Friday, June 11, 2010

Review of A Room with a View by E.M. Forster and Italy Photos from My Honeymoon

The Plot: Young girl grows up in sheltered home. Girl travels to Florence, Italy. Girl meets boy. Girl scared of boy. Girl returns to England confused. Girl gets engaged to a jerk. Previous boy turns up causing more unrest. But not to worry, things more or less sort themselves out. Left is a photo of Bobbio Pellice in the Alps.

The dialogue is witty and fun to read. I wish there had been more of it. There is a lot of (what I would call) received narration. Forster is a master at this but there was just too much. I wanted more straightforward dialogue. The third person point of view seemed to shift between several characters – Lucy the protagonist, Mr. Beebe the rector, Miss Bartlett the chaperon, the mother, the brother…and on and on. I felt I did not intimately know any of the characters as a result. It left me feeling distant from them all. 

Forster pokes fun at each character's short-comings giving some mild comic relief. Mostly, he reveals upper class snobbery and self-delusions about their “liberal” and “rebellious” natures. There are many touristy blunders committed as well. I felt for Lucy who desperately wanted to see the “real” Italy but was too afraid to plunge into unknown territories on her own. This is a picture from Florence.

What I liked in this novel was the idea that passion is not wrong, nor is it something to run away from, but it is to be acknowledged as a truth and dealt with accordingly. Lucy fears censure so much that she cloisters herself off and relies upon her elders for advice on her every little move or thought. Yet she wants to believe she is independent. It’s only when she is able to know her own mind that she can take control of her future (though she still receives a push to get to this point). The novel is set in the end of the Victorian and early Edwardian period and the stifling nature of the time is exposed. Forster was able to see the fear in his own culture. I’m speaking of a fear of passion in general. Hand holding, helping a female into a carriage, etc. was a big deal then and could potentially be turned against a girl to ruin her reputation.

And this is where Italy comes in. Having been to Rome, I must say I think it is the most romantic place in the world. You should go there with someone special. It’s not a town for friends but for lovers. No one minds hand holding there! The fountains, the ancient ruins, the lights, the cool evenings, the sculptures and paintings, the cobblestone streets and charming people all create a mood of intense feeling. It’s no wonder Forster was impressed by Italy during his journey there and felt, as many others have, that the Italians have it right.The Trevi Fountain (Rome) is gorgeous at night!

I said the end mostly worked out. I’ve read Howard’s End as well and it too has a near happy-ending. The right couple ends up together but there is a cost. It’s not a completely happily-ever-after kind of end. I find this sort of ending realistic without being a downer. If you like Howard’s End or early Modern literature you may like A Room with a View. This photo is of the Pantheon, ancient pagan temple turned Christian church, and an engineering feat. I hope you enjoyed the pictures from my Italian honeymoon!
Publisher: Barnes & Noble, 1993 (originally published in 1908)     Pages: 232
Rating: 3 Stars                        Source: Purchased at a used book sale


  1. How beautiful! I am so jealous:)

    I tried to follow you but your follow ares isn't working:(

  2. Thanks for the heads up Deanna! The followers gadget appears once in about 10 clicks on my homepage but usually always appears on my other pages. Weird! I'm trying to fix it! In the mean time, the Blogger "follow" button at the top left still works.

  3. Hi! Thanks for commenting over at Mrs. Baja!

    I read Forsters 'Where Angels Fear to Tread' last year before I had a bookblog. It takes place in England/Italy as well but no one ends up together-- a bit melodramatic but I enjoyed it-- interesting to see the views of travel and Italian culture at the time it was written.

  4. Thanks for visiting Ordinary Reader. I came to see your Rome pics and stayed to read the blog. I like it here! By the way - your pictures are great and did much to reinstate my idea of Rome as a beautiful place instead of one to avoid. Thanks for that!