Reviewer: Tall, Short, Tiny & a Pickle
When I was 16-years-old, a friend and I became obsessed with the novels of E.M Forster. We thought we were incredibly sophisticated and open-minded, and went so far as to write our own stories using similar language and ideas.
One of my favourites was A Room With A View; it was amusing in its portrayal of pretentious Victorian manners, and the dialogue was brilliant. In flicking back through the novel for the purposes of this review, I found myself again smiling at a few exchanges.
“Am I to conclude,” said Miss Bartlett, “that he is a Socialist?”
Mr Beebe accepted the convenient word, no without a slight twitching of the lips.
“And presumably he has brought up his son to be a Socialist, too?”
“I hardly know George, for he hasn’t learned to talk yet. He seems a nice creature, and I think he has brains. Of course, he has all his father’s mannerisms, and it is quite possible that he, too, may be a Socialist.”
A Room With A View is set in Italy and England. In Florence, Italy, young Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin Charlotte meet a Mr Emerson and his son George; they are staying at the same hotel and when the gentlemen offer to switch rooms with the young women, they are offended by their lack of “manners”. Charlotte forms an instant dislike of the Emersons and convinces Lucy to feel the same; Lucy falls for young George, but upon her return to England, accepts the proposal of someone else. The novel ends back in Florence, with Lucy having eloped with one of her suitors…you’ll have to read it to find out who!
Like many writers of the time, Forster had a tendency to comment on sexuality, religion and class. A Room With A View is a definite commentary on these, with a focus on the repression of women and feminine sexuality at the time. There is an obvious struggle in Lucy between the old-fashioned values she has been raised by, and the more liberal values she believes in. This is made more prominent for her after her stay in Italy, where the gap between the classes is much less than in England, and she realises how much ridiculous value is placed on class and society back home. Most importantly, A Room With A View is a novel about following your heart, despite what society thinks or tells you to do.
The notes at the back of my copy of the novel explain the symbolism of the title of the book, which is rather handy, because I know 16-year-old me wouldn’t have picked up on this: the “rooms” refer those characters and places that are considered conservative, like England, Lucy’s mother, and her pretentious fiancé, while the “views” refer to those that are considered liberal and open-minded, like Italy, the Emersons and Lucy herself.
I enjoyed A Room With A View immensely as a young adult, and the passages I re-read now brought that enjoyment flooding back. A recommended read if you like amusing Victorian-era novels that allude to society’s failings before their time.