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Howards End is the story of the liberal Schlegel sisters and their struggle to come to terms with social class and their German heritage in Edwardian England. Their lives are intertwined with those of the wealthy and pragmatic Wilcox family and their country house, Howards End, as well as the lower-middle-class Basts.
When Helen Schlegel and Paul Wilcox's brief romance ends badly the Schlegels hope to never see the Wilcoxes again. However, the family moves from their country estate, Howards End, to a flat across the road from them. When Helen befriends Leonard Bast, a man of lower status, the political and cultural differences between the families are exacerbated and brought to a fatal confrontation at Howard's End.
Considered by some to be Forster's masterpiece it is a story about social conventions, codes of conduct, and personal relationships in turn-of-the-century England.
In 1998, Howards End ranked 38th on the Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Actor, writer and artist Edward Petherbridge has long been praised for his tragic and comic roles throughout his long career with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre. He has won the Olivier and London Theatre Critic's Awards and has twice been nominated for a Tony Award. His major roles on stage have included his memorable performance of Newman Noggs in Nicholas Nickleby and Malvolio in Twelfth Night. He has also performed in stage musicals such as The Woman in White and the musical version of The Importance of Being Earnest. His onscreen career has included roles on television in The Brief (2004), Midsomer Murders (2007), Land Girls (2011), Doctors (2012) and The Borgias (2011) and in films such as The Statement (2003) and Pope Joan (2009). He has narrated E. M. Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray audiobooks.
Edward Petherbridge has exactly the Edwardian delivery that Foster needs. Can I give the narrator 10 stars? I read this book years ago but this reading that I bought on the recommendation of a friend, uncovers humor and nuances that I totally missed before. I actually lost sleep not wanting to turn if off for the night.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I was a little cautious embarking on this, having fallen asleep during the Emma Thompson movie version, but it was clear from the opening pages that I was in for a surprise - Forster's narrative and digressions fascinate endlessly. His theme of rootlessness remains highly relevant today, and he describes an England on the cusp of disaster with uncanny prescience. Leonard Bast's tragedy was amplified a million times over in the Great War just a few years after the writing as the Wilcoxes of the world plunged ahead heedless. Meditations on music and art, nature and landscape intersect with and complement the story, though it has power to move on its own as the characters shift and change in contact. Forster's style is quotable - he does not shy from taking on the big themes of life and death, art and commerce, town and country, clearly seeking a post-Christian settlement after the fashion of the age. Petherbridge's narration is sensitive and stately paced, only breaking the spell occasionally by sinking to an inaudible whisper during dialogues (inconvenient for listening while driving). This is not one to send you to sleep.
This novel has all the hallmarks of Forster's work: connections, the wood as something beautiful / a haven, the ideas of class. The story twists around in the usual unpredictable Forster way. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would actually! Petherbridge is a great narrator and does justice to the novel.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Somehow, Edward Petherbridge's reading emphasises the Edwardian-ness - don't be surprised if you find yourself speaking in a rather clipped, golly gosh way after a few hours of listening! I'd like to hear it read by someone with a more modern voice, but maybe that would just sound wrong. I still think it's a wonderful story, sadly misrepresented by the film version (although the film is still worth watching). The book explores so many conflicts - class, art v industry, women v men, city v countryside - and much of the writing is profound. But some of the sentiments are 'of their time', especially about the motives and motivations of women.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Howards End is a fascinating portrait of the State of England (not Britain) in the early 20th century. It tells you things about class, nationality, anti-intellectualism and so on in a way that any number of history books can't. But I have never been able to believe that either of the Schlegel sisters would make the decisions they do about men. It's not that women and men don't make bad decisions about each other: they most certainly do and there are plenty of great novels about it. But whereas George Eliot, for example, convinces me that Dorothea would marry Casaubon, Forster utterly fails to convince me about his two women. I'm with Margaret's husband, for example,in not believing that such a lively, intelligent woman could be so submissive. I hoped that an audiobook would show me the error of my ways. Edward Petherbridge is excellent, but can't put in what's not there.
10 of 12 people found this review helpful
Loved it. vet thought provoking. A fitting ending. Narrator a bit quietly spoken but read well.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Have always loved e m fosters work. Wouldn't be presumptuous to 'review'. Howard's end is an oasis in a frantic world
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The writing is superb,with poetic and lyrical,descriptions of nature and landscape. It is also deeply intuitive about human nature and captures the social and psychological conventions and beliefs of a particular period of English history. The reader is quite clever in conveying the different characters and gives them distinct and believable voices.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Yes, I would recommend it. You are in the hands of a master story-teller
What did you like best about this story?
It's clever, and the characters are all so different but interact realistically
What does Edward Petherbridge bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
He brings it to life with his beautiful reading voice
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
No wonder I have never managed to read this novel - Forster's philosophical atitudes to relationships and politics do predominate.
I found the reading patchy. At times the phrasing was wrong, which was disconcerting, and at times the sound balance,when Edward Petherbridge adopted female voices, was too low, requiring rewinding and increases in volume.
Revisiting Howard's End in an audible book was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The narration is excellent and I would thoroughly recommend this audio book.
Would you try another book written by E M Forster or narrated by Edward Petherbridge?
Not on the strength of this. After persevering for hours, I finally admitted defeat and gave this one up with a good third of the book still left... I've never done that before. I even got to the end of Me Before You, and that was DISMAL. This isn't dismal, just really, really dull.
What was most disappointing about E M Forster’s story?
Too long, too waffley, too frightfully, frightfully middle class and ultimately, just too tedious and irritating. Entire chapters go by without anything really happening other than the two sisters pondering at length the relationships between music and art and life and love and class and money and literature and the universe and blah, blah, blah, blah... It's just one endless stream of self indulgent, navel-gazing noodling, laced with large amounts of snobbery and sexism – a very well observed commentary on the awfulness of the English class system I'm sure, but when I found myself hating all of the characters, I decided to give up. I'm now listening to a Sarah Waters book which has interesting characters and pace and a STORY, praise be! Things actually happen! The relief is immense...
Which scene did you most enjoy?
The first one, until I realised just how excriuciatingly tedious it was going to be.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Howards End?
At least half of it.
Any additional comments?
The incredibly clipped narration is perfect for this book (Edward Petherbridge could make Brian Sewell feel like a real peasant), and it's extremely good for falling asleep to....
1 of 2 people found this review helpful