(Penguin Twentieth Century Classics version is the version reviewed)
More of a character novel than many modern novels, A Passage To India doesn't have quite the action or sex or even violence that features all too commonly in works of fiction these days, yet it is proof that such cheap thrills are not needed to keep the reader's interest, if the writer is good enough.
Although centring mainly on an Indian doctor and an English teacher living in Chandrapore, at around the time it was written (1924), along with their friendship, a large number of less important characters appear, and more importantly are developed, throughout the course of the story.
The political conditions in India presented in the story are based on what they actually were at the time, and although it is noted in the introduction (or possibly the after-story notes, i forget) that even when Forster wrote the book, the situation in India was changing - for the better - it is still surprising to think that change was only coming about just less than 60 years before I was born. Then I remember apartheid, and
segregation, and all that other bad stuff...
Anyway, A Passage To India is something of a puzzle for me. I can understand, particularly after reading most of "Peter Burra's Introduction to the Everyman Edition" (included in my version of the book, but at the end), how certain happenings in the book would have been considered violent back when it was written, but these days, I doubt anyone would raise an eyebrow. And yet, for all the lack of action, and the fact that at many points it doesn't feel as if the story is actually "going anywhere" (instead it is just going), it managed to hold my interest without fail.
I finished it, and I enjoyed it, I probably missed some of the subtler touches but I don't really care about that. I loved the descriptions of places and people and events. Often, I find that God really is in the details, and A Passage To India is proof of that. It's probably only two things that caused me to enjoy this book as much as I did; the level of detail, and the fact that there didn't seem to be a definite point to the story.