Synopsis of Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster: When attractive, impulsive English widow Lilia takes a holiday in Italy, she causes a scandal by marrying Gino, a dashing and highly unsuitable Italian twelve years her junior. Her prim, snobbish in-laws make no attempts to hide their disapproval, and when Lilia's decision eventually brings disaster, her English relatives embark on an expedition to face the uncouth foreigner. But when they are confronted by the beauty of Italy and the charm and vitality of the disreputable Gino, they are forced to examine their own narrow lives, and their reactions are emotional, violent and unexpected.
My two centsWell, this one languished. I was uber-excited to read it but never got around to actually putting pen to paper. Now, let's take a moment to admire the cover: I admit I bought it partly because the cover (fabulous, fabulous!) is designed by Leo Lionni, one of my all-time favourite children's books illustrators!
Honestly, this book was quite the surprise. I thought with my track record for being frustrated with classics in general this may be a miss. Yet I slowly warmed up and once mired, this one didn't disappoint.
What I likedThe psychology. The psychology behind classics can't be beat. I find that there are few bells and whistles and simply a presentation of who the characters are, their motivations, and their thought processes. It's material that always seems to stand the test of time.
I keep coming back to the title: where angels fear to tread. This one is about bucking tradition, following one's true desires, and dammit ... living with the consequences because you made your bed, lie in it. Sure, "fools rush in" but sometimes just going for it is the only way to go forward.
While for the most part, the characters are frigid, self-righteous, melodramatic and generally unlikeable, I found that their unlike-ability is what makes them human and accessible. I really need to laugh: these frigid English women (Lilia! Ms. Abbott!) make for great writing! Philip was among my favourite males, an annoying "messiah" who finally came to the realization of love. Gino, make no mistake about it, is what he is, and that's what makes him stand out - there is no shyness about him.
The plot. I thought I could predict what was going to happen, but I was stunned at the final turn of events. There is a tragicomedy to the whole storyline -- plus melodramatics that somehow works -- that make this so appealing to me.
Clashes here, there and everywhere. A large part of this book relies on cultural clashes, and naturally, character clashes. The cultural differences between the repressed and highly structure English versus the emotional, free-spiritedness of the Italians bring forth the best of ...
... subtle wicked humour. Forster's humour grew on me. He has a slyness about him in expressing the horrors of his characters being at cultural loggerheads. The absurdity of some of the pressures and expectations really make me thankful that I'm not of this era.