Where Angels Fear to Tread (Twentieth Century Classics)

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9780140180886: Where Angels Fear to Tread (Twentieth Century Classics)

Troublesome family scenarios are E.M. Forster's forte. In his debut novel "Where Angels Fear to Tread," a relatively young English widow named Lilia Herriton goes to Italy at the advice of her deceased husband Charles's family, accompanied by her friend Caroline Abbott, and, in a quaint little town called Monteriano, falls in love with an even younger hustler named Gino Carella and plans to marry him. The news mortifies her former in-laws: How could our Lilia marry a man beneath her class, the idle son of a dentist (a profession not highly regarded by the snobs in those days), a Catholic? Philip Herriton, Lilia's ex-brother-in-law, is immediately dispatched to Monteriano to put a stop to this fiasco, but it's too late; the wedding has already happened, and Philip returns to England with Caroline. Lilia, eager to adjust her life to this poor but picturesque provincial Italian town, finds the social environment completely alien to the one to which she is accustomed in England, and even worse is the fact that Gino, whose friends are impressed that he has been able to score a rich blond Englishwoman, is revealed to be lazy and adulterous. The worst is finally realized when Lilia dies in childbirth delivering a son to Gino. Back in England, the Herritons' connection to Lilia is not so easily broken; a daughter named Irma from her first husband has been left in their care, even though Lilia had been treated with condescension by her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law Harriet while she was married to Charles. Concerned with scandal, the Herritons recoil in fear when, a few months after Lilia's death, Irma receives postcards from Monteriano signed by her "little brother." Philip, his sister Harriet, and Caroline, all convinced of Gino's unsuitableness as a father, especially of a child of English blood, return to Italy to try to retrieve the baby boy. The obvious satire of cavalier Edwardian English attitudes toward Catholic Europe is only a backdrop to the more specific issue of whether the Herritons should assume custody of a baby with whom they have no legal familial relations. Caroline, who begins to sympathize with Gino Caroline means well, of course, but her presumption that Gino would necessarily bring the boy up "badly" is part of the satire.

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"Let her go to Italy!" he cried. "Let her meddle with what she doesn't understand! Look at this letter! The man who wrote it will marry her, or murder her, or do for her somehow. He's a bounder, but he's not an English bounder. He's mysterious and terrible. He's got a country behind him that's upset people from the beginning of the world."
When a young English widow takes off on the grand tour and along the way marries a penniless Italian, her in-laws are not amused. That the marriage should fail and poor Lilia die tragically are only to be expected. But that Lilia should have had a baby -- and that the baby should be raised as an Italian! -- are matters requiring immediate correction by Philip Herriton, his dour sister Harriet, and their well-meaning friend Miss Abbott.
In his first novel, E. M. Forster anticipated the themes of cultural collision and the sterility of the English middle class that he would develop in A Room with a View and A Passage to India. Where Angels Fear to Tread is an accomplished, harrowing, and malevolently funny book, in which familiar notions of vice and virtue collapse underfoot and the best intentions go mortally awry.

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Forster, E M
Published by Penguin Putnam~trade (1989)
ISBN 10: 0140180885 ISBN 13: 9780140180886
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