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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
Hardback Published 22 July 2021 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 Maurice. But 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
"Just when it began to seem that I couldn’t read E. M. Forster’s Maurice one more time, as much as I love it, here’s Alec, William di Canzio’s brilliant reimagining of Forster’s classic. Alec extends Maurice, delivers it to us intact but refreshed and reconsidered. I, for one, am extremely grateful.” ―Michael Cunningham, author ofThe Hours
"The classic love story of upperclass Englishman Maurice Hill and gamekeeper Alec Scudder comes alive again in this inspired reimagining of E. M. Forster’s novel Maurice. Although told this time from Alec’s point of view, the new novel successfully captures the spirit of Forster’s original. . .the love story itself remains timeless, and its seamless reimagining is an altogether memorable accomplishment. One imagines Forster would be pleased." ―Booklist (starred review)
"Playwright Di Canzio’s canny debut retells E.M. Forster’s pioneering gay classic, Maurice, from the point of view of the gamekeeper who ends up with the title character. . . Di Canzio liberally quotes dialogue from Forster’s novel for dozens of pages, creating a satisfying blend of fan fiction and intertextuality. The romance and the wartime scenes are particularly well rendered, as is a postwar episode featuring Alec in Cassis." ―Publishers Weekly
"Heartfelt, sexy, and luminously written, DiCanzio’s novel conjures the Forsterian spirit to bring Alec and Maurice into the modern world. The deft interweaving of queer history, queer fiction, queer biography and sheer imagination kept me thinking and open to surprise. I loved it." ―Wendy Moffat, author of A Great Unrecorded History: a New Life of E.M. Forster
"Maurice and Alec are one of literature's iconic couples. It's been more than a century since Forster first let these lovers into the world, and what a treat to return to them now, in di Canzio's moving homage, where we find our boys still offering valuable lessons, still tender and troubled and courageous enough to love." ―Justin Torres, author of We the Animals