Friday, October 21, 2011

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Title:  Where Angels Fear to Tread
Author:  E. M. Forster
List:  #98 on Radcliffe’s Top 100 20th Century Novels.
Worth reading?  Not really.

The title, Where Angels Fear to Tread, comes from Alexander Pope's phrase, "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread." The title is apt, as this is a novel full of bad choices and failed attempts to influence those choices.

It all starts with Lilia Herriton, who has been under the thumb of her late husband’s mother and siblings until she has the opportunity to take a trip to Italy with a neighbor, Miss Abbott. There she falls in love with Italy and an Italian and makes a choice of which the Herritons disapprove. However, the Herritons are too late to change Lilia’s rapidly made up mind. Lilia later regrets her choice and comes to an unhappy end. This leads Miss Abbot to influence the Herritons to adopt Lilia’s Italian baby. The Herritons only comply with Miss Abbott’s suggestions for the sake of appearances, and the bungling pursuit of the adoption by Miss Abbott and the Herritons leads to another tragic ending.

The most redeeming part of the novel is the way it portrays Italy and Italians as exuding an irresistible charm. That charm is readily felt in the descriptions of the country and its inhabitants, but only when the focus is not on the main characters. I suppose the novel is okay, but there are many novels on my list that are much more memorable than this one.

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