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The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster

The Longest Journey (1907)

by E. M. Forster

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This novel starts off in Cambridge, where the main character, Rickie, is an undergraduate. Philosophical discussions are held, and nature is appreciated. The main character is sensitive, with literary inclinations, and a partially crippled foot. After Cambridge, Rickie is followed through life and unto his death, with marriage, employment, and family goings-on filling the interval.
The emphases of the novel are nature, human nature, emotions, class, poetry, art, philosophy, and family. Though the dramatic plot and characterisation were pretty good, it is the literary style and the ideas in this book that I most enjoyed. Some novels feel like they take ages to read, but this one seemed to be gone before I knew it, and felt far shorter than its 300 odd pages. This is usually a good sign. ( )
1 vote P_S_Patrick | Jan 7, 2013 |
I had mixed feelings about this book. At times, I was quite engrossed, and there were some genuinely interesting plot twists. However, this wasn't true of the novel as a whole, and I found that the first part in particular (Cambridge) dragged. ( )
  cazfrancis | Sep 16, 2011 |
One of the most intriguing relationships in the novel (and you're introduced to it early so, so this is not a spoiler in any way) is that Rickie shares with Stewart Ansell, who determinedly challenges -- and perpetuates -- class prejudice."To be born one thing and grow up another -- Ansell had accomplished this without weakening one of the ties that bound him to his home." And, ironically, it's Stewart who most notably rebuffs Agnes, who has come to visit Rickie, but has been completely and entirely ignored by the draper's son. The Longest Journey is filled with such contradictions and injuries, and it contains more than its share of disappointments and tragedies. Nonetheless, Lionel Trilling considered it "perhaps the most brilliant, the most dramatic, and the most passionate" of Forster's novels. It's also of interest to serious Forster readers for its autobiographical elements (the most obvious being Rickie's desire to write) and although it took me many months to move beyond the novel's first 100 pages (which does make this, of Forster's novels, my Longest Journey through his fiction), I'm pleased to have read it. ( )
  buriedinprint | Sep 15, 2011 |
The longest (and dreariest) journey referred to is marriage, or partnership with a single woman. The title is taken from a line of the poem Epipsychidion by Shelley, one of many echoes of Shelley's life that you come across in this book. Shelley's poem was inspired by his extra-marital love for Emilia Vivani, a love which Andre Maurois suggests was for an embodied ideal rather than for the real woman. Love for the ideal rather than the actual leads to the unsuccessful marriage at the centre of this book. And yet it seemed to me that the author was not discussing only this marriage and this woman, but marriage in general. Every marriage in this book leads to disappointment. Continued ( )
2 vote apenguinaweek | May 11, 2011 |
Rickie Elliott is a sensitive young man with an inherited condition (a lame leg) that makes him feel unfitted for marriage or fatherhood. He is quite at home at Cambridge engaging in philosopical debate (although Forster repeatedly stresses the fact that Rickie - who has literary aspirations - is not clever), but 'He has no knowledge of the world'. Whilst at Cambridge he receives a visit from Agnes Pembroke, a rather shallow young woman who is revolted by the sight of Rickie's built-up shoe.

Rickie experiences a strange, almost spiritual, moment when he sees Agnes being embraced by her fiance, Gerald (who bullied Rickie when they were at school) and feels a rather bizarre, overwhelming love for them. When Gerald dies (the first of an alarming number of sudden deaths in the novel), Rickie's idealisation of Agnes grows, and eventually they marry. He becomes a schoolteacher and experiences a number of disappointments, not least of which is the realisation that his marriage is a mistake.

The plot of this novel is secondary to its themes and symbolism, although I found this a much more readable and less 'difficult' novel than I'd been led to believe it was; the philosophising, whilst an important part of the novel, doesn't bog down the story, which can be enjoyed even without a thorough understanding of Forster's intellectual purpose in writing the novel. The sudden deaths introduce a rather unwelcome note of melodrama, and Rickie's strange passion for Agnes-and-Gerald isn't entirely credible, but Forster does throw in a few plot twists, which are deftly handled. [December 2007]
  startingover | Feb 2, 2011 |
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"The cow is there," said Ansell, lighting a match and holding it out over the carpet.
Rickie sat by the fire playing with one of the
lumps of chalk [that have been thrown through the window]. ... As he mused, the chalk slipped from his fingers, and
fell on the coffee-cup, which broke. The china, said Leighton [footman] was
expensive. He believed it was impossible to match it now. Each cup was
different. It was a harlequin set
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141441488, Paperback)

E. M. Forster once described The Longest Journey as the book "I am most glad to have written." An introspective novel of manners at once comic and tragic, it tells of a sensitive and intelligent young man with an intense imagination and a certain amount of literary talent. He sets out full of hope to become a writer, but gives up his aspirations for those of the conventional world, gradually sinking into a life of petty conformity and bitter disappointments.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:48 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Rickie Elliot, sensitive and idealistic, misleads himself through his conventional desire for marriage and fatherhood. Falling for and marrying Agnes Pembroke, he journeys away from the philosophical ideals of his Cambridge youth.

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Average: (3.45)
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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