Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Review: Maurice - A New Beginning by L. R. Spickett


Title: Maurice – A New Beginning

Author: L. R: Spickett

Publisher: Austin Macauley

Release: 31st May 2016

Genre: M/M (historical)


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"Because, well, what do yer say, Maurice, love. Yes that's it - Jesus Christ - I love you, Maurice!"
The year is 1920 and whilst the war may be over, Maurice and his friends are fighting private battles of their own. L. R. Spickett continues where E. M. Forster left off in his original tale of forbidden love - ‘Maurice'. In ‘Maurice - A New Beginning' the recently heartbroken Maurice has been given another shot at love with the handsome but lower class Alec, but there are still hurdles to overcome - they face obstacles from family, friends, and society. Relationships are never easy and in a time when homosexuality was considered a criminal act they could be almost impossible. However, when a kindly couple step into their lives, things begin to look up and with determination and the support of friends, love looks set to win the day.

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Mark’s Review

This book piqued my interest for many reasons. Why? Well first of all, why on earth would anyone wish or even dare to continue where E.M. Forster ended his original book of Maurice? A tall order to follow one of our greatest literary masters who wrote what was probably the first M/M romance ever. Groundbreaking for the day and only published posthumously in the hope that attitudes might change and his story would be met with the understanding it deserves. So, is it a brave or foolhardy undertaking to try and write a sequel to this story following on from such a prolific author? Whatever the answer, it was a question that definitely raised considerable curiosity in me . Even E.M. Forster knew the value of  a “happy ever after” and gave Maurice and Alec one as best he could considering the conventions and attitudes to being gay at that time. I also usually have a great sense of trepidation reading a second book which continues the story of two characters that have already found their HEA in the first. However, you could say that the original work did leave a number of questions open, how did Maurice and Alec manage to carve out an existence and future for themselves in this period of history? How did they manage to overcome their difference in social class and education? Would the love they share be enough to see them through a future together? What would happen if others found out about them? As I said in my original review of Maurice,

Perfect! There is probably nothing I can write that hasn't been written before about this work from one of our great English authors. It has no doubt been criticised, scrutinised, analysed, investigated, praised and acclaimed. I will just write about how the book made me feel.

So with my sense of trepidation I opened the book with an open mind and I’m delighted to say that Mr Spickett took me on a wonderful journey, giving me closure on the classic story of Maurice and Alec. A very fitting, enjoyable and felicitous sequel indeed - LOVED IT!

In the first book we leave Maurice and Alec in the boathouse on Clive Durham’s estate after Alec was about to immigrate to Argentina with his family and Maurice thought that was the end of their love. As we know, the love that Alec has for Maurice stops him from going, he literally jumps ship in the eleventh hour and with this knows that his feelings for Maurice are far greater than anything beyond his control. So we can all breathe out with a sigh of relief knowing they are left in each other's arms and the future awaits them. But what is of this future? Here Mr Spickett takes up the reigns.

It is one of the most inconspicuous and insignificant characters from the first book that takes on a main role in providing Maurice and Alec with the shelter, support, guidance and the good fortune they need and to let them know they are not alone. Yes, he was there, if memory serves me right, but only for fleeting moments. To be honest I would never have thought about this myself and it was a wonderful plot device used by Mr Spickett making sure that the segue between the original work and his book is as smooth as possible. So praise on that one for a start!

Maurice and Alec are practically adopted by an older gay couple who have been together for a number of years now. It’s their experience of gay subterfuge necessary at the time to have a relationship that Maurice and Alec need in order to survive what is to face them. To be honest this is one of the main things I liked about this book. If you were gay in this time then you most definitely needed allies which invariably results in a merry band of friends who are all about looking after each other’s interests and backs. A kind of solidarity in knowing that you are not alone and there are others out there like yourself. Finding them though would always have been the tricky if not dangerous part. Yes, I felt this would have been totally appropriate for the time.

Now Maurice and Alec have their safe haven and friends to help them they can really get on with their future. I LOVED the way that Mr Spickett gets the dynamics between Maurice and Alec absolutely perfect, observing the conventions of this period with Maurice’s privileged and educated upbringing in contrast with Alec’s working class and uneducated background everything is wonderfully balanced out. However, Alec is not stupid just underprivileged for this time. He is in actual fact extremely intelligent and I fell in love with him myself all over again. Even though he might not have or ever been taught the fancy way with words that Maurice’s social class possess, he has a way with words that is totally refreshing. He is totally honest and direct with his attitudes and outlook on life but always considerate and thoughtful. It’s these qualities that not only Maurice but also myself came to love in him even more and despite the social class difference everyone can see there is a loving man there with a loving and faithful heart. Basically, he’s a complete charmer in the most positive way that made me smile every time he voices his opinions and feelings. So yes, it’s no wonder that Maurice is head over heels! I fell in love with Alec all over again and for me he stole the show!

However, what happened to Clive? Maurice's first lover. Well, we know in the original he married a woman but there were many questions from me on this front. Was it just a marriage of convenience in order to conform to society? Is he actually happy in this marriage or is it a sham? Has his feelings for Maurice now stopped completely? Has he shunned Maurice totally after all they went through? All I can say is these questions are all answered and more! It was so heartwarming to see Maurice and Clive find closure on their pasts. As to what happens here you’ll have to read the book for yourself. Suffice to say it was handled wonderfully in the hands of Mr Spickett who made everything seem realistic and plausible. I really felt for Clive as he battled with his demons and torn emotions. But even for Clive redemption arrives after he finally sees the light. He made his own bed and now he has to sort it out once and for all.

So do Maurice and Alec remain in the closet for the rest of their lives in this time or can they actually find anyone to confide in? This is a period in history where women’s rights were now being pushed with the suffragettes, etc. Maurice’s sister, Ada, is quite a rebel in her own right but belongs most definitely to the more modern and forward thinking of her gender at that time. They also find reconciliation on the horrendous argument they had in the first book and in this book Maurice does pick up enough courage to tell Ada the truth. Ada for me turned out to be one of the most endearing secondary characters. She embraces Maurice and more especially Alec, a wonderful woman with so much love and empathy it was heart-breaking to think that these two might never had spoken again after their argument. So Ada also became a hero in my heart for flying in the face of all social conventions and beliefs of the time, seeing for herself that love is truly love no matter the gender.

I could wax lyrical about this book all day so I had better stop here. Are my questions answered from the beginning of my review? I can most definitely say….. YES! Mr Spickett has done a masterful job in continuing Maurice’s and Alec’s story and is most definitely a worthy sequel to the original which by default is a tall order in itself. It rounds off E.M. Forster’s book wonderfully tying up all those loose ends and questions left in the first. I’m sure E.M. Forster would be very happy with the result indeed if he were living today. However, I would not recommend reading this book as a standalone. To get the most from Mr Spickett’s story you should really read or be at least familiar with the original and then this book will mean a lot more and make a lot more sense. I applaud Mr Spickett for giving me a wonderfully written continuation of Maurice’s and Alec’s romance which left me with a soppy sigh and a silly smile knowing that everything is now going to be OK in romance lala land with two of my favourite characters ever.

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Meet L.R. Spickett

Louis R. Spickett was born in 1924. He served on various ships in the Royal Navy during WW2 including those involved in the Allied invasions of North Africa and Sicily. Immediately after the war he joined the Merchant Navy as a Radio Officer and was on the famous RMS AQUITANIA, Cunard's last Four Funnel Liner, during her last year in service before being scrapped. She was under construction on the Clyde in 1912 when her ‘sister', another Four Funnel Liner, the infamous TITANIC, struck an iceberg and sank during her maiden voyage.

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  1. Angela:

    Thank you Mark for bringing Maurice, a new beginning to my attention, i loved EM Forsters book Maurice and i'm so happy that there is a sequel. Although i must admit i'm a bit like you in wondering if it is brave or foolish to write a sequel to such an amazing book. But after reading your review i think i will definitely enjoy this sequel :)

    1. Thank you, Angela. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Enjoy :-)