Beware of people with a reputation they regard higher than
living beings and a belief in the absolute rightness of their values. Lilia Harrington, a widow, journeys to Italy
with a young traveling companion. The
beauty of the landscape and the charm of the people captivate Lilia. She falls for Gino, a younger man, whom her
in-laws find highly unsuitable. Her
brother-in-law, Peter, travels to Italy to prevent Lilia from marrying Gino and
harming their reputations. He arrives too
late. Lilia has married her Italian and
is bearing his child. When she dies in
childbirth, the Harringtons send Peter to Italy again, to claim the child to be
raised as a proper Englishman and protect their public reputations. Foster
does a masterful job in portraying the characters and the country.
"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.
About the Author
Edward Morgan Forster was born on January 1, 1879, in London and was raised from infancy by his mother and paternal aunts after his father's death. Forster’s boyhood experiences at the Tonbridge School, Kent, were an unpleasant contrast to the happiness he found at home, and his suffering left him with an abiding dislike of the English public school system. At King’s College, Cambridge, however, he was able to pursue freely his varied interests in philosophy, literature, and Mediterranean civilization, and he soon determined to devote his life to writing.His first two novels, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and The Longest Journey (1907), were both poorly received, and it was not until the publication of Howards End, in 1910, that Forster achieved his first major success as a novelist, with the work many considered his finest creation.Forster first visited India during 1912 and 1913, and after three years as a noncombatant in Alexandria, Egypt, during World War I and several years in England, he returned for an extended visit in 1921. From those experiences came his most celebrated novel, A Passage to India, his darkest and most probing work and perhaps the best novel about India written by a foreigner.As a man of letters, Forster was honored during and after World War II for his resistance to any and all forms of tyranny and totalitarianism, and King’s College awarded him a permanent fellowship in 1949. He spent his later years at Cambridge writing and teaching, and died in Coventry, England, on June 7, 1970. His novel, Maurice, written several decades earlier, was published posthumously in 1971.