A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Download A Room with a View ebook. A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the restrained culture of Edwardian era England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985.
The Modern Library ranked A Room with a View 79th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century (1998).
Maybe it was the timing. I read this during a period when I was reading a lot of tragic Chinese novels (are there any other kind?). Thus, the airy plot and the indulgent and at times wink-wink-clever prose detailing a superficial aristocratic love story were too sharp of a contrast to the miseries of Mao’s China. Or maybe it was the familiarity this continuously echoed with one of my favorite novels, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Both deal with romance amidst the crushing mores of social repression, albeit Innocence is much more honest, perhaps read: bleak, which suits me better. Whatever the reason, A Room with a View left me disappointed.
The plot, as it were, is fairly transparent from the get-go, an issue that puts a great deal of pressure on the author to keep the reader engaged despite the lack of dramatic tension. Until the splendid denouement, however, I labored to get through each indulgent chapter. Lucy’s slow but steady maturation and burgeoning self-awareness are handled with a considerable dose of condescension from Forster. While Wharton does the same with Newland Archer, hers rings more of pragmatic wisdom than Forster’s smirking jaundice. The author treats Lucy as a simple child (like May Welland in TAOI) who merely stumbles into self-discovery rather than fights her way there. In other words, Lucy comes across her newfound sensibilities cheaply, a somewhat safe and facile method to me.
In the end, perhaps I’m being too harsh. This was a nice summer read and Forster’s writing style is intelligent and even profound at times. Furthermore, the last few chapters made me wish I’d come to them faster and avoided the underwhelming bulid-up. Yet, my final takeaway is that ARWAV is essentially a romance novel, albeit a well-written one wrapped up in tepid social criticism, which renders my opinion equally lukewarm.
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Edward Morgan Forster OM CH (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970) was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. Many of his novels examined class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society, notably A Room with a View (1908), Howards End (1910), and A Passage to India (1924), which brought him his greatest success. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 16 different years.
Forster was born into an Anglo-Irish and Welsh family at 6 Melcombe Place, Dorset Square, London NW1, in a building that no longer exists. He was the only child of Alice Clara “Lily” (née Whichelo) and Edward Morgan Llewellyn Forster, an architect. His name was officially registered as Henry Morgan Forster, but at his baptism he was accidentally named Edward Morgan Forster. To distinguish him from his father, he was always called Morgan. His father died of tuberculosis on 30 October 1880, before Morgan’s second birthday. In 1883, Forster and his mother moved to Rooksnest, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire. This house served as a model for Howards End, because he had fond memories of his childhood there. Among Forster’s ancestors were members of the Clapham Sect, a social reform group within the Church of England.
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