Book Review: A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
I’ve been meaning to read A Room With A View for quite a while. I finally started in on the book and, by the end, I decided to read it again, this time via audiobook. Then, by the time I finished the audiobook, I knew I had to see the movie. You could say I hit the trifecta with this story.
It’s such a beautiful classic romance that readers have been enjoying since 1908. With my triple “reading” of the story all within a month, I noticed the subtle messages the author gave us. It turns out A Room With a View was about more than a simple romance. The author, E.M. Forster, used the novel to make observations about the actions of people in society. Here’s what the story is about:
Lucy Honeychurch (Helen Bonham Carter) was a young English woman visiting Florence Italy. Since its very early twentieth-century, Lucy has a chaperone, her cousin Charlotte (the amazing Maggie Smith).
At the beginning of the story Charlotte and Lucy were complaining that they didn’t get the rooms they’d asked for – the ones with a view of the river.
They were complaining again at dinner when the two Mr. Emersons said the women could have their rooms. Charlotte immediately said, “No, that just couldn’t be done! Good women didn’t take rooms from men!”
The two Mr. Emersons were just being kind, but the weird social conventions of the time didn’t allow such familiarity. From that incident we have the title of the book as well as the theme.
As Lucy spends her days visiting Florence she very slowly begins to see that her proper English view of the world is not the only way to view it. Also visiting at the same pensionne in Florence is Eleanor Lavish (Judi Dench). She’s a well-known female novelist whose opinions about women seem shocking to Lucy and Charlotte. But, these new ways of looking at the roles and constrictions of females is eye-opening for Lucy.
Another person in Florence who makes an impression on Lucy is the young George Emerson (Julian Sands). She is impressed with him and feels drawn to him but, of course, represses all those feelings.
Once vacation is over and Lucy is back home, she attempts to return to normal life. She becomes engaged to Cecil (Daniel Day Lewis), a young man who loves literature and classical music. He wants a wife who will fit into his very proper social circle and his idea of what a proper wife is.
It grows complicated for Lucy when George Emerson and his father move into a neighboring cottage. Now Lucy, with her slowly opening eyes, begins to see the comparison between Cecil and George. The one man, Cecil, prefers to live inside the house. while the other man, George, shines when he can be outdoors in the bright sunlight.
The novel, audiobook and movie all come to a very nice conclusion. I’m glad I took the time to experienced all three. The novel gave me the original words; the audiobook reinforced the voice of the characters; and the movie brought it all to life. I’ve included some of the actor’s names because they were outstanding performances. One additional comment about the movie: It was a if I was watching a glorious work of art in action. The photography of the landscapes and interiors, the settings and furnishings looked as if they were Impressionist paintings. Just spectacular.
Read it, listen to it, or watch it. Whatever way you experience it, do spend time with A Room With a View.
Challenges met: Classics Club, Lucky 14 and Library Challenge