What is it about 'Howard's End'? This small house, a farm imperfectly gentrified, sits at the center of this Edwardian novel. The artistic and spirited Schlegels, the staid Wilcoxes and in their own sad way, the miserable Basts, come together to make up an unusual story that dissects the social structure of England at the time. This is the world smashed by World War I, certain people held head and foot above the waves of poverty on islands of money watching others drown.
The Wilcoxes don't think about this, the Basts would like nothing better than to build an island of their own. The Schlegel siblings, Margaret, Helen and Tibby and consider this truth and respond to it in their own way.
The plot involves love affairs, clandestine and imagined, surprising friendships, a marriage and the privilege wealth confers. The book is hard to grasp, especially as I've waited so long to comment on it, but there's something about the era that grabs me. Merchant and Ivory have much to answer for.