Book #79-A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

A wealthy young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, travels to Italy, accompanied by her spinster cousin, Charlotte Bartlett, who is acting as chaperone.  Behaviors and comments by guests at the Italian pension reveal their feelings of self-imprtance and set the divide for those that do and those that do not.

A mutual attraction between Lucy and the much less privileged, George Emerson follows a violent encounter in a Piazza.  So, will Lucy follow her heart or follow the expected betrothal to a peevish, but socially equal man?

The young Lucy Honeychurch is a somewhat enigmatic character.  On one hand, she is given to acknowledge her lack of literary and historical knowledge, yet she shows great musical talent in her impromptu piano playing and is given to reflections.  She seems to possess a mind she knows not what to do with, but she is young so her ambivalence can be attributed to inexperience.  Still, I found her somewhat irksome.

Lucy’s chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett is oft described as sighing.  An exasperating woman, it is easy to understand how she is at times treated badly.  She plays the martyr with such annoyance that her sacrifices are never truly acknowledged.  She is the one to avoid at all social gatherings.

George Emerson, the love interest of Lucy, is another puzzle.  He seems to be suffering from depression at times, yet does a complete turnaround after swimming and playing tennis with Lucy’s younger brother, Freddy.  One part white knight, one part mystery man, he is Lucy’s emotional match.

The overbearing Cecil Vyse, Lucy’s short-lived fiance looks down not only on his social inferiors, but anyone that does not meet with his obscure set of rules.  His behavior barely masks his social ineptitude which most have confused for insolence.  When Lucy confronts him about his behavior, he seems to have been unaware of how his actions were perceived by others.  His seemingly authentic introspection made him the most memorable character from A Room with a View.

Quotes:

Cecil, who naturally preferred congratulations to apologies, drew down his mouth at the corners.  Was this the reception his action would get from the world?  Of course, he despised the world as a whole; every thoughtful man should; it is almost a test of refinement.  But he was sensitive to the successive particles of it which he encountered. 

Secrecy has this disadvantage; we lose the sense of proportion; we cannot tell whether our secret is important or not.

Lunch with Mr. Forster would be lovely.  His ability to capture class distinctions and specifically the smug comments uttered by those deemed superior, is right on.  I’d love to hide behind a door with him and do a little eavesdropping.

My rating for A Room with a View  is a 9 out of 10.

To see the entire list, visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

Please share your own reviews or  comments by using the link below.

Next up, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited…

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