Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance.
Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Pertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George.
Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Victorian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil Vyse. Will she ever learn to follow her own heart?
A Room with a View is a sunny, witty comedy of manners
I seem to be the only one not utterly charmed by this novel. While I agree that this is a masterful comedy of manners, and is indeed very astute, not only about early 20th century society but our own, I think that there was something a little bit lacking in the characterisation.
I actually didn’t like Lucy all that much… which is so surprising, since so many people do. I just found her way too willfully blind and a pretty frustrating person to be following. She was the ultimate sheep, and though she was internally rebellious, she just didn’t do enough to convince me of her ability to actually think for herself. Even in the end, when she finally makes the right decisions, it’s still on the advice of a man, on both occasions. She even quotes said men, unable to use her own words and opinions to justify her decisions herself. I found that really frustrating and think it counters the belief that she’s truly emancipated. That, combined with a few snide remarks about females, and both comments about and characterisations of female authors, made me really quite annoyed with the book… however, it was inevitable, considering when it was written.
However, I did like that Lucy calls out both George and Cecil on their bullshit, as well as her annoying cousin Charlotte, but it came too little, too late for me to like her as a character.
The side characters and the social satire was mostly spot on, and very scathing in parts. As I said, some comments in regard to a woman’s place and women writers are definitely outdated (but sadly not completely dead) but on the whole, the satire of many different types of people was great. Forster shows the hypocrisy of humans, and especially those who should know better (especially the clergy) with a deft hand, which made me laugh out loud at several points.
On the whole, I didn’t love this book as much as I expected to, which is disappointing, but my expectations were probably too high. I’m definitely going to read more of Forster’s work, as it looks interesting. This was his first attempt at writing a novel, so one must make allowances for that!