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A Passage to India

Shrines are fascinating especially when rarely opened”

A Passage to India ~ E M Forster

This book is for a mature reader, which has nothing to do with age and I am in no way claiming a raised-brow-community membership for myself just because I’ve read it. I’m merely advising that in order to truly appreciate this novel, you should ideally be prepared for it. I hate to admit that I had once tried and failed to read the book but I may be pardoned as I was in my early teens and this book is a tedious read, not to say that I don’t recommend it. In a nutshell (which does no justice to the essence of this masterpiece whatsoever) this book is based in pre-WWI India in the dwindling years of the British Raj. Two English women journey to India to acquaint themselves with the land and its people and when a good natured educated Indian doctor takes it upon himself to escort them in some sightseeing, it very well leads to the ruin of their lives. Don’t worry, I haven’t given much away. Apart from the more obvious issues of racism and imperialism that the book deals with there is the more astounding aspect of the mastery of Forster’s work; especially since he has admitted to not believe in the novel as an ideal creative form.

Having grown up in India, I can vouch for the fact that the India in this book looks and feels quite different from the country that it is today but I would not dare to claim that the story is a dated one. The social relationships that are described, the very ordinariness of characters and the lack of unfathomable coincidences are what makes this book starkly universal and current.

Why you should read the book:

  • Forster’s technique of “shocking” the reader is so fluid and natural, you almost never know what hit you till you’re lying by the wayside completely disoriented
  • For the questions it raises on human nature

Why you shouldn’t read it:

  • I cannot claim that it is a breeze to read. Very far from it; it is more like an Irish winter