Two favorite writers converge in what will likely be one of my best reads of the year: For his eighth novel, two-time Booker finalist Damon Galgut explores E.M. Forster's gay life in England, Egypt, and India. After the successes of Where Angels Fear To Tread, The Longest Journey, and A Room with a View, in 1909 Forster began a novel about the relationship between two men: repressed Martin Whitby, who while vacationing in Italy with his wife and mother falls under a train in Italy, and quick Lt. Clesant March, who saves him. Their classic meet-cute fails to bridge the chasm of their different personalities and backgrounds, and the two men "part rudely." But back in England fate throws them together once more. Forster abandoned this manuscript, Arctic Summer, to write Howards End in 1910 and ignored it for forty years before returning to it in 1951; he again gave up. (A hundred-page draft was published long after his death.)
Damon Galgut's Arctic Summer covers those fourteen gap years (1910-1924) when Forster didn't publish any novels and traveled happily in India and Alexandria. The Economist said, "With insight and seemingly effortless fluidity, Mr Galgut has written a beautiful, and at times funny, novel that movingly captures the duality of one of Britain's most thoughtful authors." Sunday Times: "Galgut is extremely good on Forster's anxieties, his loneliness, his unworldliness... The portrait is beautifully nuanced, a mixture of bold, colourful strokes and delicate little flicks of the brush." The Guardian: "It is a project to which Galgut, whose fiction has often covered the terrain of love, race and politics, seems perfectly suited as a writer... A remarkable, lyrical tribute." The Daily Mail: "A masterly piece of fiction. Delicate and detailed."
[Released in the UK in March, the novel won't appear in the US until September, as a paperback original. You may want this keeper in hardcover: gently used copies are drifting over here for $18.]