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.
Publisher: Barnes & Noble, 1993 (originally published in 1908) Pages: 232
Rating: 3 Stars Source: Purchased at a used book sale