“E. M. Forster’s classic novel A Room With a View has a whisper-thin plot: Lucy Honeychurch travels to to Florence, Italy, with her cousin Miss Bartlett. While she is staying in the pension, she meets a father and his son, the Emersons, whom everyone else at the pension thinks are coarse and crude. Desiring some independence and frustrated with her companions, Lucy goes out on her own and witnesses a murder in the street. George Emerson, the son, is there to assist her. Emerson falls in love with Lucy and kisses her. The next morning, her cousin, feeling she has failed Lucy and her mother as a guardian, whisks Lucy away to Rome. When they return to England, Lucy becomes engaged to Cecil Vyse, a man whose previous two proposals she has rejected. Cecil does not much like Lucy’s family, but he sees her as something of a project, a sort of Galatea to his Pygmalion. Meanwhile, the Emersons become the Honeychurches’ neighbors when they let a cottage nearby, and Lucy must determine how she feels about George Emerson and Cecil Vyse.
A Room with a View is actually interesting as a character study. In a short book without a tremendous amount of action, Forster manages to capture human nature very well. I found myself surprised at how easily I could picture everything Forster described, and it was not as though he labored over the descriptions. Instead, he captured characters so deftly in their dialogue and in their bodily movements that not much description was needed in order to convey the scenes perfectly. I especially liked Miss Bartlett’s character—I didn’t like her personality, but as a character, she was well-drawn and so believable. Some of the things she said and did made me think of Dame Maggie Smith, so I began picturing Smith in the role. Finally, I checked IMDb, and I discovered Maggie Smith had indeed played the role of Miss Bartlett in the 1985 production (which has an outstanding cast—I plan to see it as soon as I can). Certainly doesn’t surprise me that the book was made into a film—it read almost like a film. The book also contains some humorous instances of fourth-wall breaking and gorgeous observations about humanity. For this fan of Downton Abbey, it was a treat to read, and I will definitely read more of Forster’s books.”