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Shortlisted for the 2015 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize
Shortlisted for the 2015 University of Johannesburg English Literary Award
Nominated for the 2014 Folio Prize
In 1912, the SS Birmingham approaches India. On board is Morgan Forster, novelist and man of letters, who is embarking on a journey of discovery. As Morgan stands on deck, the promise of a strange new future begins to take shape before his eyes. The seeds of a story start to gather at the corner of his mind: a sense of impending menace, lust in close confines, under a hot, empty sky. It will be another twelve years, and a second time spent in India, before A Passage to India, E. M. Forster's great work of literature, is published. During these years, Morgan will come to a profound understanding of himself as a man, and of the infinite subtleties and complexity of human nature, bringing these great insights to bear in his remarkable novel.
At once a fictional exploration of the life and times of one of Britain's finest novelists, his struggle to find a way of living and being, and a stunningly vivid evocation of the mysterious alchemy of the creative process, Arctic Summer is a literary masterpiece, by one of the finest writers of his generation.
Talented South African writer Galgut (The Good Doctor) returns with a well-researched if occasionally leaden novel about E.M. Forster. Set mostly between Forster's first trip to India in 1912, during which he visits the caves that play so great a role in A Passage to India, and the 1924 publication of that classic, the novel explores Forster's intense, sexually tinged friendships with an Indian lawyer, Syed Ross Masood, to whom he dedicated Passage, and the Egyptian tram conductor Mohammed el Adl. Galgut chronicles Forster's struggle to complete his "Indian novel" and his "invisible, double life" as a homosexual. The avidity of what were then termed Morgan's "minorite" desires are effectively conveyed, as is the timidity that often frustrates them; Morgan is 37 when he loses his virginity to a British soldier in Alexandria. Unfortunately, some hammy descriptions of Forster at work weigh on the prose ("In one moment, as if lit up by lightning, he had seen the whole arc of events"), and the cameos made by the likes of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, and a fulminating D.H. Lawrence seem perfunctory. Any flatness stands out: the cost of fictionalizing a great writer.