A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

March 31, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): A charming tale of the battle between bourgeois repression and radical romanticism, E. M. Forster’s third novel has long been the most popular of his early works. A young girl, Lucy Honeychurch, and her chaperon—products of proper Edwardian England—visit a tempestuous, passionate Italy. Their “room with a view” allows them to look into a world far different from their own, a world unconcerned with convention, unfettered by social rituals, and unafraid of emotion. Soon Lucy finds herself bound to an obviously “unsuitable” man, the melancholic George Emerson, whose improper advances she dare not publicize. Back home, her friend and mentor Charlotte Bartlett and her mother, try to manipulate her into marriage with the more “appropriate” but smotheringly dull Cecil Vyse, whose surname suggests the imprisoning effect he would have on Lucy’s spirit.

A colorful gallery of characters, including George’s riotously funny father, Lucy’s sullen brother, the novelist Eleanor Lavish, and the reverend Mr. Beebe, line up on either side, and A Room with a View unfolds as a delightfully satiric comedy of manners and an immensely satisfying love story.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Lucy Honeychurch is a surprisingly good protagonist. Her character arc from the beginning of the novel to the end is clear, and the reader can appreciate and understand her changing perception about “class distinctions” and social conventions. Despite being young and relatively inexperienced, she was capable of independent thinking, which allowed her to change.
  • The secondary characters were rather memorable and funny. I love Freddy and Miss Lavish, and even have a soft spot for Charlotte because I fully believe that she was responsible (in her own way) for getting Lucy and George together in the end.
  • I liked that traveling was identified as a means of expanding one’s worldview and character. I think that aspect of traveling sometimes gets overlooked these days, as people are more interested in simply vacationing, getting a souvenir t-shirt, or postcard printing. Italy changed Lucy in profound ways that affected the course of her life. Can you say that Disney World has a similar affect?

Disliked:

  • George Emerson didn’t strike me as a decent love interest. Not because of his “class” or income, but because he was constantly brooding. He was interrupted on the verge of suicide at least twice and seemed to derive zero joy out of life. How long would Lucy be able to keep someone like that content? I’m glad she didn’t marry Cecil, but George didn’t seem like much of a prize either.
  • Cecil was such a boring prig that I would have liked to have seen more of his and Lucy’s early interactions. Why did she agree to marry him in the first place? That’s kind of a mystery to me. Even though her eyes hadn’t been opened by Mr. Emerson and Charlotte yet, Lucy should have known on her own that Cecil wasn’t for her.

Rating:

I first read A Room with a View in college, and liked it so much that I even went out and bought a Baedeker’s guidebook for Florence (despite having no intention of visiting that city) just so I could be a little bit like Lucy. I don’t remember what I was enthralled with back then, but find that Lucy’s maturation is the most rewarding part of the book now. This is a character-driven novel that is worth a read even though it’s not Forster’s best. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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