In some ways it's hard to believe that this was published in 1924, given the prescience Forster demonstrates in relation to the future of the British Raj. Towards the end of the novel, one of the central characters, Dr Aziz, effectively predicts that Indians will throw out the British when England is is involved in another war in Europe and articulates - albeit not in so many words - the need for Indians to identify as Indians rather than as members of their individual religious communities in order for that happen.
This is a story of the distrust and misunderstanding inherent in the relationship between colonisers and the colonised and poses the question of whether cultural differences can be overcome to find real friendship and understanding. It centres on the consequences of an incident in which a young English woman, Adela Quested, accuses the Indian Dr Aziz of assaulting her during an excursion to the Marabar Caves.
Forster's portrayal of the British colonial rulers is trenchantly critical. He exposes their hypocrisy, their fundamental fear of Indians and their desperation to retain control. While Forster's portrayal of Indian characters is largely - although not completely - sympathetic, he was a still a man of his time and there are some aspects of his portrayal of Indian characters which a contemporary reader is likely to find patronising.
Forster evokes a sense of time and place in beautiful prose and he provides plenty of food for thought. That said, there were times when the narrative seemed to meander and I wasn't always sure where Forster was going with it. This is one of those books I'm glad I listened to rather than read, because it allowed me to complete productive tasks while listening to those few parts of the novel which I might otherwise have skimmed. I knew that Sam Dastor's voices for both the English and the Indian characters would be excellent, having listened to his narration of Kipling's [b:Kim|210834|Kim|Rudyard Kipling|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327949424s/210834.jpg|1512424]. However, the downside of listening to Dastor is that he does not do female voices well. This wasn't an issue with Kim, because it contains no female characters to speak of, but Miss Quested is a central character in this novel and Dastor's voice for her is simply awful. I enjoyed listening much more when Miss Quested wasn't around.
The only other of Forster's novels I've read is [b:A Room with a View|3087|A Room with a View|E.M. Forster|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348347485s/3087.jpg|4574872], which I love. This one I like a little less. But I'm very glad that I finally tackled it and I don't know why it took me so long to do so.