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[[ download Prime ]] A Room with a ViewAuthor E.M. Forster – Wildlives.co

This Edwardian Social Comedy Explores Love And Prim Propriety Among An Eccentric Cast Of Characters Assembled In An Italian Pensione And In A Corner Of Surrey, England

A Charming Young English Woman, Lucy Honeychurch, Faints Into The Arms Of A Fellow Britisher When She Witnesses A Murder In A Florentine Piazza Attracted To This Man, George Emersonwho Is Entirely Unsuitable And Whose Father Just May Be A SocialistLucy Is Soon At War With The Snobbery Of Her Class And Her Own Conflicting Desires Back In England She Is Courted By A More Acceptable, If Stifling, Suitor, And Soon Realizes She Must Make A Startling Decision That Will Decide The Course Of Her Future: She Is Forced To Choose Between Convention And Passion

The Enduring Delight Of This Tale Of Romantic Intrigue Is Rooted In Forster's Colorful Characters, Including Outrageous Spinsters, Pompous Clergymen And Outspoken Patriots Written In , A Room With A View Is One Of EM Forster's Earliest And Most Celebrated Works


10 thoughts on “A Room with a View

  1. says:

    There is a great line in A Room with a View about a book that has been abandoned in a garden: The garden was deserted except for a red book, which lay sunning itself upon the gravel path.
    The author then describes what the main characters are doing in various locations adjacent to the garden, but meanwhile the red book is allowed to be caressed all the morning by the sun and to raise its covers slightly, as though to acknowledge the caress. The description of the book seems very innocent but the reader’s attention is immediately caught. What is the significance of this book within a book, we wonder, and why does it have a 'red' cover.

    As it turns out, the immediate purpose of the red-covered book on that sunny English morning is to move the story along, quickly and dramatically. The red book causes certain things to happen that wouldn't otherwise have happened as if it were in fact a character in the novel with a voice of its own. The plot is really very neat and makes for an entertaining read. The backdrops Forster uses for the action are interesting too: the shifting class structure and the new ideas on religion and politics which were emerging in England in the last decades of the nineteenth century. But my favorite aspect of this beautiful novel is 'Art'. Even when everything else is in flux, Art is a constant and reliable reference which Forster returns to again and again.

    The first half of A Room with a View takes place in Florence. The characters meet and avoid each other in a number of locations throughout the city: at the Santa Croce church adorned with frescos by Giotto; in the Piazza Della Signoria where Michaelangelo's David stares across at Benvenuto Cellini's bloody Medusa under the Loggia dei Lanzi; at the San Miniato church, its beautiful facade visible from the very room of the title. Practically every scene in the Italian half of the book features some work of art or another, directly or indirectly. When the characters take a trip into the hills, landscape artists are recalled. When they view Giotto's frescos, their different reactions mirror their approaches to life and living. Forster continually uses the adjectives 'michaelangelesque' and 'leonardesque' to describe the opposing facets of the characters. Once I began to notice that pattern, I recorded it in the status updates but there were more examples than I've listed there.

    All of this is by way of explaining that Forster creates a juxtaposition of two modes of being in this novel, the cool and sedate versus the sublimely passionate, as if he himself is involved in some balancing act between sedate predictable prose and wildly unpredictable romanticism, between his own rational leonardesque qualities and his more michaelangelesque tendencies, between the English half of the novel and the Italian half.

    Two of the characters are symbols of those two extremes. Lucy Honeychurch's entourage, especially her cousin Charlotte Bartlett, would like to keep Lucy on the side of the sedate. George Emerson and his father would like Lucy to step over into their own more dynamic world. I was reminded of Virginia Woolf's Night and Day which offers similar contrasts and challenges and a similarly nuanced resolution.

    I was unsure about what destiny Forster actually wanted for his main characters. According to the introduction, he wrote two different outcomes though only one exists today. However, in the end, it is as if the characters resolve the situation for themselves. Charlotte Bartlett emerges as a curious and unlikely deus ex machina, and the title of the innocent-looking book, sunning itself in the English garden, turns out to be ‘Under a Loggia’, nicely connecting the two halves of the novel and helping to resolve the dilemmas of the characters.
    .........………………………………………
    I've chosen two images that I think illustrate Forster's adjectives 'leonardesque' and 'michaelangelesque'. Leonardo's 'Annunciation' (in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence):


    and one of Michelangelo's unfinished 'imprisoned slaves' (now in the Academia Gallery, Florence):


    For some further thoughts on how Forster merges his story with the art of Florence, see my review of The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini.
    I read both Forster's and Cellini's books while visiting the Tuscan capital last month and found interesting parallels between them.


  2. says:

    4.5 stars

    "Italians are born knowing the way. It would seem that the whole earth lay before them, not as a map, but as a chess-board, whereon they continually behold the changing pieces as well as the squares. Any one can find places, but the finding of people is a gift from God."

    Ah, there is nothing like a vacation to rest the body and soothe one’s soul… well, this would be the ideal holiday in any case. Family trips to Disney World would not fall in this category. Nor would my latest adventures – college visits. Even last year’s escape to a gorgeous beach resort to celebrate my 20 year anniversary could not be termed serene or inspiring or meditative; after all, two teens tagging along on that momentous occasion changes the entire tone of a trip as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a lovely celebration, and who better to spend it with if one can’t go alone than with the two greatest accomplishments of your twenty years of marriage?!

    Apparently, what I am in desperate need of, however, is a trip to Italy. Or someplace that will infuse me with such a feeling of life as it did Lucy Honeychurch in this unforgettable novel! I first read this book at the tender age of 17 when I was assigned E.M. Forster as ‘my author’ to delve into for an AP English project. I successfully completed the task, but I can tell you that there is no way this book had the same effect then as it did now. This book was brilliantly written and such a joy to read. I commend Forster for his progressive feminist views. While in Florence with Charlotte, her much older cousin and chaperone, Lucy meets the Emersons. The elder Mr. Emerson and his son George are not the ‘typical’ tourists of this new Edwardian society, nor are they your average English gentlemen. This is quite evident from the start when they offer to change rooms with Lucy and Charlotte. While the ladies have simple rooms with a view of a courtyard, the Emerson’s view is a marvelous one that takes in both the Arno and the Apennines. It also becomes quite apparent early on that these men offer not just a different view of Italy, but perhaps of societal norms, love, and life itself. "… she had an odd feeling that whenever these ill-bred tourists spoke the contest widened and deepened till it dealt, not with rooms and views, but with—well, with something quite different, whose existence she had not realized before." Trapped between the old Victorian mores and the developing and less constricting Edwardian values, Lucy’s world is shaken up as she struggles with the conflict between her own true desires and the more rigid expectations of her gender and her place in society. A chance encounter with the young, tender and tragic George Emerson leaves Lucy feeling alternately awakened and yet sincerely confused.

    The second half of the novel shifts the setting to Lucy’s home at Windy Corner in England. Here it becomes perhaps easier to accept the social codes without the ‘threat’ of the Emersons or the seductive allure of Italy. Or does it? Soon it becomes quite clear that Lucy’s soul-searching has not come to a halt. "… she reflected that it is impossible to foretell the future with any degree of accuracy, that it is impossible to rehearse life. A fault in the scenery, a face in the audience, an irruption of the audience on to the stage, and all our carefully planned gestures mean nothing, or mean too much." I hesitate to give away any real details of the plot any further as not to spoil it; you really just need to pick this one up and observe Lucy’s struggles and transformations for yourself. Forster also introduces us to Lucy’s brother, Freddy, who is rather refreshingly unconventional, as well as the puffed up prig, Cecil Vyse. In fact, Forster introduces an array of characters that you will not soon forget, and I love the various names attached – Mr. Beebe, Miss Lavish and Mr. Eager. The character development of each and every one is brilliant.

    I highly recommend this as a very accessible classic novel. Not too heavy yet very forward-thinking. The romance is endearing without being sappy. There is some wonderful satire about social conventions that I very much appreciated. I seem to need a bit of humor in these classic works to lighten the mood just a bit, so well done Mr. Forster. The book is simply enchanting and I can’t wait to watch yet another highly regarded screen adaptation. 4.5 stars rounded up since I just can’t stop thinking about this one.

    "I must get away, ever so far. I must know my own mind and where I want to go."
    "The world is certainly full of beautiful things, if only I could come across them."


  3. says:

    The Pensione (pension) Bertolini in Florence, Italy has everything for the visiting tourists, Miss Lucy Honeychurch and her older poorer cousin Charlotte Bartlett a rather overbearing chaperon, fine food, (not really) wines not too bad this is Italy and a room with a view. Unfortunately not for the cousins, their promised accommodations went to Mr.Emerson and his quiet gloomy son George. If you can't trust the Signora Bertolini, the Italian owner of this establishment more English than one in London, the late Queen Victoria's picture is still on the wall, with a strange Cockney accent who can you? But chivalry is not quite dead, in the early 20th century the ill mannered Mr.Emerson, offers in front of all the other British tourists while they consume their dinner, to exchange rooms two for two , the men don't care as long as they have a good bed, after hearing Charlotte's complaints. Of course Miss Bartlett turned it down, the unseemly idea such a vulgar man, he is not a gentleman no English reserve . Looking around, she sees that confirmed on the faces of the other boarders. Then again, Florence is so beautiful the Arno River flowing nearby, (not too dirty ) the Apennine Mountains, Cypress trees of San Miniato, she will never be here again ... A half- hour later the two cousins open the windows, ( the British love to do this) in the new rooms... with a view. A great country to stare at the exotic attractions, if only the Italians were more civilized Charlotte thinks, but all is well with the world now. Miss Eleanor Ravish a new flighty friend, at the pension and future bad novelist, takes Lucy on a sightseeing trip of the real Italy. And promptly deserts her for an old friend, on the streets of the city, she enters the church alone, they both were to view. How is she to get back to Bertolini ? Not to worry the Emerson's are there, Mr. Emerson the old "Gentleman" quickly annoys, then disrupts a visiting British clergyman's lecture inside with his loud disagreeing voice, the unhappy perturbed flock leaves, yet Lucy does get back home safely. Feeling brave and wanting independence and excitement, she receives more than Lucy can handle, Miss Honeychurch goes out by herself. While looking at a palace tower, she is a witness to a gruesome murder, the stabbing of one Italian man against another at close range, blood on her photographs, she just had bought in a shop and faints ...George in love and in the same vicinity, spying ... Picks Lucy up, revives her and takes the lady to safety, the Arno river is near, throwing the messy photos in the stream. She can't believe he did it ... At a later date, descending a mountain road after viewing gorgeous Florence from above, the weather turns bad, the two carriages full of the British visitors from the pension, including Lucy, Charlotte and the old Mr.Emerson, even Miss Lavish. George the cad had kissed Lucy, when she fell on the ground full of exquisite violets, Charlotte luckily comes to the rescue before who knows what George would do next. He runs away the coward and vanishes, nobody knows where. But soon Lucy will meet the perfect, ideal, respectable man, Cecil Vyse... In the wet darkness, the rains heavy, lightning strikes, women scream, slowly the party travels, more flashes of lightning, the clouds coming down, the road a liquid mess, the storm gets more violent, they stop for a short rest. A lightning bolt hits the road just below them ...


  4. says:

    A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

    A novel of manners by a master. It is set in England in the early 1900’s -- the Edwardian era. As we are told in the introduction, D. H. Lawrence wrote “About social existence, E. M. Forster knew everything.” Christopher Isherwood called him the expert on “My England.” If we switched the setting to the USA, I would think I was reading Edith Wharton. Or Henry James without the subclauses.

    description

    We start off with a young upper-middle class British woman visiting Florence. She is chaperoned by a much older cousin. They are disappointed that their room in the pension does not have the promised view. An older man and his son offer to exchange rooms with them. In a private moment the young man, the son, kisses the young woman. She also has another “adventure:” she witnesses a murder in the street.

    Such were Edwardian times that the social complexities of the two women accepting or rejecting this offer of the room, and the young woman’s reaction to the kiss, sets the entire plot in motion for 200 pages. Of course in that era the burden of dealing with that stolen kiss falls entirely on the woman. It affects her relationship with her cousin, her mother, her fiancé back in England, her uncle who is a minister and more.

    The first half of the story is set in Italy and the second half back at her home in England. We learn a lot about how the British took great pains to avoid (apparently) “getting contaminated” by Italians! The women stay at a pension run by an English woman; they attend services conducted by a British minister. They have a prescribed list of what must be seen. (There were multiple references to Della Robbia babies, so I looked them up – see picture.)

    description

    In a remarkable coincidence, the man who kissed her ends up an immediate neighbor back in England, now friends with her brother and fiancé. The young woman has to wrestle with social propriety, gossip and the choice of ‘doing the right thing’ or following her heart. Her fiancé is controlling and she revolts against him trying to shape her into his opinion of what a woman ‘should be.’ So we can also see the story as a feminist text. Here’s some of what the young woman is up against:

    “Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte [her cousin] had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much. But if she rushed into the fray herself she would first be censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been written to illustrate this point.”

    There is good writing, biting social commentary and humor:

    “He seems to see good in everyone. No one would take him for a clergyman.”

    Of her mother: “…she doesn’t like anyone to get excited over anything…”

    Of the father and son duo: “They must find their level.”

    Advice to the young woman from her cousin: “…this our life contains nothing satisfactory.”

    description

    E. M. Forster was a gay man, publicly in the closet, although open to his best friends. He lived a long life: 1879 to 1970. A Room with a View is his best-known work according to GR, with about twice as many ratings as either Howards End or A Passage to India. Very early in his life Forster wrote a novel about a gay love affair, Maurice, but it was not published until the year after his death. He must hold the record for being nominated for the Nobel prize but never being awarded one: 16 times. The book was made into a Merchant Ivory film in 1985.

    Top photo: the apartment in Florence where the author frequently stayed with his mother, from Wikipedia.
    Della Robbia babies from


  5. says:

    Considered by many to be Forster's sunny day, and most optimistic novel, would start off in Italy, an Inn in Florence to be precise. Two sweet Edwardian females, Miss Lucy Honeychurch (adorable name) and her cousin, Charlotte the chaperone have a bit of a dilemma whilst holidaying, the silly Inn keeper promised them rooms with a view looking out onto the Arno River, but they end up facing the courtyard. (I would have gladly faced the courtyard if it meant being a Tuscan tourist, would have even bedded down in the cellar come to think of it, rats and all). But as luck would have it, two budding hero's come to the rescue. Mr. Emerson, an old man seated with them at dinner suggests that Lucy and Charlotte trade rooms with him and his son, George, which, after first being rather offended at the proposal are advised to do by the Reverend Beebe, a clergyman staying in the same place, who is soon to become the vicar of Lucy's Parish back in Surrey, England.

    The early part of the novel really showcases Forster's use of dialogue, that finds a good balance between beauty and delicacy, between honesty and propriety. When Lucy ventures out into Florence with the romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, she runs into the Emersons at the church of Santa Croce. Speaking bluntly, Lucy is torn between accepting kindness and taking offense of the attention, when asked by Mr. Emerson to befriend his son George, Lucy becomes uncomfortable, and hides any emotion, could it be that she is already prematurely in love with someone she only recently met? Especially after she witnesses an altercation, which ends up with her falling into George's arms after a fainting episode.

    The novel's second half picks up some months later in Surrey, in a house named Windy Corner. The house belongs to the Honeychurch family. And it now appears Lucy has gained entry to an even better society, with that of the sour Cecil Vyse, who has been granted Lucy's hand in marriage (no, Lucy, don't do it!!). Cecil is an imbecile, and sees Lucy as nothing more than a work of art, something to show off, like a fancy antique painting. At heart he is a snob, he just doesn't realize it.
    It also becomes apparent Cecil has two so called friends, yes, the Emersons!, who arrive back on the scene after a property becomes available on Summer Street, all to the fury of Lucy, who would go on to call off the engagement (good girl!), but not for the love of George. Er..of course not my dear.

    The acutely observed characters feel so real in this novel and he breathes life into them in such a humane way, although I didn't like them all, it was a pleasure to be in their company. Lucy is quite possibly the most fully fleshed, so much so that even when she lies to herself and to those around her, I found myself sympathizing with her situation instead of condemning her actions. Among many things, A Room with a View is a coming of age story about one young woman's entry into adulthood, and the struggles that face Lucy as she emerges as her own woman, growing from indecision to fulfillment. She is torn between strict, old-fashioned Victorian values and newer, more liberal morals. In the tussle her own idea of what is true evolves and matures.

    George, troubled by an existential crisis at such a young age, doesn't understand how life can be truly joyful and fulfilling, and seemed shadowed by a dark enigma and a has a question mark above his head. The two are united by a shared appreciation for beauty, which might be captured in their love of views: Lucy adored the view of the Arno, whilst George remembers a time of with his parents gazing at a view. Each possesses what the other needs, it just takes some soul-searching for them to realize it. George finds simple pleasure in the company of the Honeychurchs, Lucy finds an inner courage to recognize her own individuality through time spent with the Emersons.

    The story did meander here and there in places, but the novels strength definitely lies in its vivid cast of characters, especially the deep exploration of Lucy's attitude towards life and love. With some great humorous dialogue, and a playful nature, I was very impressed indeed!


  6. says:

    "She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him."
    -Charlotte Bartlett.

    I was reminded of this, an old favourite of mine, when a Goodreads' review of the book, by @Apatt, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... had me instantly searching bookshelves for my own battered copy.

    E. M. Forster writes in a way that would seem archaic now (natch), but the same codes of conduct and social divisions still apply in our modern age.

    In pre-WWI England, travel to sunny Euro destinations was largely the province of the Edwardian upper classes.
    Rebel-in-waiting, Lucy Honeychurch takes the Grand Tour to Florence, chaperoned by her snobby Aunt Charlotte, whose 'manners' get in the way of good common sense.
    Uptight spinster, Auntie Bartlett, attempts to counterbalance the nothingness of her frigid life by looking down her nose at people who possess far better qualities than she.
    Forster does a great job of lampooning the superciliousness and the haughtiness of an old-money Brit abroad, something that he, a man from a privileged background himself, observed at very close quarters. His deadpan wit is recognisably reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's and should even have the modern reader "LOL"ing out loud!


  7. says:

    Edwardian-era propriety meets Italian passion with entertaining results in E.M. Forster’s sunny, slight, but ever so charming comedy of manners.

    Well-known from the sumptuous Merchant-Ivory adaptation (which I rewatched immediately after finishing the book), the novel tells the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a proper English girl who, while on vacation in Florence with her cousin/chaperone, Miss Bartlett, meets George Emerson, a handsome but odd philosophical soul, who’s travelling with his eccentric, truth-telling father.

    All four are staying at the Pension Bertolini, and the others they meet there – the lady novelist Eleanor Lavish, the two older, unmarried sisters (dubbed the Miss Alans), and someone from Lucy’s village, the very accommodating Reverend Arthur Beebe – will cross paths with them later in unexpected ways.

    As in the other books by him I’ve read, Forster’s narration is delightfully genial. He’ll remind us, for instance, that we haven’t really spent much time with a particular character, tell us that we know more about Lucy’s actions than she does herself, hint at plot developments to come, and generally treat his characters with a satiric, gently chiding tone. At times that tone can seem trivial; midway through the book I felt it was all just so much upper-middle-class flim flam.

    (More quibbles: George’s physical treatment of Lucy, especially in light of today’s sensitivity around consent, seems less romantic than troubling. And I know we’re meant to be at a remove from the authentic Italians in the first half of the book, but I wish we got more than just clichés about tempestuous murderers and horny carriage drivers.)

    But there is so much to enjoy in the book: the tart dialogue, the grand themes of love, country vs. city life, fate and coincidence… there’s even a comment on the idea of novels and writers themselves. Lucy’s mother, a fine comic creation, has a preposterous attitude towards female writers that I’m sure Forster, a friend and admirer of Virginia Woolf’s, for one, didn’t share.

    I also like that the book’s stuffiest character, Lucy’s fiancé, the pretentious aesthete Cecil Vyse (a whole review could be written on the book’s beautifully suggestive names), comes across with his dignity intact in his later scenes.

    If anything, of the main players only the character of George seems the thinnest, which is perhaps why he’s given some intriguing actions in the film (otherwise he might be a cipher). And I like how a significant scene near the end makes us reflect on the nature and motivation of Charlotte.

    But above all, I’ll remember this book for its knowing glimpse into the life of a girl discovering her voice, freedom and strength – even in a restrictive society. It’s suggested early in the book that Lucy, a pianist, plays Beethoven in a way that is surprising; if she could apply that same passion to her life it would be quite thrilling to watch.

    By the end of the book, we see her begin to do that, and yes, it’s quite something.


  8. says:

    3.5
    I am in a classics mood, but after my recent completion of War and Peace I decided to try something a little lighter and less than one tenth of the size. This is how I found my way towards E. M. Forster's 130 page novel about a woman who is forced to make a decision between marrying a wealthy man she will never love and a man of lower class who she knows she can be happy with. Funnily enough, I think it was this story's length that slightly let it down for me, had it been a longer book I'm sure I would have fallen in love with George as everyone else seems to.

    This book was published in 1908 - a time somewhat between eras for British society. Women could own property and were becoming increasingly free, authors like Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë(&Co.) had taken the nineteenth century by storm, and yet women still did not have the vote and they would be expected to get married young, stay at home, and have babies for decades to come. Into this world strolls Lucy Honeychurch, at first a very naive and typical young woman of the time period. But a woman who, as the book progresses, eventually challenges societal conventions and limitations.

    E. M. Forster is famous for his stories about British society and class and hypocrisy. He was a gay man who spent his entire life hiding his sexuality from an unforgiving world made up of expectations and a very black and white view of what was right and wrong. Though his personal struggles weren't made clear until after his death with the publication of Maurice, it is obvious (to me) that A Room with a View is just one of his various attempts to poke fun at the rigidity of class, gender and sexual boundaries.

    Lucy longs for independence, freedom from the constrictions of being a woman in 1908, being upper middle class, being a label with a set of rules that she is expected to follow. She wants to live as she goes and define herself in that way, not in a predetermined fashion that stems from centuries of inequalities and the desire for "appropriateness". I cannot tell you just how much I loved this idea, I only wanted a longer story to make it perfect. Lucy is such a charming and interesting character that she could have easily held my attention for double the amount of pages in this incredibly short book. Also, I wasn't quite sold on George and I think I was supposed to be, that the point was that the reader would come to love the man who wasn't as wealthy, who wasn't as well-educated. A little more time to get to know George would have made me happy.


  9. says:

    A Room with a View is a story of love; a story of self-realization of a young woman; and a story of the Edwardian English society still governed by strict Victorian values. This is my first experience with E.M. Forster and I’m well rewarded.

    Written at the beginning of the Edwardian era, Forster critically exposes the cultural restrictions, class difference, and rigidly maintained social status that had swallowed the English society. The story is set up in England and Italy and Forster with his crafty and witty writing style draws a comparison between English cultural rigidity and Italian cultural relaxation.

    The opening of the book is a scene in a pension in Italy, where a group of English tourists who, being in a foreign country, were still divided by class. There was the assumption of George Emerson being a porter just because he works in the railway, although in fact, he is a clerk. And he is outrightly considered a cad because of his “lower” class and somewhat relaxed behavior to those who are stifled by convention. The old Emerson who speaks out his mind freely is considered vulgar by the “respected” English. Although civility is maintained on the face of it, the Emersons are ignored and isolated for the most part because of the highly revered concept of “class difference”. I was truly struck by the severity of this division and enjoyed Forster’s exhibition of displeasure through his witty writing.

    The focus of the story is a young woman named Lucy and her journey of finding both herself and love. It is not an easy journey, as she has to hurdle through strong social barriers. The inner struggle that she goes through is the struggle of young men and especially young women in the Edwardian society, being torn between strict conventions and emerging modern opinions. Forster is a radical. He mocks the Victorian perceptions to which strings the old generation still held fast and supports the view of mixed class marriages in the wake up of a new middle class which was steadily brought forth by industrialization.

    However, after finishing the read, there is this nagging feeling in me that perhaps, I have not pealed all the layers that were laid out; perhaps I had missed out something, for Forster has this astonishing ability (which I can only compare to that of Virginia Woolf) to keep you wondering whether you truly understood it.

    Overall, I enjoyed the read very much. It is short but complete; it is not perfect yet heartfelt.

    *********************************************

    After my first reading, I have very correctly said that I have the feeling of not pealing all the layers and that I have missed out on something. Yes, I have missed out on quite a lot. I have missed on Forster's irony and humour; I have not grasped the importance and depth of certain major contributing characters; I have not appreciated the beauty of his writing, and most of all I have completely missed on symbology. I'm not planning to go on to details on my new observations and appreciation. But I feel I'm duty-bound to do justice to Forster after reading what I consider to be his masterpiece. So I would share what felt very strongly to my heart.

    I have said that I have not appreciated the beauty of the writing. It is true. Forster's writing is both poetic and picturesque. He draws us into a world that is beautiful notwithstanding its imperfections, petty differences, and minor annoyances and irritations. And Forster's use of symbology, subtly or otherwise, is simply marvelous. The sun, the river, the mountains, fields of violets, Italy, the water, the playing of music - everything has its own mystery, its own workings on the human mind. Forster has captured this beautifully and sincerely.

    The most important however is the "view". When the young Lucy who belongs to the upper-middle class arrives in the Italian pension, she finds her room has no view. Forster tells us that that should be just. Overprotected and bound by conventions, and chaperoned by an old lady who worships Victorian ideals, Lucy has no "view". But the Emersons, who represent the newly emerging working class has a "view". The newly learned working class are slowly adapting themselves to the new modern way of thinking, and are no longer weighed down by conventions. So they have a "view." Lucy who is still at the impressionable age falls for young Emerson with a "view", but it is nipped in the bud by the Victorian chaperon, and the flower to which Lucy was to be bloomed was handed to upper-class Cecil who is a closed room with no "view" whereby the flower slowly loses its bloom. But sunlight, water, love, and joys of youth come to the rescue and presents Lucy with a solid and lasting "room with a view".

    A Room with a View undoubtedly is one of the masterpieces that I have had the privilege to read. To quote from my first review, I've said that "It is short but complete; it is not perfect yet heartfelt". But I qualify. It is complete; it is perfect.


  10. says:

    Romantic comedy this is not. The rosiness of a woman stumbling upon convenient fantasy fulfillment by marrying into privilege and bourgeois wealth do not tinge the themes of this classic. Rather this aspires to the novelty of a sort of female bildungsroman. A woman who is roused into the acknowledgement of her desires and self through the unwitting intervention of men considered unworthy of being even good travel companions - how many male authors/poets/dramatists of Forster's generation have cared enough about class distinctions and gender inequality to fashion such a narrative?
    I can think of G.B. Shaw- a dramatist unlike Forster, but contemporaneous in stature and rise to fame - who did wean a generation away from the romanticism of war and the burnish of social affluence and forced them into acknowledging the foolishness of prejudices. Shaw, who gave a working class flower girl an indestructible sense of self-worth and a right to reject the suave, much older, educated benefactor in favor of the younger man who loved her without reservations, should be mentioned in the same breath as Forster in my eyes. Both looked upon women as humans and not as passive accessories meant to magnify the worth of the men in their lives and that's reason enough for me to be an unabashed fangirl for life.

    "He had robbed the body of its taint, the world's taunts of their sting; he had shown her the holiness of direct desire."

    Sexually and emotionally inhibited young woman savoring personal liberty for the first time through the love of a man of inferior social standing who assumes a consciously passive role in earning her affections - this was, perhaps, Forster's way of contradicting and affirming Austenian values at the same time. The very possibility of the intersection of marital bliss and lack of wealth and connections in a prospective husband and disregard for societal approval lay well outside the limits of Austen's imagination but she did endow her many women characters with enough dimensions to be keenly distinguishable from each other.
    "They have sinned against passion and truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue. As the years pass, they are censured. Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, their wit becomes cynicism, their unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go."

    What else is there to say? Here's to the unexpected joy of discovering another male author of the last century, who was effortlessly free of the abysmal sexism that is so regrettably palpable in the work of many novelists (of all genders) of the present. Here's to a great story-teller who ventured beyond the narrow horizons conferred on him by his times.
    I foresee much more Forster in my future.