To address some of beppe's points after some time to think them over and put something in writing.
“What is important about the title?”
The idea of a passage (for the English) from the European world they are familiar with (in culture, religion, and race) to the alien world of India is a central theme. In fact twice during the novel this is actually addressed as a physical transition occurring at the Suez Canal.
“What are some themes in the story? How do they relate to the plot and characters?”
A central theme is that the Anglo-English, even though the enjoy being in India, wish to keep themselves apart from the people of India. They look down on them and maintain themselves in a separate club literally and figuratively. The plot implications seem obvious. The same with all the Anglo-English characters except Fielding.
“Do you find the characters likable? Would you want to meet the characters?”
The major Indian characters yes. The Anglo-English characters, with the exception of Fielding, no.
“Does the story end the way you expected? How? Why?”
Yes, except I was surprised at the return of Fielding and his seeming reconciliation with Aziz.
“How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else? In any other time?”
The story could have taken place in any other British colony where an Anglo-English ruling class was imposed on a people that the English considered inferior. I feel the timing between WWI and WWII was important.
“What is the role of women in the text? Is love relevant? Are relationships meaningful?”
Women are important because it is here that the separation is the greatest. The Anglo-English look on their women as genteel 'hot house flowers' that must be shielded from contact with Indians, especially the presumed primitive and rapacious characters of Indian men. Love and relationships are remarkably unimportant by and large if the meaning is between man and woman. Even the relationship between Miss Quested and Mr. Heaslop is weak and easily abandoned.
“Would you recommend this novel to a friend?”