This book seems to garner very mixed reviews. I suppose I'm on one far side of the spectrum, since I loved it. Not so much for the writing, which lost...moreThis book seems to garner very mixed reviews. I suppose I'm on one far side of the spectrum, since I loved it. Not so much for the writing, which lost me sometimes, but the story. I love stories from the late-19th century/early-20th century, and this feels like it comes straight from that period. I half expected it to, considering the kind of music and lyrics Meloy writes, but I'm usually wary about modern novels. I will say this for the writing: I very much enjoyed the vocabulary. I have noticed with most modern novels I read, the vocabulary, while not exactly simplistic, is easier than I would like, especially young adult novels. Not so with Meloy. I commend his choice to use words that most of his target audience are not going to know. I did find myself cringing at some of his writing though. It's not so much that it was bad, but that it could've been better. As for the structure of the story: I've heard from a few reviews and from a few people who attempted the novel that the first part is boring. I have to disagree. I was fully interested throughout. I thought the pacing was well done, with a fine balance of easy storytelling and suspenseful reading. One complaint I've read is that certain questions weren't answered. I didn't really see anything major, but my real response to that is, did you not realize this is the first in a series? I just don't see that as a valid complaint. (less)
I like the story he's crafted and the characters he's populated it with, but his writing leaves something to be desired at times. Some brilliance does...moreI like the story he's crafted and the characters he's populated it with, but his writing leaves something to be desired at times. Some brilliance does shine through though. Through dialogue mostly. A wonderful example of this is this quote by George Emerson: "It is Fate that I am here. But you can call it Italy if it makes you less unhappy." I love that quote. Another highlight is the conversation between Cecil and Lucy wherein Cecil explains that when he thinks of her he thinks of a view, and when she thinks of him, she thinks of a room--a room without a view. It's also said later that there are two types of men in the world: those who remember views and those who don't.
This room and view comparison is, in my opinion, a metaphor for two types of people. The first being people who are closed off within society, with no access to the aesthetic life. The view is that aesthetic life, but it is also the future--a wide open expanse with limitless possibilities. You'll find none of that back in the room. And so, it is a conflict between the past and the future. Which is interesting, considering the title: A Room with a View. Obviously, this is a combination of both the past and the future. The societal safety of an enclosed room with the aesthetic freedom of a view.
There is another aspect of the room and view comparison. It is stated at a certain point that Lucy says to Cecil, "I won't be stifled, not by the most glorious music, for people are more glorious, and you hide them from me." This is easily a call-back to the notion that Cecil is a room without a view, and he would bring Lucy into the room if she would let him. He would surround her with beautiful things--books, art, music--but he would keep her from people. People are the one thing Cecil cannot stand. He grows tired of every person he meets in the book. Forster isn't saying we shouldn't surround ourselves with these beautiful things, but we should never remove people--the view--because people are the most beautiful things. (As a misanthrope, I'm a little inclined to disagree, but I'm just stating what I think Forster was saying in the book.)
George Emerson seems to embody this notion. His father is obviously a radical and a very strange man. George takes after him somewhat, though he is different in many aspects. He's described as "ill-bred" and that he "didn't do," but he is easily the most likable character and obviously has better morals and understanding than the well-bred Cecil, who finds amusement in putting everyone down, so long as they hold nothing for him to gain. George seems like what one would get from a cross between a country squire and a liberal-minded aristocrat: he is philosophical and gentlemanly, but he'll kiss the girl he loves regardless of her fiance being present not a minute earlier, because he "loves passionately."
I think this is what Forster was hoping for the future gentleman to be like. Free of many Victorian restrains, replacing them with true morals and true philosophy rather than hypocrisy and regurgitated knowledge. (I must point out that I do not hold the Victorian lifestyle to be nearly as bad as many of Edwardians and Modernists did, but that's neither here nor there.) If Forster had understood the Medieval mind better, he would've called George medieval rather than that cold and cynical Cecil.
Or maybe I'm over-analyzing the whole damned thing, and it's just about a girl growing up and falling in love.(less)
Maybe I missed a large portion of the point of this novel. Maybe I'm not that educated about Spanish culture before, during, and after the revolution....moreMaybe I missed a large portion of the point of this novel. Maybe I'm not that educated about Spanish culture before, during, and after the revolution. And maybe I only read it because of the influence from Don Quixote. All of that being ignored, this was one of the best novels I've read this year. I've only read Greene's The Destructors, so as an example of Greene's writing style or capabilities, I can hardly give any comment except that I found it easy to read, the characters were well drawn, the story was believable and enjoyable, and the moral was not preached but left to the read to understand or ignore. What that moral was is somewhat ambiguous in my mind, which may be because of those things I mentioned above. Of course, to say that Father Quixote's religion is the same as Don Quixote's knight-errantry is somewhat trite, though true. I have not read many reinterpretations of Cervantes' masterpiece, but most seem to focus on heroes or heroines becoming too much obsessed with literature (Northanger Abbey or Madame Bovary) or simply as an eccentric wanderer (The Pickwick Papers). I could be wrong and would love any corrections, as I'd love to read some more books along this line, but I'm not aware of many books that have used the theme of religion to replace knight-errantry. I'm confused by this, because, unless Greene and I are justt more brilliant than I give us credit, the two have always seemed interchangeably ridiculous. But that's the beauty of it. I don't find Don Quixote ridiculous for believing in the ideals of knight-errantry, nor do I find Father Quixote ridiculous for believing in the tenants of Christianity, despite that the fact that they are. That being said, I respect Sancho Panza for his incredulousness or the ex-Mayor's Communism, despite my disagreement with their views. I find life is more ridiculous in its truth than otherwise though. We have all these cold views of man's behavior, but most persons never seems to follow them. Instead, we act in ways inconceivably ridiculous. Whether that's the point Greene was going for, I couldn't begin to say. That is, however, what I got from the book, and I think it's a worthy moral.(less)
Sometimes when I finish reading a book, either the book was so good or the ending just blew me away so much, and I can't even comprehend reading somet...moreSometimes when I finish reading a book, either the book was so good or the ending just blew me away so much, and I can't even comprehend reading something else for a couple of hours. I have to let the book settle into me. This has been a good year for me--reading-wise--because so far I've had that experience with four books. Ethan Frome is the fourth, but even more than that, it is the first American novel I've had that experience with. When the book started, there were some obvious allusions to the ending, and I picked up on them. What I didn't pick up on was how the book would actually conclude. I won't give the ending away, but I have to give credit to Wharton. She surprised me, but looking back at the novel, I see that there was no other way for it to end. It's like the end of Jude the Obscure: artistically, it always had to be this way. And speaking of Jude, from the first few paragraphs, I was thinking of Thomas Hardy, as well as George Elliot's Silas Marner. Of course, the obvious link with Silas Marner is that both are stories of an old, broken man in a small town. The writing styles are similar as well. Still, I think the main thing that links the two novels is the feel: a sense of winter is imbued within the pages of both works. I kind of wish it had been winter when I read this, but it has been dark and cold and dreary. The story is, like most novels named after a character, a character piece. And Frome is a strong, sympathetic character. In fact, most of the characters seemed worthwhile. Zeena was especially interesting. While she is technically the antagonist of the novel, Wharton made her not only sympathetic, but believable. She's a sickly, troubled woman who can tell her husband doesn't love her anymore. You can easily see why she'd be cantankerous. But then, the ending threw a whole new light upon her. I could gush over this novel some more, but I think I should call it quits. Writing reviews is so much easier when the novel didn't affect you in the way this one did with me.(less)