A Room with a View (1908)

by E. M. Forster

A young woman brought up in staid Edwardian England learns to trust her own heart over propriety in E. M. Forster's A Room with a View.

The seeds of Lucy Honeychurch's awakening are planted in romantic Florence, where, when the book opens, she and her chaperone, her older cousin Charlotte, are traveling. The Emersons, a British father and son staying at the same pensione, overhear Lucy and Charlotte lamenting that their rooms don't have the promised view and offer to exchange rooms. As the story progresses, it is clear that the view the Emersons offer is more than the literal one: It's a view of life that's less restrained and conventional, more complex and genuine. Lucy is intrigued but not so much as to reject convention. She runs off to Rome when George Emerson, the son, impulsively kisses her.

George repeats the transgression back in England, where the Emersons rent a cottage near Lucy's home. This time Lucy, who's become engaged to a snob, confronts George. He's been brought up to express himself honestly, and he not only pours out his love but says that she loves him. Lucy is preparing to run away again when an encounter with Mr. Emerson brings her to an awareness of her true feelings.

A Room with a View is a high for anyone craving a good love story, but it's more than a romance: It's a lesson in not fearing emotions and in being genuine. The characterization is wonderful, including fussy Charlotte, Lucy's spirited younger brother and pragmatic mother, and especially Mr. Emerson, whose simple kindness and frankness are mistaken for boorishness by mannered society. Forster considered A Room with a View his "nicest" book, and it remains a favorite among his fans.


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