Saturday, May 11, 2013


So, I once found a list of well-done gay-themed movies and found the movie Maurice among them. Well, a gay movie that involves Hugh Grant kissing another man that takes place in the early 20th century? Sounds like my thing!

I hunted down a nicely-priced ex-library copy of it, since I was pretty much seeing it sight unseen, and I enjoyed it. Then I bought the book. Took me some months to sit down and read it, but I finally did. It is actually the first gay-themed novel I've read. (Any other books have been non-fiction.)

Maurice was written by E.M. Forster in 1913 and 1914, but due to the socially taboo nature of homosexuality at the time, it wasn't published until after he died in 1971. It deals with a young man, Maurice Hall, who finds himself giving into "the vice of the Greeks." He's a homosexual. He winds up falling in love with a fellow student at Cambridge: Clive Durham, who does return his love, but is hesitant about giving in. He, unlike Maurice, doesn't want to embrace this. Maurice is headed for heartbreak, but relief comes from a very unexpected source.

Although it was written a hundred years ago, Maurice is shockingly modern in its approach to sexuality, and for a well-read person, it reads quite easily. Forster is rich in characterization and drawing the reader into the world of the story without cloying details. I could feel Maurice's grief and cheer on his victories. The book also reminds us that not too long ago, coming out of the closet and being open about who you were attracted to just wasn't an option.

What really set Maurice apart from other books featuring gay characters was that the gay characters are allowed to be happy. I understand Forster wrote an epilogue that was not included in my copy of the book revealing that Maurice and his (what we would now call) partner very much had to live their lives on the run. If anyone began to suspect the actual nature of their relationship, they had to drop everything and move on. This dissatisfying ending gives us a peek into what dedicated gay couples had to do: be ready to move on at the drop of a hat. While Maurice is fictional, I cannot help but think it was the case for some people.

Would I recommend this one? Yes, if you want to risk crying over a book.

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