Friday, October 2, 2015

Revisiting a Favorite Book

The 2002 film adaption of "Howards End"

"Dearest Meg,
It isn't going to be what we expected. It is old and little, and altogether delightful -- red brick. We can scarcely pack in as it is, and the dear knows what will happen when Paul arrives tomorrow. From hall you go right or left into dining-room or drawing-room. Hall itself is practically a room. You open another door in it, and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel to the first floor. Three bedrooms in a row there, and three attics in a row above. That isn't all the house really, but it's all that one notices -- nine windows as you look up from the front garden."  E. M. Forster, Howards End

Howards End by E.M. Forster is one of those books I reread every year or so. It feels like an old friend. Each time I read it I discover some new pearl of wisdom. I picked it up over the summer and read it in a few days. I wondered what made me pull it down this time.

Maybe it's because I have been spending a lot of time at home and this book is very much about the love of a house.

"You are coming to sleep, dear, too. It is in the morning that my house is most beautiful. I cannot show you my meadow properly except at sunrise."

Maybe it's because it was summer and the roses were blooming. Dog-roses play a prominent role on the old brick walls of Howards End.

"The dog-roses are too sweet. There is a great hedge of them over the lawn -- magnificently tall, so that they fall down in garlands, and nice and thin at the bottom, so that you can see ducks through it and a cow."

It could be because I went to England and Scotland in June. We took a train from London to Edinburgh and this book celebrates the romance of train travel.

"Like many others who have lived in a great capital, she had strong feelings about the various railway termini. They are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return. In Paddington all Cornwall is latent and the remoter west; down the inclines of Liverpool Street lie fenlands and the illimitable Broads; Scotland is through the pylons of Euston; Wessex behind the poised chaos of Waterloo...And he is a chilly Londoner who does not endow his stations with some personality, and extend to them, however shyly, the emotions of fear and love."

It may be that I am craving the kinds of discussions that Margaret and Helen Schlegel host at their London home. My book club's Christmas tea is always so much fun.

"The sisters went out to dinner full of their adventure, and when they were both full of the same subject there were few dinner parties that could stand up against them. This particular one, which was all ladies, had more kick in it than most, but succumbed after a struggle...The dinner party was really an informal discussion club; there was a paper after it, read amid coffee-cups and laughter in the drawing-room, but dealing more or less thoughtfully with some topic of general interest."

It could be because Margaret and Helen Schlegel are two of my favorite heroines. I read Jane Austen in the spring and noticed the trend of sisters with different temperaments appearing in so many classic books. The Schlegel sisters and the Dashwood sisters are probably my two favorite sister acts.

"Helen advanced along the same lines, though with a more irresponsible tread. In character she resembled her sister, but she was pretty, and so apt to have a more amusing time. People gathered round her more readily, especially when they were new acquaintances, and she did enjoy a little homage very much. When their father died and they ruled alone at Wickham Place, she often absorbed the whole of the company, while Margaret -- both were tremendous talkers -- fell flat. Neither sister bothered about this, Helen never apologized afterwards, Margaret did not feel the slightest rancour..." 

Of course it may be the Beethoven concert scene, one of my favorites (especially in the beautiful film adaptation of the book). We booked tickets for a Beethoven concert at the Disney Hall in October.

Photo via here

"It will be generally admitted that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that ever penetrated the ear of man."

But it is probably because Howards End is a classic and classics never go out of style. You can reread them and see something new each time, as well as savor the beauty and universal truths that you already knew were there.

Happy reading. What classic book do you like to revisit?

P.S. I was sad to read about the passing of E.M. Forster's biographer P.N. Furbank last summer. Many years ago when I was just starting out as a freelance book reviewer, one of my first assignments was to review Furbank's landmark biography of Forster for the San Francisco Review of Books. I'll never forget how excited I was to get that job. It was the moment I fell in love with E.M. Forster and his books.


  1. What a fabulous post! Love all the quotes you've chosen, paired so perfectly with your beautiful photos! I always love to reread Jane Austen every year.
    Miranda xxx

    1. Miranda, so do I. My favorite is "Emma."
      xo Sunday

  2. Beautiful post. I find it so comforting to re-read books that I've loved. There is something about revisiting what I already know and expect, that enables me to relax and often find something in the book that feels new or relevant to this time reading it. The coziness and familiarity is very comforting as well. Perfect as we move into Autumn.

  3. Oh, still my heart . . . this is the most excellent of posts to read this morning as I sit in my favorite fall reading spot (for there are certain locations that are best in season) and sip a second cup of tea. Howards End is one of my favorite reads and now I know I shall have to pull it off of the shelf one day soon. Lovely, lovely posting. Thank you.

  4. This is lovely. I'm relatively new to your blog, which was recommended to me by your friend Kathy Leeds. Howards End is one of my favorite books. Its film adaptation is glorious. I'm in love with the fictional Schlegel sisters, as well as with the real-life Bloomsbury Group. Wendy Lesser, in her book, Nothing Remains the Same, writes about the pleasures of re-reading. She notes each time we come to a book we are a new person, and the book unfolds differently for us. In the best of circumstances, I find my favorite books become deeper and richer. To my delight, upon first reading Nothing Remains the Same, I found Lesser mentions I Capture the Castle, which I've been re-reading since I was a girl. I re-read Austen, whose books were my mother's favorites, as well as—possibly an odd choice—The Wind In the Willows in the 1980 Henry Holt edition with Michale Hague's illustrations. The rich lives and kindness of the animals, each in their own beautiful home, draw me in. I feel as though I could join Mole for a cup of tea.

    1. Katherine, so nice to hear from you! I will have to get Wendy Lessers's book since I frequently reread my favorite books. I always get something new from them. I love "I Capture the Castle" and on your recommendation will reread it!

  5. I do love your posts have such a way with words! Always make me want to read more!!!



  6. I read Howard's End many years ago and I am sad to say that I cannot remember what it was a bout. Perhaps it's time to re-read it. There is a book that I do return to time and again. It is Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier. I absolutely love it.

    1. Thank you, Loree, for the recommendation. I have never read "Frenchman's Creek" but have enjoyed "Rebecca." I will have to check it out!

  7. Home is the place to be this time of year. I'm currently looking forward to our first roaring fire in the fireplace. Maybe this week? xx

  8. You've perfectly illustrated this wonderful book! It's definitely a favorite of mine too. With the nights drawing in now, I'm also staying home and love anything cozy and domestic. I think this fall I'll revisit Wuthering Heights.

  9. It's got to be The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton without a doubt