January 26, 2015

Think Your Own Thoughts

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Release Date: First Published 1908
Publisher: Random House | Vintage
Pages: 368 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback
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Summary (from Goodreads)
"But you do," he went on, not waiting for contradiction. "You love the boy body and soul, plainly, directly, as he loves you, and no other word expresses it..." 

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 Bertolini: 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 Edwardian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil Vyse. Will she ever learn to follow her own heart?

WHEN I First Read It

I think that I first read A Room with a View when I was in college, but it may have been high school. All I know is that I didn't read it for class, and I checked it out from the library on a whim. I didn't buy a copy for my shelves until recently, which is another reason I can't remember exactly how long it has been since I first picked it up.

WHAT I Remember

Honestly, I barely remembered anything about A Room with a View! I knew that I loved Forster's writing because there were at least two quotes that I wrote down after finishing it the first time that I still love today. I also remembered a portion of the storyline - that Lucy Honeychurch is traveling abroad with her cousin, Charlotte, and meets quite a few characters when they spend time in Florence. As for the rest of the story, I barely remembered any other details. That's one reason I was excited to re-read! 

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read

A few months ago, Danielle highlighted A Room with a View for Consider This Classic. While I'd already read it, she made me want to read it all over again! I started reminiscing on all the reasons I'd enjoyed it the first time I read it - and I knew there was more I couldn't remember. Then, I saw that there was a YA retelling coming out this January - Love, Lucy by April Lindner. It seemed like one more reason to re-read it! And when I had a costume drama movie binge, I realized that I wanted to re-read this book before I watched the movie adaptation of it. All those reasons made it seem like the perfect first re-read for The Re-Read Challenge!

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading

Dang, I loved this book even more than I remembered! A Room with a View is the story of Lucy Honeychurch. The first part follows her as she explores Florence with her cousin Charlotte. They're nearing the end of their trip abroad, and they are about to meet a number of people who will alter their lives in unforeseen ways - including a Mr. Emerson and his son George. The second part catches up with Lucy once she has returned home to her mother and brother. While the plot is intriguing, that's not why I love it.

First, the writing is just stunning. There are moments where it's a bit slower, but it's often romantic and spirited. I underlined so many quotes in this book. One of my favorites from my first read, which stood out to me again upon re-reading, is this speech Mr. Emerson gives to Lucy soon after meeting her:
"You are inclined to get muddled, if I may judge from last night. Let yourself go. 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. By understanding George you may learn to understand yourself."
It's better in context, of course, but it stopped me in my tracks the first time I read it. I remember speaking the words aloud and letting them roll off my tongue. Something about the idea of pulling out your thoughts and examining them in the sunlight to know the meaning of them - I couldn't get the picture out of my mind.

So, the writing is the first reason I love A Room with a View. But the main reason - the reason I think everyone ought to read this book - is for the themes. After listening to Lucy play the piano, one person remarks: "If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting - both for us and for her." This idea becomes repeated throughout the novel. Lucy lives during a time when women are restricted by what is proper and decorous. She must be good mannered and well behaved - a lady. But what if that's not what she wants?

Being in Italy changes her. When she returns, she becomes engaged to a man named Cecil Vyse. And Forster writes this about Cecil's understanding of Lucy:
"A rebel she was, but not of the kind he understood - a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but equality beside the man she loved. For Italy was offering her the most priceless of all possessions - her own soul."
HELLO. Tell me you don't want to read the book based on those two sentences alone! I love A Room with a View because it's the story of Lucy finding her own voice and learning to trust her own heart. It's the story of a girl who is becoming a woman and is faced with a choice: to do what's expected of her or to cast it all off for something more. And my goodness, there are some romantic moments in this one. My favorites:

One gentleman says to Lucy, "Every moment of his life he's forming you, telling you what's charming or amusing or ladylike, telling you what a man thinks womanly; and you, you of all women, listen to his voice instead of your own."

When Lucy then argues that he's doing the same thing - telling her what to think and feel - he responds, "Yes, I have. I'm the same kind of brute at the bottom. This desire to govern a woman - it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together before they shall enter the garden. But I do love you - surely in a better way than he does. Yes - really in a better way. I want you to think your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms."

DEAD. DONE. Stop reading this review, and go read this classic already. Don't you want to know what Lucy decides? Will she defy convention and choose a life of passion? READ IT AND FIND OUT.

WOULD I Re-Read Again

Absolutely! This classic is on the shorter side, which makes it perfect for those days when I need a quick reminder of why I love classics so much. In some ways, I think I loved A Room with a View even more the second time reading it. I love when that happens, and I highly recommend this book!

2 comments:

  1. So, basically, I want to read A Room with a View immediately after reading your review. I've never, ever read it before, but it does sound like the type of story that would appeal to me! Plus, the quotes you've included? So beautifully expressed. I love it when an author captures something so elusive, something you might have thought but not been able to express yourself, with words. Can't wait to read this!

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  2. HANNAH. This novel sounds AMAZING. I've heard of it before, but didn't realize it was partially set in Italy. That alone would be reason enough for me to read it, but those quotes you included? I'M DYING. Seriously can't wait to read this!

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