Monday, May 18, 2015

A Room With A View by E. M. Forster

A Room With A View by E. M. Forster
Published 1908
Source: Bought this one

Publisher's Summary:
A charming tale of the battle between bourgeois repression and radical romanticism, E. M. Forster’s third novel has long been the most popular of his early works. A young girl, Lucy Honeychurch, and her chaperon—products of proper Edwardian England—visit a tempestuous, passionate Italy. Their “room with a view” allows them to look into a world far different from their own, a world unconcerned with convention, unfettered by social rituals, and unafraid of emotion. Soon Lucy finds herself bound to an obviously “unsuitable” man, the melancholic George Emerson, whose improper advances she dare not publicize. Back home, her friend and mentor Charlotte Bartlett and her mother, try to manipulate her into marriage with the more “appropriate” but smotheringly dull Cecil Vyse, whose surname suggests the imprisoning effect he would have on Lucy’s spirit.

My Thoughts:
I have been meaning to read this book for almost 30 years, since I saw, and loved, the 1986 movie adaptation (more on that later). I'm almost certain that I would not enjoyed this book in the same way if I had read it when I was 25 years old so in that regard, it may be a good thing I waited so long to read it. It is a marvelous satire; my copy is loaded with stick notes where Forster has made a particularly biting comment that I adored.
" the end there was presented to the girl the complete picture of a cheerless, loveless world in which the young rush to destruction until they learn better - a shamefaced world of precautions and barriers which may avert evil, but which do not seem to bring good, if we may judge form those who have used them most."
Forster goes right at the bourgeoisie - that class of people who are neither rich, nor working class, who look down their noses at both the working class and the intellectuals, who have little ambition and little tolerance for those who do.
"I have no profession," said Cecil. "It is another example of my decadence. My attitude - quite an indefensible one - is that so long as I am no trouble to any one I have a right to do as I like. I know I ought to be getting money out of people, or devoting myself to things I can't care a straw about, but somehow, I've not been able to begin."
Young Lucy is just beginning to strain at the confines when she and Charlotte travel to Italy. Had Charlotte been any better at her job she might well have been able to steer Lucy down the right and proper path. But Charlotte is so painfully obvious in her efforts, her snobbery, and her woe-is-me attitude that Lucy finds herself more and more questioning what is right. Once back in England, though, Lucy becomes convinced that her behavior in Italy was wrong and at long last accepts the proposal of the pompous Cecil. Seriously, if you don't want to punch this guy in the nose, I don't know what's wrong with you.
"Of course, he despised the world as a whole; every thoughtful man should; it is almost a test of refinement."
One can't help but cheer when the very people who threw Lucy into a state of confusion show up back in her life. I was glad that I couldn't remember how the movie ended so I could enjoy seeing what would become of Lucy, torn in two directions.
"George will work in your thoughts till you die. It isn't possible to love and to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal."
If this had not been my nightstand book, I'm certain I would not have been able to put it down. As it was, I'm happy to have been able to absorb it in little bites. It's really quite delightful, filled not just with those bits of sarcasm but also with really lovely thoughts.

Maggie Smith and Helena Bonham-Carter in "A Room With A View"
Now, about that movie - if I say "Merchant and Ivory" those of you who are of a certain age and have enjoyed movies of a certain type, will immediately know what to expect of this movie. Wonderful scenery, spot on costumes and sets, a fantastic cast. The 1986 adaptation starred Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy (pre-crazy lady roles, back when she was an ingenue), Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Denholm Elliot, Rupert Graves, Julian Sands and an almost unrecognizable Daniel Day-Lewis when he was still just a supporting actor. If you are a fan of period pieces and have not see this one, I highly recommend it.

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