A Room with a View, E. M. Forster

[amazon_image id=”0451531388″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]A Room With a View[/amazon_image]E. M. Forster’s classic novel [amazon_link id=”0451531388″ target=”_blank” ]A Room With a View[/amazon_link] has a whisper-thin plot: Lucy Honeychurch travels to to Florence, Italy, with her cousin Miss Bartlett. While she is staying in the Pensione Bertolini, she meets a father and his son, the Emersons, whom everyone else at the pension thinks are coarse and crude. Desiring some independence and frustrated with her companions, Lucy goes out on her own and witnesses a murder in the street. George Emerson, the son, is there to assist her. Emerson falls in love with Lucy and kisses her. The next morning, her cousin, feeling she has failed Lucy and her mother as a guardian, whisks Lucy away to Rome. When they return to England, Lucy becomes engaged to Cecil Vyse, a man whose previous two proposals she has rejected. Cecil does not much like Lucy’s family, but he sees her as something of a project, a sort of Galatea to his Pygmalion. Meanwhile, the Emersons become the Honeychurches’ neighbors when they let a cottage nearby, and Lucy must determine how she feels about George Emerson and Cecil Vyse.

A Room with a View is actually interesting as a character study. In a short book without a tremendous amount of action, Forster manages to capture human nature very well. I found myself surprised at how easily I could picture everything Forster described, and it was not as though he labored over the descriptions. Instead, he captured characters so deftly in their dialogue and in their bodily movements that not much description was needed in order to convey the scenes perfectly. I especially liked Miss Bartlett’s character—I didn’t like her personality, but as a character, she was well-drawn and so believable. Some of the things she said and did made me think of Dame Maggie Smith, so I began picturing Smith in the role. Finally, I checked IMDb, and I discovered Maggie Smith had indeed played the role of Miss Bartlett in the 1985 production (which has an outstanding cast—I plan to see it as soon as I can). Certainly doesn’t surprise me that the book was made into a film—it read almost like a film. The book also contains some humorous instances of fourth-wall breaking and gorgeous observations about humanity. For this fan of [amazon_link id=”B0047H7QD6″ target=”_blank” ]Downton Abbey[/amazon_link], it was a treat to read, and I will definitely read more of Forster’s books.

Update, 8/7/11: I never do this, but I decided to change my star-rating after thinking about it some more. I watched the film today on Netflix, and the casting was perfect. Once again, I was amazed at how well characterized the novel was and how easily, therefore, it translated to the screen. Perhaps the film was an influence, but now I can’t see why it shouldn’t have a full five stars rather than 4½. I cannot imagine a better cast for the film. The clothing and sets were gorgeous. I highly recommend watching the film to anyone who has read the book.

 

Rating: ★★★★★

I used the What Should I Read Next tool to decide on this book (I had already had it on my [amazon_link id=”B002FQJT3Q” target=”_blank” ]Kindle[/amazon_link] for ages), mainly so I could complete Challenge 7: What Should I Read Next Pick for the Take a Chance Challenge. I picked A Room with a View from the list of books that appeared when I searched for the last book I read (and reviewed), [amazon_link id=”B0058M62OS” target=”_blank” ]The Winter Sea[/amazon_link] by Susanna Kearsley.

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6 thoughts on “A Room with a View, E. M. Forster

    1. Oh, it's really good! The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that my five-star books need to be a little tougher to put down. I still loved this book.

  1. I used to teach it, and it was fun to read every year. As you say, the characterization is wonderful — Miss Lavish, George and Mr Beebe are favorites of mine, and of course Mr Emerson. The speech he makes at the end is wonderful. The style gets a little over the top sometimes, though, and if the edition you have comes with the afterward he wrote in the 40s, skip it.

    And the film is delightful. I saw it as a teenager and tried to grow my hair like George's.

    Where Angels Fear to Tread is not as fun, but more thought-provoking, and Passage to India is amazing, although completely different.

    1. My book didn't have the afterword, and I must say, I read about it on the book's Wikipedia page and was horrified! That doesn't seem at all the proper ending for George and Lucy! I can't wait to see the movie. In fact, I just checked, and it's available on Netflix streaming, so I think I'll watch it right now.

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