Forster finished writing Maurice in 1914, but it was not until 1971 that the book was actually published for obvious reasons. Homosexuality was not legal until 1967 in the UK and even so, such an open and positive story about a gay relationship wasn’t something that would have been accepted at the time.
Maurice is the story of a young man from childhood as he slowly discovers who he is and his growing acceptance of what he is. It is an incredibly brave story. His feelings for other men he knows would cast him out of society and to act on them would make him a criminal. Religion would not tolerate him and so he gave up his fate. He has to hide himself from all those around him and feels intense fear lest anyone find out who he is.
At the time of reading this book, there was a controversy about buses in London running adverts for ‘gay therapy’ in order to ‘cure’ people of homosexuality. Interesting as I was reading a book written in a time when homosexuality was treated more like a disease and yet here we are, in a modern day and age with some people (the minority I would hope) who still believe in this and would take us back to a time when people were forced into denial, into marriages and isolation. The advert was pulled after public out-cry. It is strange that often I am reading something and something similar is going on in the ‘real world’ that takes on a deeper meaning to me then other times, perhaps.
Forester explores two of Maurice’s relationships in the book. The first with his Cambridge friend Clive, with whom he discovers what these feelings that have confused him the years before have actually meant. And then secondly with Alec, the gamekeeper.
Maurice and Clive represented two different types of people during the ages. One who would deny his sexuality and the other who embraces it physically and emotionally. It is an incredibly interesting insight into the lives of people who would usually have been hidden from the rest of society, whose voices would not have been openly heard.
The book is quite open and frank and I love Forster’s language. Simple, yet elegant. Rich, yet quietly down to earth. I like how he represents these silly snobbish rich people. Last year or before I read ‘Where Angels Fear to Tread’ which I only thought okay. The story did not inspire me much and I didn’t see why I should care about these silly people he was writing about. Maybe Maurice is different, as he could write about a story that mattered to him – rather then a love story or a relationship between male and female characters.
Later this year, with any luck, I shall be reading A Passage to India by Forster. I am now looking forward to it much more – having been a little apprehensive reading another of his. Maurice has been one of my favourite books of this year so far. I really enjoy books that enable me to have a better insight into a different time, or a different way of life, belief or understanding of the world, that would otherwise be outside of my experience.