Sunday, 25 December 2016

The jump in A Room with a View

I've watched James Ivory's film adaptation about 3 times or more (mostly because of Daniel Day-Lewis), and have always had a problem with it- or rather, there's always a feeling that something's missing and I don't quite get what's going on and why the characters act the way they do. 
That's why I picked up the book, hoping it would clear a few questions on my mind. 
It didn't. 
After the incident in Florence, Lucy Honeychurch, together with her cousin Charlotte Bartlett, decides to go to Rome to see the Vyses. In the next chapters, we're with other, and new, characters- Lucy's mother Mrs Honeychurch and Lucy's brother Freddy. They're talking, and discussing Lucy and Cecil Vyse. A few pages later, Cecil, whom the readers have never before seen, now appears, and announces that he and our heroine are now engaged. Episodes are cut off. The entire courtship with the 3 proposals is left out. A huge jump in time. And space. 
What does that remind you of? 
The Portrait of a Lady.
The difference is that the engagement news in The Portrait of a Lady produces a shock, puzzlement and a sense of outrage, whereas that in A Room with a View takes us aback because there's hardly any warning but we know nothing about Cecil to know whether or not it's a right choice- other than surprise, there's nothing else. 
I don't mind the jump. What bothers me is the feeling that something's missing- I'm on chapter 11, and I still don't quite understand the relationship between Cecil and Lucy, specifically how she really feels about him, what has happened between them, why she rejects him twice and accepts him the 3rd time, why she thinks she loves him and how she really sees him. I feel cheated. 
My general impression is that E. M. Forster can be rather observant (it's very good how he writes about Charlotte playing the role of a "prematurely aged martyr" to control Lucy and persuade her not to tell her mother about the kiss), and there's a quiet humour about him that can be amusing, but that's it. The kiss between Lucy and George is, I have to say, rather disappointing. Too abrupt.
There are readers out there who enjoy The Room with a View more than I do. 


PS: There's a book that I really, really want to read right now- Life and Fate (though of course not "right now", I don't have time for such a big book). Several people have made me believe that I'd like Vasily Grossman. Thoughts? 
PPS: Oh and I'm in Vienna, by the way. Having a good time. 


  1. i know i've read it, and not too long ago, but i can't remember it... that either says something about me or about Forster... i've read more of his short stories, i think, than novels although i much liked Passage to India... i'm interested in what you think after you finish it...

  2. Di,

    I agree. I was puzzled by Lucy's engagement because I wasn't expecting it, but, as you say, I knew little about Cecil and have to wait to learn more about him to come to some judgement about the engagement.

    I was shocked by Isabel's decision and couldn't understand how she could do something so stupid.

    Vienna at Christmas sounds great.

  3. Mudpuddle,
    I haven't read anything else by E. M. Forster. My blogger friends Himadri and Inderjit don't think very highly of this novel.

    What do you think about Cecil Vyse then? And George Emerson?
    And yes, Vienna's a lovely city. Have you been here?

    1. Di,

      I've seen photos, and I just watched, once again, _Museum Hours_, a film set in Vienna, in which Vienna is one of the main characters, if not the main character.

      Cecil and George: the classic confrontation between the upperclass pretentious but well-mannered, well-placed, and sophisticated Englishman and the lower class straightforward, slightly unconventional Englishman for the hand of the English maiden. At least, that's how it seemed to me.

    2. That's 1 of the themes, yeah.
      I finished reading the book some days ago. And also read "A View without a Room" in the appendix, but haven't had much to say.
      Plus I'm sick again.

    3. Di,

      Sorry to hear that. Hope you get well soon.

  4. I believe there are plenty of reasons to know that Cecil is not the right choice. Lucy is deluding herself. During two proposals, she felt that her own delusions were sufficient, but apparently she felt the delusion weakening around the time of the third proposal and needed some reinforcement.

    George's primary characteristic, or secondary, after his healthy Italianate Romanticism, is his abruptness. The kiss could not be anything but abrupt.

    Vienna is a funny place to be in the context of this novel. I hope your Bildung is progressing nicely.

    1. I suppose so, but...
      What do you think of the scene where Lucy breaks off her engagement?
      Would be funnier if I were in Venice, methinks.

    2. I don't remember what I think of it. There are several steps in Lucy's shedding of her delusions, as reflected in those chapter titles.

      Vienna is a good place to work on one's Bildung to bring it up to the level where one can truly appreciate Venice.

    3. 1 funny thing: I kinda saw a bit of myself in Cecil, though I should feel closer to Lucy, considering how uneducated and ignorant I am.