Alec (Paperback)

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William di Canzio’s Alec, inspired by Maurice, E. M. Forster’s secret novel of a happy same-sex love affair, tells the story of Alec Scudder, the gamekeeper Maurice Hall falls in love with in Forster’s classic, published only after the author's death.

Di Canzio follows their story past the end of Maurice to the front lines of battle in World War I and beyond. Forster, who tried to write an epilogue about the future of his characters, was stymied by the radical change that the Great War brought to their world. With the hindsight of a century, di Canzio imagines a future for them and a past for Alec—a young villager possessed of remarkable passion and self-knowledge.

Alec continues Forster’s project of telling stories that are part of “a great unrecorded history.” Di Canzio’s debut novel is a love story of epic proportions, at once classic and boldly new.

Author: William di Canzio

Paperback Published 7 May 2022 352 pages

Read and Recommended by Graeme:

"What an inspired idea! American playwright - and now novelist - William di Canzio has written what is in essence a sequel to E.M. Forster’s groundbreaking novel MauriceBut from the point of view of Alec Scudder, the gamekeeper servant who daringly climbed a ladder into the bedroom of wealthy stockbroker Maurice Hall for a sexual tryst. This scene is recreated here (even with some of Forster’s own dialogue) but retold from Alec’s point of view, so we get a rawer sense of how very daring and risky this act was. Alec Scudder was always the most refreshing character in Maurice compared with the constrained and tormented upper class characters. So to learn his back story is fascinating - he is seduced by a handsome bodybuilding friend of his brother’s, turns down money for sex with a toff, and develops a self-accepting sense of his desires and also his own self-worth. Like many relationships the first steps between Maurice and Alec are faltering and filled with self doubt and missteps. For a chapter or two, it seems as if the potential for something more will collapse...yet the pair manage to overcome their miscommunication and forge a commitment. However, Maurice is set at the beginning of the 20th century and so before long WWI has intruded on the couple’s plans. It is a great pleasure to revisit these characters - even those who haven’t read the novel, may well have seen the famous Merchant Ivory film adaptation. A 21st sensibility very occasionally seeps into this early 20th century setting and jars, yet this is a minor quibble. Many of the secondary characters are also highly memorable such as Van, Alec’s first sexual encounter, who takes a different path as a husband and father; or Baroness Cornelia Wentworth, Alec’s first employer who has a circle of bohemian and homosexual friends and proves herself a faithful ally to Alec and Maurice. And there is even E.M. Forster himself - called Morgan in the novel, who finally discovers sexual intimacy with a man during WWI while stationed in Alexandria. In an ingenious touch at the end of the novel he sets sail on ‘a passage to India’. The novel’s conclusion is one of the book’s highlights and great pleasures, with a surprising turn of events that is highly satisfying, very moving, and most cleverly plotted."

"There’s a sweeping romantic vision here that’s as old-fashioned as it is refreshingly modern, with this war-torn couple pining away for each other as they hold their love in the highest esteem, in bold defiance of English laws and customs . . . Di Canzio’s novel reads like an attempt to make these forgotten men feel less alone, to proliferate their stories . . . Alec is fiction as queer archaeology, demonstrating that looking back doesn’t necessarily mean looking backward."—Manuel Betancourt, The New York Times Book Review

"Alec is the kind of novel Maurice could never be, full of sex and war, death and torture. Di Canzio’s descriptions of their experiences are harrowing, tender, brutal, and comic . . . The question Maurice raised—is there anywhere these men can truly be together?—is made the more real, not the less, by the war and this novel."Alexander Chee, The New Republic

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