Thursday 11 February 2021

LGBT+ History Month: Why Maurice is my Favourite Classic

Since it’s LGBT+ History Month, I wanted to take some time to talk about my favourite classic author, E. M. Forster

When I started my blog, a whole decade ago, it wouldn’t have been dramatic of me to say that I hated classics. We had a complicated relationship throughout high school, so I turned my back on them as soon as I finished education. There were a few moments over the years when I thought maybe, just maybe, I could try again. But each time I picked one up, I never got past the first few chapters. I tried Austen and the Brontes, I tried famous ones and lesser-known ones, but none of them stuck. Not until I found my way to Forster. 

It was during Pride Month in 2015, when I was looking for some new LGBTQ+ books to read. I always tend to stick to YA, so I wanted to challenge myself to pick up something a little different. I came across a list someone had complied of LGBT books they thought everyone should try in their lifetime. Maurice was on there. As someone who was interested in the Bloomsbury set of artists and writers, I was well aware of who Forster was, but I’d never read any of his work because, you know, I wasn’t a classics person. But Maurice piqued my interest, so it was time for me to give classics another try. 

My local library didn’t have a copy, so whilst I was waiting for them to order it in, I picked up A Room With a View instead. I flew through it in days, happy that I’d found a classic that I actually wanted to keep reading. When I finally got my hands on Maurice a couple of months later, I dropped everything to start it, and I was completely unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster it was about to take me on. 

What’s especially important about Maurice is that it ends as happily as it could for the time that it was written. In Forster’s notes for the book, he spoke about how he couldn’t have published it during his time without ending it tragically. Two men content in living out the rest of their days together, romantically, just wasn’t an option, not even in fiction. But he was determined to give Maurice his happy ending, so the story stayed hidden for the remainder of Forster’s life. After his passing, laws had been changing, opinions were ever-so-slowly shifting, and Maurice was finally able to hit the shelves. 

Reading Maurice gave me a whole new appreciation for classics, especially ones that were ahead of their time, giving messages of hope to those who felt like the lives they wished for weren’t possible. It’s been fifty years since Maurice was published, and it’s still as important today as it was back then. It breaks my heart that Forster just missed out on living in world where his gay love story with a happy ending could be published for people to read and take comfort in. 

Forster’s stories reintroduced me to classics, and I’ll always be grateful for Maurice appearing in my life when it did. Even though it’s set during a time completely different to ours, there are feelings and opinions that are timeless in terms of how we relate to them. Maurice will always hold a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf, and it’s the perfect story to pick up during LGBT History Month if you haven’t read it yet!

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