Book Club: Maurice

E.M. Forster's story of love and repression in early 20th-century England.

Book Club: Maurice

Although Forster initially wrote this story in 1913, it wasn't published until 1971 - after Forster's death.

While he actively shared the story with friends, Forster didn't attempt to publish Maurice as he felt that it's positive approach to same-sex relationships made it unpublishable in an environment where homosexuality was illegal and socially taboo.

What's it about?

The central character is Maurice Hall and the story follows Maurice from his schooldays through university and beyond.

At Cambridge, Maurice meets Clive Durham and they begin an intense friendship.

As they both transition into post-university life, Clive is determined to fulfil the expectations of his family - he marries a woman and makes it clear to Maurice that he no longer has intimate feelings towards him.

This leaves Maurice struggling with his emotions and his sexuality, while still trying to maintain some kind of friendship with Clive.

While visiting Clive at his estate, Maurice encounters a young gamekeeper, Alec Scudder. What begins as a physical attractions grows into more as Maurice is forced to risk everything if he pursues his relationship with Scudder.

What was the inspiration for the story?

Forster drew inspiration for this story from the relationship between Edward Carpenter and George Merrill.

His contemporaries considered Carpenter a bit of an eccentric - he advocated for sexual liberation and is considered an early gay rights pioneer in England.

His relationship with Merrill - who came from a working-class background - was unusual at the time not only because it was a long-standing same-sex relationship but also because of the class differences between the two men.

Is Maurice worth reading?

While the language used by Forster can feel a bit dense and archaic, and a number of the characters and plot-points are underwritten and needing development, this is an engaging story.

It's notable for being a rare example of a gay love story written in this period that is now publicly available, but it is very much a period piece - it is likely to be difficult for contemporary readers to connect emotionally with these characters and the world in which they inhabit.

Film adaptation

A film adaptation of the novel was released in 1987.

Directed by James Ivory, the film starred James Wilby as Maurice Hall, Hugh Grant as Clive Durham, and Rupert Graves as Alec Scudder.

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What if we took our clothes off and talked about books?

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What if we took our clothes off and talked about books?

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