I decided to read E.M. Forster’s novel A Room with a View with no knowledge whatsoever of the story’s plot or context besides the brief description provided by the back cover. Of course, I had heard this title mentioned amidst the names of other “great” or classic British novels before, and the fact that it has been published as part of the Penguin English Library collection was enough to persuade me to give it a try. (Do I just love these gorgeous cover designs or do I put that much trust in Penguin as a publisher? Answer: it’s a little of both, to be honest.)
Numerous aspects of this novel ensured that I was captivated by this story from the first page: the beautiful writing, the picturesque Italian setting, the charming tone of the narration, and even Lucy herself. As someone planning on studying abroad in the near future, the emphasis on travel also caught my attention early on. The differences between the English and the Italians that the characters continuously harped on made me wonder how I’ll be perceived in my travels. I found myself feeling more and more connected with Lucy as she was exposed to new ideas, cultures, and beliefs.
A Room with a View is basically an English major’s dream novel. As I was reading I couldn’t help but think how many interesting papers could be written about it. You could discuss the entire concept of a “room with a view” and what that means, the contrast between the liminal space of the woods as opposed to the confines of the domestic sphere, the hierarchy of social classes, the portrayal of women and their role in society, the differences between Italy and England– the list goes on and on! What fascinated me the most was definitely the idea of “rooms” in general, which the title obviously indicates is a significant aspect of the story. This concept jumps out at the reader in the very first chapter as Mr. Emerson says:
“I have a view, I have a view…This is my son…his name’s George. He has a view too.”
It quickly becomes apparent that a “view” is something to be admired, desired, and cherished by Lucy. While Mr. Emerson is literally referring to the view of Italy from outside a hotel window, it can also be said that his “view” could signify his open and refreshing perspective on life. He and his son are not as close minded as many of the other characters in the story, suggesting that perhaps a “room with a view” is not as highly sought after by everyone as it first appears to be in the initial hotel scene. Then there is the question of what one chooses to see and acknowledge in the “view” itself; in other words, does one choose to hone in on art, money, social distinctions, etc.? What someone sees when looking out from their “room with a view” can suggest a lot about their priorities, values, and beliefs. This play on words is incredibly clever and adds an intriguing undercurrent to an already brilliant story.
I fully believed that this novel was going to receive a perfect five-out-of-five rating until I finally read the ending and felt my enthusiasm suddenly wane. I was greatly disappointed by the way that Lucy essentially goes from being brainwashed by pompous, conceited Cecil to following the perspective of George. Even though the latter is clearly more preferred than the former, I was still hoping that Lucy would have elected to take the more independent route. Given the context in which this novel is set– the more restricting and constraining culture of Edwardian England– perhaps it makes sense for Lucy to choose the lesser of two evils rather than venture off on her own into what could potentially be an unknown darkness. It hardly would have been socially acceptable for a young unmarried woman to choose such a path for her life– yet would taking a risk have been that detrimental to Forster as a writer? Would allowing Lucy to make that choice have really hurt his reputation or badly damaged the overall reception of the novel? These are questions to which I don’t have answers, though I suppose Forster had his reasons for making the plot decisions that he did.
Overall, I feel as though Forster’s A Room with a View is a novel that I will most definitely be returning to in the future.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!
What are your thoughts on this novel? Any recommendations for related books you think I would like? Let me know in the comments section below!