Diane's Reviews > A Room with a View

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
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it was amazing
bookshelves: british-charm, movie-adaptation, classics, italy
Read 2 times. Last read July 25, 2015 to July 28, 2015.

I was overjoyed to discover that this book I had liked when I was in high school was even more charming and lovely than I remembered.

I'm not sure what impelled me to suddenly reread this novel about a young Englishwoman, Lucy Honeychurch, whose life is transformed after she visits Italy, but I'm glad I did. Forster's language is so inviting and engaging that as soon as I started reading, I didn't want to put down the book.

The story opens at a hotel in Florence, and Lucy is being chaperoned by her meddling and fussy cousin, Charlotte Bartlett. The two ladies are upset that their rooms don't have a view of the Arno, but at dinner, a loud Englishman, Mr. Emerson, offers to switch rooms with them. After some awkward exchanges, the ladies finally agree to the deal. (Since this was the early 1900s, delicate things were not discussed and caused much embarrassment among gentlefolk.)

Over the next few days, Lucy often crossed paths with George, Mr. Emerson's son, and during an outing to the country, George surprised her by kissing her passionately. While Lucy didn't realize it at the time, that kiss ended up changing her life.

OK, I hate writing summaries of classic novels because it feels like I'm writing a high school book report, so I'm going to assume that anyone who takes the time to read this review is already familiar with the rest of the plot, thanks to the popularity of the Merchant-Ivory film. (Oh, how I loved that movie when I was young! It was definitely one of the things that set me on the path to becoming an anglophile.) If you are reading this review and don't know the rest of the story, well, golly, I'm not going to ruin it for you here!

Besides being gorgeously written, this book is endearing for how Forster gave Lucy a chance to be her own person. There are several quotes about women that showed how progressive Forster was, and that was refreshing. Lucy was also so passionate about music that her parson was fond of saying he hoped she would learn to live as vibrantly as she played. When Lucy gets into a muddle over her whether or not to marry the uptight Cecil, she makes a grand speech about not wanting to be locked up, and wanting to have her own thoughts. Brava, Lucia!

I loved this book so much that I will keep it on my shelf for future reads. Highly recommended. Now I need to reread Howard's End and see how that holds up.

Funniest Quote by Cecil
"All modern books are bad ... Every one writes for money in these days."

Funniest Quote by Lucy's Mother
"[N]othing roused Mrs. Honeychurch so much as literature in the hands of females. She would abandon every topic to inveigh against those women who (instead of minding their houses and their children) seek notoriety by print. Her attitude was: 'If books must be written, let them be written by men.'"

Favorite Quotes
"Let yourself go. Pull out from the depths those thoughts you do not understand, and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them. By understanding George you may learn to understand yourself. It will be good for both of you."

"It so happened that Lucy, who found daily life rather chaotic, entered a more solid world when she opened the piano. She was then no longer either deferential or patronizing; no longer either a rebel or a slave. The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected. The commonplace person begins to play, and shoots into the empyrean without effort, whilst we look up, marveling how he has escaped us, and thinking how we could worship him and love him, would he but translate his visions into human words, and his experiences into human actions. Perhaps he cannot; certainly he does not, or does so very seldom. Lucy had done so never."

"Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much. But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been written to illustrate this point."

"Life, so far as she troubled to conceive it, was a circle of rich, pleasant people, with identical interests and identical foes. In this circle, one thought, married and died. Outside it were poverty and vulgarity for ever trying to enter, just as the London fog tries to enter the pinewoods pouring through the gaps in the northern hills. But, in Italy, where any one who chooses may warm himself in equality, as in the sun, this conception of life vanished. Her senses expanded; she felt that there was no one whom she might not get to like, that social barriers were irremovable, doubtless, but not particularly high. You jump over them just as you jump into a peasant's olive-yard in the Apennines, and he is glad to se you. She returned with new eyes."

"A rebel she was, but not of the kind [Cecil] understood — a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but equality beside the man she loved. For Italy was offering her the most priceless of all possessions — her own soul."

"[S]he reflected that it is impossible to foretell the future with any degree of accuracy, that it is impossible to rehearse life. A fault in the scenery, a face in the audience, an irruption of the audience on to the stage, and all our carefully planned gestures mean nothing, or mean too much."
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 21, 2012 – Shelved
July 25, 2015 – Started Reading
July 26, 2015 –
page 37
18.59% "I cannot help thinking that there is something to admire in every one, even if you do not approve of them."
July 27, 2015 –
page 66
33.17% "Italians are born knowing the way. It would seem that the whole earth lay before them, not as a map, but as a chess-board, whereon they continually behold the changing pieces as well as the squares. Any one can find places, but the finding of people is a gift from God."
July 28, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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Carmen Yay!

message 2: by Charlie (new) - added it

Charlie Close Thanks, Diane. I've been thinking of reading this and your review just pushed the book onto my list.

Bloodorange This selection of quotations convinced me I must read it sooner than intended:) Thank you!

Diane Thanks, Charlie! I hope you enjoy it.

Diane Hi Bloodorange, there are so many good passages in this novel that I had to get choosy about what to include here. I am glad you found them inspiring!

message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Great review of a wonderful novel, Diane. (And what a beautiful film it made. I remember watching the Florence scenes, totally entranced, knowing I had to get to that city!)

Diane Thank you, Kim. That movie was so lovely! And the screenplay was impressive, too. It's a great adaptation of the novel.

message 8: by Margitte (new)

Margitte Great great review, Diane. It is one of those classics that will always be exciting for readers. The charm will always remain.

message 9: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala Thanks for jogging my memory of this one, Diane - also read in my teenage years. I'd completely forgotten the details but now that you've reminded me of them, I'm struck by the resemblance to some of the plot details in Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, written around 1913, I think, so after this perhaps. She was very friendly with Foster whom she called Morgan in her diaries, so she must have read this - I see it was written in 1908 - and she must have been influenced by it. Although her novel has two focuses: the Rachel character who so resembles Lucy; and an older woman called Helen Ambrose who is the real star of the book. So in that sense, Woolf, if she was inspired by Foster's book, ended up taking the basic idea off in a completely new direction.

Diane Hi Margitte, I agree, this novel is classically charming. I was so relieved it didn't lose its power.

Diane Hi Fionnuala, I have not read that Woolf novel but will add it to my list. Thank you for the idea! It would be interesting to compare the two novels.

Algernon (Darth Anyan) I loved the book, but I haven't seen the movie yet. Your comments tell me I need to check it out soon.

Diane Hi Algernon, the Merchant Ivory film version is wonderful! A truly outstanding cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Simon Callow and Judi Dench, to name a few. And my favorite screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, did the script. I have watched it innumerable times over the years. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it.

❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀ I love this book! I love the Merchant Ivory movie. No one gives side-eye like Denholm Elliott.

Diane Hi Rory, that movie is wonderful, isn't it? Such a great cast and a good script.

message 16: by Lily (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lily I read this book a few years ago and loved it, and your review has reminded me of all the reasons why. :) Really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

message 17: by Steve (new)

Steve Fun, informative and well-written as usual, Diane. My family and I are fans of the movie, too. Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis) said that some chaps were only good for reading books, and he confessed to being such a chap. There is something about the way he said it that makes us laugh.

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