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The Longest Journey

E. M. Forster

Book Overview: 

Frederick Elliot is a student at early 20th century Cambridge, a university that seems like paradise to him, amongst bright if cynical companions, when he receives a visit from two friends, an engaged young woman, Agnes Pembroke, and her older brother, Herbert. The Pembrokes are Rickie’s only friends from home. An orphan who grew up living with cousins, he was sent to a public (boarding) school where he was shunned and bullied because of his lame foot, an inherited weakness, and frail body. Agnes, as it happens, is engaged to Gerald, now in the army, who was one of the sturdy youths who bullied Rickie at school. Rickie is not brilliant at argument, but he is intensely responsive to poetry and art, and is accepted within a circle of philosophical and intellectual fellow-students led by a brilliant but especially cynical aspiring philosopher, Stuart Ansell, who refuses, when he is introduced to her, even to acknowledge that Agnes exists.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .taller by many a yard than anything within, and asserting, however wildly, that here is eternity, stability, and bubbles unbreakable upon a windless sea.

A costly hymn tune announced five o'clock, and in the distance the more lovable note of St. Mary's could be heard, speaking from the heart of the town. Then the tram arrived—the slow stuffy tram that plies every twenty minutes between the unknown and the marketplace—and took them past the desecrated grounds of Downing, past Addenbrookes Hospital, girt like a Venetian palace with a mantling canal, past the Fitz William, towering upon immense substructions like any Roman temple, right up to the gates of one's own college, which looked like nothing else in the world. The porters were glad to see them, but wished it had been a hansom. "Our luggage," explained Rickie, "comes in the hotel omnibus, if you would kindly pay a shilling for mine." Ansell turned aside to some large lighted windows, the abode o. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Another wonderful book from EM Forster. This is the fourth of his books that I've read and I'm in love with them all! I grew quite attached to Rickie and felt the weight of the world he was bearing. This book delivered some genuine shocks. I don't remember the last time I gasped out loud this man...more

This is not an easy novel for me to review because I love E.M. Forster, but I didn’t love this book. The overall storyline I liked well enough: a young Cambridge man discusses philosophy with his fellow students, finishes life at university, which he has enjoyed immensely, and tries to establish...more

“Preserving Family Secrets—Honoring Family Dreams”
This 1907 novel probes the gradual maturation of a young Cambridge student, Ricki Elliot—grappling with various life issues. It is in his favorite haunt, a delightful dell some distance from the ‘Varsity, that he recounts to his male peers the sa...more

This book depressed me slightly... the ending seemed to convey that life is alot of dead ends and perhaps a bit aimless. I agree that life is often this way, but I'm not sure I like it in literature. I absolutely loved Ansell's character, though, and wish he were in the book more. I think Ansell...more

As a limited but interesting point of comparison, this is a little like a novel version of The Education of Henry Adams. Unlike Adams, the protagonist here is educated on the cusp of the 20th century rather than on the pinnacle of 19th century thinking. However, the lapse of time in between has c...more

Impossible to rate. Often four, so I'm going with four. I actively hated the Stephen plot, but liked the friendship-versus-marriage story, which did friendship extremely well. Even if Forster seemed hesitant to advance its claims against the societal hegemony of marriage.

He also seemed hesitant...more

Oh how I suck up these wordy early 20th Century tales of love and woe and irony.

I truly enjoyed this book, I really yearned to read it and I could not really express why to someone who would say "What?!?!? Nothing happens! It is just a bunch of stuffy people worrying about manners!".

Oh, but it is...more

It is described by Stephen Spender, I think, as Forster's "most accomplished work". It is flawed, the girl in the novel exceptionally tedious, the ideal "brute savage" too ideal. But there are memorable scenes-the awful opening speech for the new term, the depiction of bullying, the atmosphere of...more

As shocking as it may be, I'd never read anything by E.M. Forster. I happened upon my dusty, 1922 printed copy by luck as I browsed through one of the buildings in my favorite used book store, The Book Barn in Niantic, CT. What drew me to the book at the time was the following blurb printed among...more

TLJ was Forster's favourite novel, and now I've read it I can see why. If you've read the The Machine Stops collection of short stories and a biography of Forster, you can have endless fun in the Cambridge section playing 'spot the biographical detail'. Rickie comes so very, very close to being a...more

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