Mittwoch, 23. Mai 2012

A Room with a View or Help me!

The rain is pouring down outside my window and there is a blanket wrapped around my legs, next to a cup of hot tea on my desk. I am definitely back from Italy.
The good news is that I enjoyed my little vacation, from midday on it was hot enough to relax on the beach and even go for a swim (a really short one though, in order not to get frostbitten) whereas in the mornings mama and I dawdled through the charming city centre. Unfortunately I somehow managed to forget my camera in the hotel on all of those walks, so you'll have to rely on my word that the historic centre is truly picturesque.
The not so good so good news is that A Room with a View, which I read on the beach, enjoying the most beautiful view possible, left me feeling strangely dissatisfied. I liked it, but by far not as much as I thought I would and, what is worse, not as much as I think I could have.

I really appreciate novels which satirise narrow-minded society and from that point of view Forster didn't disappoint me in the least: I earned more than a few curious looks for chuckling over his glorious humour and chapter titles such as "How Miss Bartlett's Boiler was so tiresome".
However, authors usually have to draw a contrast to funny scenes in their books in order to keep my attention up, but again, I cannot complain of that either. Lacking depth is the last thing you could criticise about A Room with a View. I wholeheartedly agree with the way feminism is treated by Forster and I am actually amazed how he manages to express his disapproval of society's general opinion that:
“It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much. But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first censured, then despised, and finally ignored.”
It is difficult to write a book about gender equality without sounding moralising and boring nowadays and I can only imagine how much harder it must have been a hundred years ago. For that I bow to you, Mr Forster! Oh, and Mr. Emerson is perhaps one of my favourite characters ever; he has the wonderful gift of combining wisdom with humour.

However, despite all the positive aspects I have just mentioned I could not really enjoy reading Forster's best-known work. All the time I had the feeling as if I was missing something, as if an essential part of the book's meaning was escaping me. I sensed that there was much more to it than the simple story of a girl's choosing the unconventional man instead of the one befitting her rank, but I could not quite grasp it. The feeling reminded me a lot of situations when you watch someone whose face you have already seen someplace before, but you cannot remember where, no matter how hard you try and whenever you come close to the solution it slips away from you again.

There was also something else that bothered me: while I really liked most minor characters I did not feel the same for Lucy and George. Not because they were not likeable, but because I felt that except for some scenes, like the one after Lucy fainted from seeing a man being stabbed and during which they both were radiant, I did not really seem to know them. I never got close to them, did not understand them and for most parts of the book they were more or less strangers to me. For example, when George kissed Lucy for the first time I was truly irritated because I did not understand where these feelings came from. Except for the scene mentioned above there never was any sign of his developing any kind of special feelings for Lucy and I could not help the impression that they were only falling in love because the author needed them to as a plot device.

I am definitely going to re-read A Room with a View, but not because I liked it so much. I will read it again in the hope of understanding it better. How about you? In case you have read the book, does my critique make any sense for you? Can you perhaps even help me comprehend and appreciate it to a greater extent?
For one thing is sure: A Room with a View is one of those books I ardently wish I would like more.


  1. Ah, this has happened to me before (though at this late hour specific titles aren't coming to mind): you appreciate a text for what it does, but you just don't love it the way you hoped you would.

    I remember enjoying A Room With a View, but it's been years since I read it. Mostly I adore the movie. It's one of my all-time favorites, and I go back to it often. The only problem is I can't remember how much of its brilliance is due to Forster and how much is due to the filmmakers/actors/etc.

    Maybe you can watch some Jane Eyre to cheer you up? I'm thrilled to hear you enjoyed it as much as I did! :)

  2. Perhaps I should go and watch the movie too, since we seem to have pretty similar tastes in films :)
    Jane Eyre is so amazing that I even dare say it does the book justice which is the highest compliment I can make. Also, I watched it the night before my exam for the Cambridge Certificate (that's a huge language test for foreign speakers of English) and I passed with grade A, so Jane and Rochester have obviously brought me luck :)

    1. Congratulations on your A grade. Jane and Rochester are such fabulous good luck charms. :)

  3. Hmm, the only Forster I've read is A Passage to India and I had a similar reaction as you did to this one. I was impressed by it and so wanted to like it but I could connect to the story or characters for some reason.

    1. I am amazed that you have had the same problem! Perhaps it is partly Forster's fault after all and I don't have to feel so guilty?