I’ll start by saying I’m glad I read the book. Although overall I didn’t like it, it did have it’s moments.
I found the whole thing very heavy handed. I know there is an element of satire in it, and in places that is played very well (Adela’s comments about all the Turtons and Burtons, for example); but in too many others it feels like one is being beaten about the head with a blunt implement upon which the author has writ his points large.
There are too few main characters to carry the burden the author has placed upon their shoulders. In that respect I felt especially sorry for poor Aziz, who ends up standing in for all Indians - and all India – far too often; and despite the authorial voice repeatedly telling us, subtly or overtly, we cannot know all India and all Indians through one person.
It chugs on for a while contrasting the established English in India with the newcomers, and both with the natives; and, well, going nowhere fast. Then comes the Marabar Caves visit, and various situations are set up in what seems like a very forced manner. The breakdowns of the two principal female characters seemed especially contrived as the book progressed, which made some of the parts that followed the caves have less impact than they might otherwise have done, and in fact less impact than they should.
Some of the best writing occurs after the caves (Richard Herley gave a good explanation as for why) – Mrs Moore’s realisation that she has approached India wrongly, the idolification or deification of Mrs Moore after she has left India (and after her death), the court scene with the Turtons and Burtons swapping seats and being moved back, the reactions to Adela’s retraction. But because of how the cave scenes progressed, some of it lost the impact it should have had. And the description of the punkah wallah was truly dire. Had it been a pbook I was reading, it might have got lobbed across the room at that point. I could understand if it was the point of view of any of the English characters, but the author should have known better.
Going back to the characters...
None of them really grabbed me enough to ultimately care what happened to them. Aziz started to, then he suddenly switched into the sort of dizzy Indian you see in old sitcoms but I don't think I've ever encountered in real life (and as I'm writing this post partition, and Aziz is a Muslim, that would include Pakistanis as well as Indians - and that sentence makes sense to me, so ner). He seemed to be trying to represent all India, in contradiction to the author telling us one person couldn't.
Mrs Moore and Fielding did engage me for a while, but then Mrs Moore got spooked by some echoes and decided to die (her giving up being interested in anything seemed to me to be clumsy foreshadowing, so I wasn't shocked that she died, only that it took so long). Fielding also had a lot of potential to be a sympathetic character through whose apparently unbiased eyes we could see the mess of snobbery, imperialism and racism. But even he finally gave in, to a degree, to the pressure to conform (I have wondered how much of Forster is in Fielding)
I really felt the novel couldn't decide what it wanted to be - a satirical novel about race relations, snobbery and inbred values, or a more serious and thoughtful one about "mystical India". I think it would have been stronger had it knocked the mystical stuff on the head and concentrated on the satire - none of the characters, with the possible exceptions of Godbole (who I wouldn't have minded seeing more of) and Mrs Moore had any connections to the mystical or spiritual side of things, which made it seem all rather irrelevant to the story.
Last edited by ShortNCuddlyAm; 11-24-2008 at 06:33 PM.
Reason: removing some random asterisks that appeared between paragraphs...