A Room with a View by EM Forster. I did not care for this book.
Can I just end this review there? I suppose not. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it better if I had not recently read A Portrait of A Lady, which I found so delightful. It also handles the British sitting room and is a story of manners, social expectations, and trying to follow your heart. But, while Isabel Archer was a charming protagonist that you root for and want to succeed, Lucy Honeychurch is weak and trifling and silly. At one point, she has a secret she is keeping and she says to herself that she wishes she could tell someone so they could tell her if her thoughts were right or wrong. Ug. Nothing like the bold Isabel Archer.
Basically, I found just about every character in A Room with a View lacking. They were selfish and so focused on what others thought about everything, that it was hard to empathize with any of them. Perhaps that is the point of the book, to cast a brutal light on the English society at the time, but I don’t feel like that is the case. The book jacket describes it as a “social comedy… (with an) unusually perceptive view of British society in the early 20th century.” I suppose there were moments that were comedic, but for me, those usually came in the form of the titles for the different chapters. Such as:
“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.”
I mean seriously, that’s kind of funny. What kind of a chapter title is that?
Anyways, the basic story is this, Lucy Honeychurch and her spinster cousin Miss Charlotte Bartlett are in Florence on a sightseeing tour to expand Lucy’s horizons. On this trip, at their hotel, they encounter the Emersons, a father and son who are of a lower class than Lucy and Charlotte and are often ostracized at the hotel by the other guests because of it. Overhearing that the ladies are disappointed by their rooms, Mr. Emerson, offers the rooms of he and his son, which have a view. Apparently, this was in poor taste, but the ladies eventually accept, which begins their acquaintance.
Throughout the story, we meet the very mopey George Emerson, the son, who has an interesting encounter with Lucy and afterwards each time they meet, he is terribly imprudent and forward with her, even when she is engaged to another. I’m sure you can guess what happens in the end. “Love” conquers all, despite society’s apparent dislike of anything other than strictly proper.
If this is what life was like for British society at the turn of the last century, I am glad I was born much later. The ladies were all fickle and dull and the men were prigs and brutes.
I’m glad the book was short.