E.M Forster’s seminal work A Passage to India is anything but an easy read. It took me three weeks. Not only because of the difficulties of the themes that he wrestles with (rape, racism and colonial domination) but also, because the author assumes the reader’s familiarity with Indian terms, concepts and traditions, especially under British rule (I suppose that’s why there are three appendices to the novel).
However, once you get the gist of it, it is a beautiful, powerful, and what many call prescient story. Dr Aziz, a surgeon in Chandrapore, believes (unlike many of his contemporaries) that there is good in the English colonials after befriending the aging Mrs Moore. Aziz offers to show Mrs Moore and her young companion Miss Quested “the real India” but when Miss Quested accuses Aziz of attempted rape, his image of British India and of his colonial overlords is turned on its head.
I guess I found this book difficult to digest, because I enjoy reading about India (Shantaram utterly enchanted me) but Forster describes the India of his day, not as magical and mystical, but harsh, cruel and unforgiving (bearing in mind that he travelled to India often and lived there for some time). But, if you enjoy historical fiction and classics, then it may be worth a read. I paired this book with Thelema’s 2010 Sutherland Cab Sav Petit Verdot blend, a complex compound of spicy flavours, like this book.