Sometimes pretentious snobbery deserves to be punished – “A Room with a View” by E.M. Forster

June 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm 4 comments

“A Room with a View” by E.M. Forster, published in 1908 

I must first admit that I have a great love for the Merchant/Ivory movie version of this book.  My sister and I spent a lot of time watching this movie when were younger and later she purchased the

Cover of "A Room With a View (Two-Disc Sp...

Cover via Amazon

soundtrack to listen to when she traveled through Italy.    I finally got around to actually reading the book and really, for once, the movie does a great job of staying true to the book.

Lucy Honeychurch needs a bit of cultural polish and so she leaves her home at Windy Corners, England to travel through Italy with her cousin, Charlotte, as her chaperone.  The novel opens with Charlotte and Lucy sitting in the hotel restaurant lamenting the fact that they do not have rooms overlooking the Arno river in Florence. A kindly elderly gentleman, Mr. Emerson, interrupts the women stating that he and his son, George, have rooms with great views of the river and they would happily switch.   Though Mr. Emerson seems utterly classless and his offer is inappropriate Charlotte over comes her shook, for Lucy’s sake, and accepts the generous but offensive proposal.

After procuring the room with the beautiful view, Lucy seems to be constantly running into George and his father and of course is constantly trying to get away from these lower class individuals.  But after trying to escape and one final episode in the Italian countryside beset by violets Lucy becomes shaken by her feelings for George.  As British decorum would dictate, Charlotte immediately removes Lucy to Rome and the two eventually return home to England – leaving the violets and George Emerson behind.

Enter Cecil, an upperclass Londoner, who first meets Lucy in Rome and then visits her in Windy Corners.  He  begins habitually proposing to her until on the third try it seems that poor Lucy finally succumbs and accepts.  Everything is proper with Cecil and he seeks to teach Lucy how to be the wife he deserves.  But as Lucy says she can only see being with him in a room with no window at all.  Everything is turned on its head when Mr. Emerson lets a chalet in the town.  When Lucy runs into George again she has to decide if she will marry Cecil, her best financial and social prospect, or if she will fall for the boy who gave her such a great view.

I must admit that this is only the third novel I have read by Forster.  It is a bit more light-hearted than “Howard’s End” or “A Passage to India” and that may be why it is more frequently read. However, I did not like it as much as the others.  But a “lesser” Forster novel is still a brilliant novel so my distinction is hardly important.

In “A Room with a View” Forster again visits one of his  favorite themes, class. He enjoys making the upper-crust seem stodgy and cold while the lower class is visionary though challenged.  In this novel it all comes off with a light touch and Forster certainly gives the pretentious Cecil the treatment he deserves.  The reader has a flawed but lovable heroine in Lucy and can’t help but root for the inept George, even if he doesn’t know how to properly take tea.

If I might add, your reading of this novel would be greatly enhanced by listening to O Mio Babbino Caro. And of course this book and this song, even though we are now moms with a lot of responsibility, will always make me think of my sister in her twenties, care-free, traveling happily in Italy.

Arno river in Florence, Italy

Arno river in Florence, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Entry filed under: June 2012 reads. Tags: , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kathy  |  June 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Love the book, love the movie, love Cecil only slightly less than I love Mr. Beebe.

    Reply
    • 2. Emily C  |  June 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Yes! This review got a little wordy otherwise I would have talked about the other great characters like Mr. Beebe who is enjoyably meddlesome and intolerant.

      Reply
  • 3. Claire 'Word by Word'  |  June 11, 2012 at 2:58 am

    Thanks for the link, I love listening to Maria Callas and was reminded of the beautiful Franco Zeffirelli film/homage to her ‘Forever Callas’.

    I remember this film too, I haven’t read much of E.M.Forster but recently gave my brother a collection of his short stories. Great review.

    Reply
  • 4. Cassie  |  June 11, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I have heard of this book so many times, and the movie, but I’ve never read it or seen it. Now I really want to, thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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