Tag Archives: e m forster

100 Greatest Novels: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Howards End, & Go Tell It on the Mountain

Well, we keep trucking along. Getting closer to the halfway mark.

200px-BridgeOfSanLuisReyThe Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

This book is really small. My copy was 117 pages. With that in mind, you wouldn’t think Wilder could put in so much emotion in to so few pages. In the 1700s, an old Incan rope bridge in Peru collapses. Five people were on the bridge when it collapses and the rest of the book gives us short histories of each person and how they came to be on the bridge. With the book being so short and fitting in the histories of five different people, I didn’t expect to get emotionally attached to anybody. Well, that was a wrong assumption. But ultimately, the books is about love. The last sentence:

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

Howards_EndHowards End by E. M. Forster

For fans of BBC’s Downton Abbey, this novel follows three families and their connections to an old family home named Howards End. Set at the turn of the century, this is another novel about English aristocracy and how they relate to each other, poorer people, and their possessions.

What sets this novel apart is the characters (two main characters are children of German immigrants instead of the normal British heritage) and Howards End, the home that takes on as important a rule as any character. More of the novel actually takes place in London instead of at the home but the home still affects the actions and reactions of multiple characters.

200px-GoTellItOnTheMountainGo Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Written in the 1950s, this semi-autobiographical novel is set in New York during the early 20th century. The novel follows John, a 14-year-old African American, and his life living with a strict father who’s a deacon at a charismatic church. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about the history of John’s family members. Starting back in the south, the novel follows each character as they deal with hardships, move to the north, and find God.

What makes this novel difficult to read is seeing the characters use their faith in God to punish themselves. Every little bad mishap is proof that they are living in sin and that God is punishing them. Children need sin beat out of them. Adults need to be shunned because of their life of sin. Only one character can see the truth. And all this creates an intense and sometimes difficult novel.


Getting into the 40s on the list of the 100 greatest novels, next is The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene.


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100 Greatest Novels: Winesburg, Ohio & A Passage to India

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.

WinesburgWinesburg, 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.

200px-Bookcover_a_passage_to_indiaA 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.


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