Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster -- Book Review


The name E.M. Forster summons up memories of high school advanced placement English class where my instructor would give us a 4-5 page piece of writing pulled from a novel and expect us to read, understand, converse wisely, and compose a 1,500 word essay on all its vague bits in just under 48 hours. I still have nightmares that I faked my way through that class.

A Room With a View is one of those novels that I knew was a classic and knew I read something about in high school but from which I chose to stay far away due to being tediously subjected to one of its dismembered parts my Senior year. When my daughter cosplayed Helena Bonham Carter a couple weeks ago, we took turns listing out her films and I was reminded that I'd seen photos online recently for this one. Searching my to be read shelves a few days ago after finishing The Scarlet Pimpernel, I came across this copy and, being in a mood, decided I'd give it a go. 

I've never cared for the "Bloomsbury novel"---that gratingly philosophical piece of writing that skips around in time with no back story and feels no need to go into depth about settings and scenery. The conversations are filled with symbolic foreshadowing and the pages are filled with conversations. I never feel like I know where I'm at or who I'm with when I try to follow this sort of story. Maybe my imagination just isn't developed enough.

In this specific story, the author uses the character of old Mr. Emerson to tout his philosophical views about class, prejudice, love, equality, Feminism, and more. I suppose he's meant to be a voice to draw Lucy out of her 19th century suppressed female compliance, but from 2020, his final scene with her looks awfully male-dominated. Words that are meant to encourage her to follow her heart still don't give her room for much of an opinion and, as was the way of the time, she is silenced and told what she must think or feel. Because of this, it was difficult for me to see her as truly in love with her husband in the final scene. Instead, it seemed like a further stifling. There was so much melodrama throughout and I came away thinking that perhaps Lucy really never loved any man.

Besides the very random kiss in the violets (had to reread---is she dreaming? I need to watch the film maybe...), I thought that the first half of the book was better written than the first. Yet, something rebellious and secretly Feminist in me suddenly began loving the story for a minute as I observed Lucy's behavior toward Cecil in the wood. She pretends to forget Emerson's name---then corrects herself. But it's not a remembrance, it's a confession, and it's quite a romantic foreshadowing of things we already know are to come.

The ultimate question of the novel is this: would I rather be connected with a room or a view?  The answer for most is, of course, a view---yet the ability to live in a view rather than a room is not easily obtainable for everyone. It requires risk, a strong sense of self, and sometimes the willingness to live lonely yet contented. The fact that Lucy got the view and the happily ever after makes this novel handsome enough to tempt me into watching the 1985 film, as well. 

Some of my favorite quotes include:

"Pull out from the depths those thoughts that you do not understand, and spread them out in the sunlight and know the meaning of them."

"But Italy worked some marvel in her. It gave her light and --- which he held more precious --- it gave her shadow. Soon he detected in her a wonderful reticence. She was like a woman of Leonardo da Vinci's, whom we love not so much for herself as for the things that she will not tell us."

"Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes." (2020 masks? Ha!)

No comments:

Post a Comment