;)

  9. June 10, 2011 1:08 pm

    Interesting review. I am a bit ambivalent when it comes to issues as this. I get your reason for not ‘liking’ the book. But then it wasn’t also easy to say you were gay at that time; hence, anyone writing about it should be bold enough to defend his book.

    • June 13, 2011 10:58 pm

      Yes, it is true Nana. Though the author didn’t publish it until after he died so not AS brave as many of the others of his time!

  10. June 11, 2011 12:54 am

    >>Boring because it is a classic (sorry all, I just find so many of them boring!)

    LOL. Oh Amy, one day I shall bring you over to the dark side! ;) Have you read The Woman in White? Ohhh, or better yet No Name? You should give them a go! Or if you want something short Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh is a page-turner. I promise!

    I’ve read 2 Forsters and liked them both and have a copy of Maurice around here somewhere, so I’ll have to see if I have better luck with it than you. ;)

    • June 13, 2011 10:59 pm

      Yes I know Eva. I must convert some day… some how! I haven’t read most of the ones you mention yet so really must, I did read and really enjoy Gilgamesh though!

  11. June 12, 2011 6:15 pm

    Yeah, I knew I skipped this one for a reason. (PS I’m ready to get back on track with the readalong-ing if you are! :)

    • June 13, 2011 10:59 pm

      Blah blah blah you say that now but when I read another depressing classic will you change your mind again Cass? hehehehe jk

  12. June 17, 2011 1:22 am

    I’m currently reading this.. and i found it exciting, and i kinda like homo novel stuff. haha so i like reading it until now.. and when i finish i’m certainly gonna read it again or share to my other friends :)

  13. WIlliam Thomaz de Aquino permalink
    January 22, 2013 1:12 am

    So, in your view Forster should have published the book soon after he finished it , when persecution was certain (as you have stated it yourself) and so “bravely” accept the same type of humiliation and destruction suffered by, for example, someone like Oscar Wilde? Wasn’t Galileo intelligent enough for recanting his views before the Church instead for getting toasted by it? Would you throw yourself into a bonfire when you had all the means to avoid it and keep yourself safe and sound? Do you think you would be acting in a hypocritical fashion? As far as I can see, bravery also has its limitations like everything else.
    I accept the fact that you didn’t love the book, but going to the extent of labeling the writer a hypocrite, well, it’s just a little bit too much. Anyway, it’s easy for all of us to have opinions and you’re definitely entitled to yours, despite the fact it shows a great deal of bias.

    • May 11, 2013 8:39 am

      I don’t think my intention was to argue that Forster was being hypocritical in his decision not to publish, William, but rather that it seemed odd of him to have a character judging another for the same thing the author was doing – for valid reasons, of course, but the reasons are beside the point of the judging / hypocrisy piece in the novel.

      How can the main character be so judging in light of the fact that Forster himself was more akin to the character being judged? The character of Maurice thinks that people should be more open, despite any possible persecutions… and it is Forster who wrote this character. Does he wish that others would start being more open? Does he wish he could be more open? Did he judge himself so harshly? We can only hope not.

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