Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"A Room With a View" by E.M. Forster

Summary: In the British world of social niceties, young Lucy Honeychurch vacations in Italy with her intolerable and priggish cousin Miss Bartlett.  Although proper conventions rule the day, Lucy finds herself immersed in something different in Italy and in the young George Emerson, whose lack of social standing causes him to be looked down upon.  When Lucy returns to England, she must make a choice: protection with her fiance Cecil or truth and beauty with George.

Musings: A Room With a View is an appealing novel of breaking tradition and convention for something else, whatever that something else might be.  Its focus on manners and rudeness reminded me a lot of Austen, although, in comparison, Forster's book is a relatively quick 242-page read.  Forster's novel also goes farther in challenging standard protocols of propriety, particularly in terms of gender roles.  Although George plays a role in Lucy's transformation, the real change comes from inside herself as she recognizes that she does not want to be with someone whose principle aim is to protect and mold her.

Lucy's internal wanderings were often a bit vague for me, but I think that's in keeping with her character.  She's young and dissatisfied and believes the world can offer more--but she doesn't really know what that means.  The best she can do is challenge herself.  George was sweet but somewhat ill-defined, and I didn't understand his attraction as fully.

The novel has a slightly confidential tone, as the narrator gently mocks and chides his characters both for their snobbery and their illusions of grandeur.  I especially liked quirky details such as the naming of chapters, which include the title "The Reverend Arthur Beebe, The Reverend Cuthbert Eager, Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them" for chapter 6 and the meaningful title of "Twelfth Chapter" for chapter 12.

Towards the end of the book there is much talk of being muddied in one's feelings, and that sense of muddiness did pervade a lot of the more philosophical musings of the novel, but A Room With a View is, like its protagonist, a sweet and innocent look at the desires of youth.

***This book qualifies for the Books of the Century Challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment