Category Archives: Book Reviews
Howard’s End: Spent a Week There One Night
Yesterday Starz premiered a new miniseries adapting E.M. Forster’s eternal classic, “Howard’s End.” Eternal as a descriptor is not used here in a positive way. Don’t be fooled by the title, this book never actually ends.
To celebrate the premiere, Penguin Classics posted to Instagram, “Don’t mind us while we spend our Saturday re-reading Howards End for the millionth time before the new mini-series premieres on Starz tomorrow night 📖🌿 Raise your hand if you plan to watch! 🙋🏼♀️🙋🏻♀️🙋🏾♀️”
As a refresher, I just tried reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia that could probably be published as a novella in itself. It alone felt longer than any of James Patterson’s BookShots™.
It’s the first time on Wikipedia that I haven’t gotten pulled down the rabbit’s hole, that was how needlessly boring and unending the plot of this book feels. For a novel that’s only around 340 pages, I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than “War and Peace”, which is four times the page count, give or take. I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than the Napoleonic Wars themselves, for that matter. Of course, I’ve been reading “Hell to Pay” for three months, so what do I know?
Here’s an actual short summary: nothing happens and continues to not happen in a mindnumbingly, Edwardian-dressed, ‘Groundhog Day’ sort of way, punctuated with the revelations that Henry Wilcox has ruined the lives of several women across a few decades, just so it seems like there’s a reason to keep reading.
There isn’t. And yet, if multiple adaptations are any indication, we do.
Once a year or so I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and ask myself if I ever actually finished that book.
I try to remember what it was about, or anything definitive about the plot, what was the last thing I remember, even just a character’s name; anything substantial at all about the story or characters to anchor my fragile midnight reality upon. Then I remind myself that no one ever has finished it.
EM Forester has defied the laws of time and space in writing this novel. ‘Howard’s End’ is a literary wormhole, a black hole of indecent and apathetic people that attempts to repackage itself in a redeeming bow when Henry finally does something not awful, and we’re all still reading it.
Somewhere, no doubt, despite claims it was completed in 1910, Forster is still writing it, his own picture of Dorian Gray on the printed page; stealing the souls of those naïve enough to believe the could ever find resolution in its story, and keeping him alive throughout the turning pages of history. But is a cursed existence worth experiencing? And aren’t we all cursed now, from the moment we laid eyes on that damned title page?
This isn’t the millionth time you’re reading it, poor Penguin, it’s the first. You’ve never finished reading it, and you never will. None of us will. We are all Henry Wilcoxes now, forever repeating the same mistakes, unable to learn, to change our attitude with time, or consider others as we push blindly forward in our righteous, vainglorious manner. We turn the page, believing we are nearing the end. But we never do. We will always be reading it. For us, “Howard’sEnd” never will.
I’ve really been trying to get through this book. It hasn’t been easy, and to be honest, Matthew Hughes, the author of “Hell to Pay”, really hasn’t been doing his readers any favors.
I accidentally selected the ebook edition on Goodreads when I started the third and thankfully final book in the “To Hell and Back” series, so Goodreads mistakenly thought that when I updated my progress to page 196, I was done with the book. I wish I was. I wish I still didn’t have to read another 140-something pages to close this series out.
Why couldn’t Goodreads be right?
Why am I reading about a dinosaur chasing Chesney, our hero, in slow motion? Or he’s super fast, so the dinosaur and everyone else just seems to be moving in slow motion. But don’t worry, in case you forget that fact, the author will remind you every third paragraph. Why am I reading about how Chesney accidentally broke his girlfriend’s ribs carrying her away from the dinosaur super fast. That’s not really important though, because a half-rate Christ figure who was written out of existence when God rewrote parts of the Bible healed her. His name is Simon, but that doesn’t matter since he’s been a more or less empty barrel of a character. It isn’t that you don’t like him, its that you don’t care one way or the other if he’s there. Also Chesney’s girlfriend is breaking up with him. While in the tree. Where they’re hiding from the dinosaur. Also there’s dinosaur people. Simon will probably become their king after they try to sacrifice Chesney and Melda to their dinosaur gods. Or something. I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t care.
So far, I can’t actually nail down what the plot is or where and to what end we’re supposed to be moving towards. The writing had been repetitive, with certain ideas being repeated over and over again without actually moving the story forward. The book feels like a 331 page run-on sentence constantly circling back to a previous idea because the author forgot he’d mentioned that already.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, “The Damned Busters”, even while I didn’t. But that feeling of just good enough, that optimism that what the book had going for it would make up for its faults, is wearing off, and I’m not sure there’s enough left to get me through those last hundred pages.