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Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905)

by E. M. Forster

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,093514,320 (3.51)200
A wonderful story of questioning, disillusionment, and conversion, "Where Angels Fear to Tread" tells the story of a prim English family's encounter with the foreign land of Italy. When attractive, impulsive English widow Lilia marries Gino, a dashing and highly unsuitable Italian twelve years her junior, her snobbish former in-laws make no attempts to hide their disapproval. But their expedition to face the uncouth foreigner takes an unexpected turn when they return to Italy under tragic circumstances intending to rescue Lilia and Gino's baby.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
Clever story. The writing a bit heavy. Gino wasn't shed in a good light but, keep in mind, the character was only in his early 20's. ( )
  SteveMcI | Feb 18, 2024 |
E. M. Forster's first novel tackles issues of national identity and the potential for interpersonal connection despite societal inequalities that would preoccupy Forster throughout his career. The action is split between England and Italy. Where Angels Fear to Tread culminates in a "song of madness and death" similar to the sad opera Lucia di Lammermoor, which turns raucously amusing in one of the novel's most memorable sequences, yet at times veers into farce.

The novel is gruesome, accomplished, and darkly humorous. The best intentions fail and well-known ideas of virtue and vice fall to pieces in it. This kind of tragedy is distinctively Jamesian, and Philip's tale unmistakably invokes The Ambassadors' storyline. Similar to Strether in James' novel, Philip goes to the continent in order to save a fellow countryman from disgrace (first Lilia, then her son), only to fall in love with the place, find himself in the unlikely position of defending it, and have additional "ambassadors" (Harriet and Caroline Abbott) sent in order to save his mission. John Marcher, the main character of Henry James' "The Beast in the Jungle," and, in a way, the model for Strether, have similarities with Philip in his disengagement from life and inability to make snap decisions. However, Philip's tragedy is more difficult to accept because of his conviction that nothing can save him, which is actually the reverse of Strether's.

The action of this novel somewhat presages aspects of Forster's third novel, A Room With A View. As first novels go, this one is one of the best with a literary touch that Forster would continue to develop in his more famous later novels. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jul 31, 2023 |
I just completed reading Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster and unfortunately, I really didn’t like the plot or the characters, finding it an altogether depressing read. It is often called a “comedy of manners”, but I found nothing amusing about the book. From the very upright and staid British characters to the handsome but uncultured and rather stereotypic Italian, Gino, there wasn’t a sympathetic character among them.

For me, Where Angels Fear to Tread was a sad story of unfulfilled passions and life unlived. This was Forster’s first novel, written when he was 26, and I felt that it was uneven and at times rather cruel. Of course there were glimmers of his writing genuis but in this early work, he still had quite some way to go. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 19, 2023 |
I am left rattled by this novel. The plot twists were rather jarring. I felt my expectations being toyed with. There was a travel sequence in the middle that had language which delighted me, and some of the dialogue was really sharp. However, the plot did not resolve in a satisfying way for me. I’m doing a read-along of all of Forster this year and I’m looking forward to see how his writing developed. There is brilliance here, but in a small dose. ( )
  psalva | Jan 21, 2023 |
The stuffy and moralistic English middle classes are in full view when the wayward widowed sister-in-law finds love in Italy with a handsome (and younger) Italian man and marries him. When she conveniently dies in childbirth, the family aren’t very aggrieved, but the thought of leaving one of their own to be raised by “those people” is not to be born. The family mounts a rescue mission to bring the child back to England. This expedition, shows the English family at their worst and sets the scene for a terrible tragedy. This is Forster at his finest. ( )
  etxgardener | Sep 30, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Forster, E. M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dowling, DavidAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, ZadieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Southall, JosephCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stallybrass, OliverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Timonen, Hanna-LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They were all at Charing Cross to see Lilia off—Philip, Harriet, Irma, Mrs. Herriton herself.
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.... in England a dentist is a troublesome creature, whom careful people find difficult to class. He hovers between the professions and the trades; he may be only a little lower than the doctors, or he may be down among the chemists, or even beneath them.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A wonderful story of questioning, disillusionment, and conversion, "Where Angels Fear to Tread" tells the story of a prim English family's encounter with the foreign land of Italy. When attractive, impulsive English widow Lilia marries Gino, a dashing and highly unsuitable Italian twelve years her junior, her snobbish former in-laws make no attempts to hide their disapproval. But their expedition to face the uncouth foreigner takes an unexpected turn when they return to Italy under tragic circumstances intending to rescue Lilia and Gino's baby.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141441453, 0141199253

 

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