Howard's End by E.M. Forster
I could just say this book blew me away, and it would be true, but it wouldn't be much of a blog post.
I listened to the book at Librivox, which I highly recommend, as always--especially anything read by Elizabeth Klett, and this book was.
Howard's End is a house, and the action of the story flows around it, although very little of it actually takes place at Howard's End.
The story is a sort of tapestry, weaving together the lives of three families, from three different levels of the emerging British middle class. The Basts are the lower-level working class--getting by, feeling the need of a bit more culture, seeking interaction and taking advice from those they perceive to be their superiors. The Wilcoxes are a well-to-do family with money made in the colonies. They are can-do people with money to spare, more practical than sentimental. And finally, there are the Schlegels, whose inherited income gives them time to devote to art, music, culture, books, and Causes.
Howard's End is pieced together like a puzzle--bits of the story interlock with other bits, and some things never do seem to fit. Sometimes the characters behave the way you expect them to, and other times, they don't--just like real people. The ending is shocking and unsettling, making the story rather unforgettable, I think.
I must confess that this is the first book by E.M. Forster that I have completed. I have attempted some of her stories before, but I don't think I was ready to read them. I know full well that I would not have enjoyed or appreciated this book 15 years ago. However, I am sure it will not be the only E.M. Forster I read--I'm looking forward to more of her writing, although I'm in no hurry.
For the past several months, I've been reading some 20th-century "classics" that I never got around to reading before, and it has been a surprising pleasure.