A Room with a View

“If they were hypocrites they did not know it, and their hypocrisy had every chance of setting and becoming true.”

In A Room with a View by E. M. Forster, Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, take a trip to Italy. They meet some odd characters, such as the enthusiastic novelist Miss Lavish and the rude but well-meaning Mr. Emersons. As their trip becomes overly exciting, Lucy decides to return home to England, but she is followed by reminders of Italy, whether in books or in the people themselves. When Italy and England begin to clash, Lucy must discover what (and who) is most important to her, and choose between her two lives.

Lucy is a wonderful character to focus on; she is independent and fun-loving, yet she is full of endearing contradictions. At one point she says “I want to be truthful [. . .] absolutely truthful” but two pages later the author remarks “she no longer wished to be absolutely truthful.” During most of the story, Lucy is trying to figure out what she wants, and this indecision adds to her charm. The other characters are great as well–Charlotte constantly annoys Lucy with her martyristic tendencies, the Emersons always confuse Lucy with their unconventional behavior, and Miss Lavish often shocks Lucy with her ability to talk about dreadful occasions (e.g. murder) with such excitement.

With such great characters, I expected a great storyline, but I did not enjoy the ending of this book. In the climax, Lucy gets caught up in a “muddle” because she has been lying to everyone, but her solution to her problems feels more like an escape than a fix. Still, my dislike of the ending probably reflects my personality more than the quality of the book–I am the kind of person who likes to do everything, and this book sends the message that accomplishing everything and pleasing everybody is simply not possible. That is a lesson I have not learned yet.

Overall, A Room with a View is a great read. I would recommend it to any audience. After I finished the book, I also watched the movie, which, although quite good, lacked the book’s subtlety and character development. The instance that most annoyed me was an early scene in Italy, when Lucy goes on a trip with the clergymen, Charlotte, Miss Lavish, and the Emersons. Lucy goes to look for someone, but ends up falling into a bed of flowers and before she can figure out what is happening, George Emerson is kissing her. The movie removes all the innocence and surprise from this situation–Lucy simply walks up to George and then he kisses her. Although the fall may seem like a simple detail, it is not. When they took out the fall, they redefined Lucy’s character, giving her a motive of which she is supposed to be unaware until more than halfway through the book. In this respect, the book was better than the movie.

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