Source: LibriVox (zipped mp3s)
Length: 12 hr, 11 min
Reader: Elizabeth Klett
The book: Although Howards End is a deep book, it is not a difficult book. The story mainly concerns two families: the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes, and to a lesser extent a third, the Basts. All three families occupy the middle class, the Schlegels through inheritance, the Wilcoxes through business acumen, and the Basts barely clinging to the lower rungs of the middle class. Forster's book concerns the relationships between these families, but the plot does not get weighed down with the sense of overreaction to insignificant problems that burdens many novels of manners. Instead, Forster rewards the reader with humor and warm characters that enliven a plot full of twists.
However, Forster is not content to make this a merely entertaining novel. He spells out his symbolism and has his characters discuss his themes. The Schlegels come to symbolize the World of Ideas, the contemplative life, and the brotherhood of nations, while the Wilcoxes represent the World of Things, the active life, and imperialism. Howards End poses the question of along what direction will England's future be: that of the Wilcoxes, the Schlegels, or the Basts' struggle for existence? Forster doesn't chose one over the other, but instead as Margaret Schlegel says, "Our business is not to contrast the two, but to reconcile them."
The reader: If I had read this as a physical book instead of as an audiobook, I don't think I'd ever have finished it, not because it was too boring, but because I would have had to read back over the most beautiful passages again and again. Elizabeth Klett does credit to Forster's language with her marvelous reading. She has an American accent for narration, but for voices she performs a variety of English accents that are, as far as I know, quite accurate. My favorite voices she does are those of Jackie and Dolly, two characters that could be annoying but are instead humorous in Ms. Klett's able hands. My only complaint with the reading is a bit of an echo in an otherwise clean recording, but this I became accustomed to after the third or fourth chapter.