Take your heteronormativity and shove it.
Maurice by E.M. Forster is truly a hidden treasure. Written in 1912-13 but only published (by his request) after Forster’s death in 1971, Maurice tells the love story between Maurice and Clive, two young Edwardian men. What makes this novel outstanding is its honest and true portrayal of a young love that is condemned and yes, illegal, in the society and culture they live in.
Okay, so maybe the plot isn’t the most interesting, and maybe it’s not a love story that will get your heart racing like Pride and Prejudice will (my personal favourite). Maybe the characters aren’t totally fleshed out, but they are human and very deeply flawed. Clive, who starts off as the confident homosexual man, soon begins to doubt everything he knows, and he turns away from the person he knows he is to be the person society thinks he ought to be. Maurice is the reverse. He hides from the world and his self, not understanding his own feelings. He chooses to ignore them because he simply does not know what they could be. Then, Clive confesses his love, and Maurice’s world is opened, and he is finally able to see. In fact, from the moment they meet until the end of the novel, everything Maurice is depends on Clive. Maurice changes when Clive changes, and I feel like Clive enjoys the power he has over the other man. It is only at the end when Clive finally realizes the error in his ways. But like so much else, Clive chooses to take the easy route, and he turns away from any and every authentic feeling he has.
[minor spoilers ahead]
Maurice is an interesting novel because of its happy ending. Forster, in his afterward written many, many years later, says that it was always his intention for there to be a happy ending between two of the characters, and a sad ending for one. I love the ending for that reason: it shows the two possible outcomes for gay men at this time. They can run away and live happily, but isolated, together, or they can close themselves off to any true emotion in order to be “social acceptable.” It’s such a tragically beautiful message, and the ending really did touch my heart, with Clive standing alone, cut off from his only chance at love. I loved Maurice standing up for himself and, essentially, telling Clive he doesn’t need him any more. Goodness, the more I think about it, the sadder I get.
Maurice is a wonderful tale, and I think it should be read by anyone interested in LGBT+ literature. It might not be the page-turning book everyone seems to want these days, but it is a beautiful character study of love that does not focus on the love, but rather the emotions and thoughts of two people in love. It’s an examination of the impossible and how it can be possible. It shows us how difficult it can be to love, and how sometimes, we can’t overcome it. It shows us how outside forces can make our most personal choices. It shows us how far we’ve come. But most of all, it shows us that love is love is love is love…
4 lovers out of 5.