Where Angels Fear to Tread was E. M. Forster’s first novel, which seemed to me to be good place for me to start reading this author.
The story begins with widowed Lilia leaving her daughter with her in-laws to travel to Italy as chaperone to her friend, Caroline Abbott. In Italy, Lilia falls in love with Gino, who is much younger than her and who, as the son of a dentist, is socially ludicrous in the eyes of Lilia’s in-laws.
Philip, Lilia’s brother in law, races off to Italy as instructed by his mother, to save Lilia from herself only to find that Lilia has already married Gino.
Lilia’s marriage turns out unhappily (was anyone really surprised to hear this?) and when Lilia dies giving birth to her and Gino’s son, Philip is sent back to Italy by his mother to bring the baby back to England. Philip’s sister Harriet, a cold fish who is more concerned with retrieving an inlaid box she loaned Lilia than the baby, accompanies Philip. When Philip and Harriet arrive in Gino’s home town they find Caroline Abbott there too, as she also intends to return to England with the baby.
Caroline visits Gino first and realises he loves the baby, then Philip visits Gino and realises the same thing. Caroline and Philip agree that the baby is best left with the father who loves it*, than returning it to England where it will be brought up properly in an English household, but will not be loved.
Harriet complicates things though by stealing the baby, which is then killed in a road accident. Philip returns to Gino to tell him of the tragedy.
When Philip finally realises he is in love with Caroline, he is too late, as Caroline had fallen in love with Gino, and there can be no future for them. I suspect Philip was a bit in love with Gino, too. In comparison to the reserved and proper English characters, Gino was full of life and emotion.
The only character I really liked or felt sorry for in this story was the baby. The adults were selfish and full of their own importance and the ‘rightness’ of their ideas. The English and the Italians patronised each other in their own way, and none really showed themselves at their best.
Based on Where Angels Fear to Tread, I would definitely visit Italy though. I will probably read more of this author’s work too.
*Sorry, I know the baby is not an ‘it’ but I can’t remember if it is a boy or a girl…