Ergh!!! I had a great post about A Room with a View and it somehow got deleted!!! Blurg! I can remember none of the awesome things I had to say, so hopefully this will still convey how much I enjoyed this book and why you should read it!
First of all, I was surprised I liked this book so much. I read A Passage to India in school and didn't care for it. That may have been because I had to read it and five other lengthy, mostly boring books for a one-hour pass/fail class my freshman year of college. I had so much other reading and things to do that the books for that class didn't get much attention from me. I felt like it was pretty dry, so I was surprised when A Room with a View was so wonderful and a quick read, entertaining read. I suppose I'll have to give A Passage to India another shot sometime.
A Room with a View is about a young woman visiting Florence and Rome before journeying back to England. It was published in 1908 and takes place around that time, which was a time of massive change. England was moving from the Victorian age to the modern age. I know we've experienced massive change just in my lifetime with the prevalence of the internet, but can you imagine living back then? They were on the cusp of having technological changes with cars and electricity, but they were also experiencing social change with women fighting for the vote and the changing societal classes.
The novel focuses on this social change, with the main character starting out with a proper chaperone on her travels who dictates her behavior, but you begin to see changes as they travel and meet new people. One of those people is Mr. Emerson, who despite being an older man, is quite modern. He makes comments about one day women will be seen as equal and how a lot of the rules people follow are silly and how love is more important than following expectations. I adored him! He was so unexpected, although I suppose old people do tend to have more of a "tell it like it is" philosophy and he definitely had that. You shouldn't live by other people's expectations.
Forster also talks about how some people are so snobby and pretentious that they suck the life out of everyone around them. He demonstrates this through Cecil, who I just wanted to strangle. I wanted to shake Lucy and tell her to snap out of it and get away from him!
The novel was very similar to a Jane Austen novel - it captures a small part of society and has the same sort of feel, which I think makes the discussion of the more modern elements all the more striking. Lucy has to make a choice that none of the Austen heroines can make - love or independence? An Austen character might have to choose between love and comfort, but independence is never an option.
"It makes a difference, doesn't it, whether we fence ourselves in, or whether we are fenced out by the barriers of others?" Lucy can choose to fence herself in or not, whereas women even a decade earlier didn't have that option. "I don't see any difference. Fences are fences, especially when they are in the same place." The character speaking here is thinking of literal fences, but she has a point - a fence is still a fence. Someone told me the other day that every decision in life is a sacrifice. If we choose to marry, we sacrifice our independence. If we choose to have kids, we sacrifice time and money and freedom. If we choose one career over another, we sacrifice the other. It was an interesting way to think about things, and I thought it fit this book nicely.
I think fans of Austen who are looking for something new would enjoy this, as would people who are interested in the start of feminism and the modern age. I'm looking forward to reading Howard's End soon!