All over the world small towns and their unique cultures have always had a strong influence on nations, citizens, and especially artists. Sometimes the attitudes of the small town citizens aren’t much different whether you’re in Ohio or India. These next two books from the 100 greatest novels are about those small towns and the people who live in them.
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
This is actually more of a collection of short portraits of characters and events than it is a novel. They all happen in the fictional small town of Winesburg, Ohio, and most stories revolve around George Willard. The full title is Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life. Anyways, George is a young man who wants to become a mature adult and has an odd talent of getting strangers to pour out their woes to him. I enjoyed reading this collection of stories because even though there wasn’t an overarching story to invest in, I was interested in how each separate story connected with the others and liked picking up on small events in the background that happened in other chapters. Quick yet enjoyable read.
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
Set during the British colonization of India, this novel follows four characters (one Indian and three English) as they attempt to bridge the racial gap between them and become friends. One thing leads to another and all the racial tension of India is focused onto this one trial between an Indian accused with rape and his “victim,” an Englishwoman. The author, Forster, has personal experience in India as an Englishman and the characters, scenes, and emotions are based on these experiences. This novel has some great descriptions of India’s landscape and its citizens. Having Muslims and Hindus in India, the country already had enough racial tension before the British showed up. Forster does an incredible job showing the exasperation of the British trying to control India, of the Indians trying to rid themselves of the British, and of the Indians trying to learn how to move into the modern era and become one unified nation of different religions. If you have any interest in India or the history of British colonization, this is a novel you should read soon.
I am officially a quarter of the way complete with this list of novels. It’s been a lot of fun and I have been introduced to authors and stories that I wasn’t familiar with before. Onwards we go. Next I have two novels from Henry James: The Wings of the Dove and The Ambassadors.