©, (P)2002 Commuter's Library
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
E. M. Forester???s A Room With a View (1908) opens with the upper-middle class British tourist Lucy Honeychurch and her spinster chaperone Charlotte Bartlett complaining about not having a room with a view in their Florence pension. Mr. Emerson and his son George offer their viewed rooms to the women, but Charlotte is affronted by the crude interference of such ???common??? men. Isn???t Mr. Emerson an atheist-socialist and his son a railroad worker? The novel depicts Lucy???s struggle to mature into an independent thinking, living, and loving woman beneath the stifling weight of cultural convention, familial expectation, and fear of passion.
While I really enjoyed watching the 1985 film of the novel, listening to Wanda McCaddon reading the audiobook evoked in me another magnitude of laughter, tears, and ecstasy. She effortlessly switches between male and female voices, expressing their different personalities through slight changes in her tone or manner, and her distinctive, gravelly voice enhances the wit and heart of the novel.
There are many memorable scenes: of beauty and romance (George kissing Lucy amid the foamy field of wild Italian violets), of social comedy (Lucy, her mother, and Cecil Vyse coming upon the nudely frolicking George, Freddy, and Mr. Beebe by the pond in the woods), and of moving insight (Lucy talking with Mr. Emerson in Mr. Bebe???s study). Throughout, the lines are witty, the insights into human nature telling, and the philosophies of life stimulating. And the characters are adorable! Mr. Emerson so eccentric, kind, open-minded, and frank. George so passionate and honest. Lucy so ???muddled.??? Freddy so simple and healthy. Mr. Beebe so full of good humor. Even the mean-spirited, priggish snobs like Cecil and Charlotte are sympathetic. And there are many compelling themes in the novel about gender, class, culture, tourism, youth, love, and life. And Forster???s Florence is magical and mythical: ???fate.???
Years ago, I had seen the movie but never read this classic by E.M. Forster. This is a scrumptious novel that I enjoyed on many levels. On one level it is a romance novel, but there is far more. I also enjoyed the fascinating cast of characters, each of whom was vividly portrayed, well-rounded, believable, and contributing to a landscape of Victorian society. If you have ever fallen in love with Florence, Italy (or any other magical place), this will make you long to return for a visit. The novel is thoroughly engrossing and entertaining. A few times, I found myself laughing out loud. To become acquainted with the protagonist, Lucy Honeychurch, is to savor a rich experience of coming of age. The narration by Wanda McCaddon is superb. The personality and voice of each character are captured with great vitality in her performance. I will surely read (or listen to) this book again! Very highly recommended.
What else can I say about this marvellous thing, possibly E.M. Forester's best work? The love story is perfect, and the characters are alive - too alive almost, as you can't help getting a tad aggravated with Lucy at moments and love her nonetheless. Much of the story is set in Italy - where Forster spent such a long time himself - and perfectly so, hilarious at times and sad; and also so wise you'll barely notice, and when you do it hits you in the gut like you'd just stumbled over a treasure. Although the story is set decades ago, if you are an experienced creature, you will relate, trust me.
This is a charming listen. Forster is a great observer of English middle classness (which has changed less than it should). The reading is easy on the ear and the book is a great pleasure. I was nearly put off by the fact that I disliked the movie but am glad that I took the chance.
What a touching and uplifting story! The characters are so well written with depth and understanding. It brings out all kinds of emotion only a great story can do. And, this version of audio is read wonderfully.
High Brow Buyer
of deep suppression of human emotional needs - it takes Italy to birth the inappropriate love afair and the beauty of the English countryside to nurture it to maturity...beautifully wrtten and narrated.
A Room With A View is on my top 10 favorite movies list. When I see a movie that is based on a book, I usually don't read the book because one of them is likely to be a disappointment. But in this case, I think both the movie and the book were good in their own way. The movie entertained and elicited an emotional reaction, while the book was entertaining and thoughtful.
When watching the movie, I always had the feeling that Mr. Vyse was perhaps seeking the wrong gender in his attempt to marry Ms. Honeychurch. After reading the book, and learning a little bit about E. M. Forster, it became much clearer. Mr. Forster was a closeted homosexual. Through the internal thoughts of the characters in the book, we learn that Mr. Beebe, the minister, thinks that Mr. Vyse is much like himself. A life long bachelor. Or, in truth, gay. While I suspected it of Mr. Vyse, I was a bit shocked about Mr. Beebe. I had assumed from the movie that he had a little crush on Ms. Honeychurch, when in fact, he only found her to be an interesting person full of potential.
Knowing that Mr. Vyse is gay makes his character more understandable and sympathetic. Yes, he's still a bit of a stuck up twit, but he's also struggling to fit in to a society that will never accept him for who he really is.
As for Ms. Honeychurch, she is also much more complicated than can be seen in the movie. In the movie I thought she seemed a little bit confused about what she wanted out of life. In the book, however, she's a complete mess. She's so concerned about being proper and doing the right thing that she misses out on the fun and enjoyment of life.
George Emerson is also a more complicated character in the book. The movie makes him out to be a weirdo, when really he is depressed and trying to find a reason to live. He finds no joy in life until he meets Ms. Honeychurch.
I cannot say which I enjoyed more, the book or the movie. I liked the romance of the movie and the rich character development in the book.
The story isn't fast paced, but it is lively and witty enough to keep me engaged. I feel let down by the quality of the recording though. It isn't even the fault of the narrator, simply that the recording has a tin-like echo to it even though I downloaded Audio 4. It doesn't feel like a professionally produced work.
On the surface this is a delightful well-written romance, in the audible version beautifully brought off by a lovely reading by Wanda McCaddon. But its real purpose seems to have been to explore the rigid class structure of Victorian England, its hypocrisy (the Honeychurch family's standing in society for example is simply due to the deceased Mr. Honeychurch's foresight in purchasing Windy corner) and the challenge to it (represented by the forward-thinking atheistic Mr. Emerson). Forster's sympathy obviously lies with the removal of the class structure as shown by Lucy's ultimate choice of husband and the title of the final chapter "the End of the Middle Ages" but it is not an unconditional vote; Mr. Emerson's choices lost him his wife and the understanding of his son and in Chapter 19, the author has Lucy thinking "it seemed dreadful that the old man should crawl into such a sanctum [the clergyman's house] when he was unhappy, and be dependent of the bounty of a clergyman" he having said to her "We have pushed our beliefs too far. I fancy we deserve some sorrow."
There are some complaints; Mrs. Honeychurch's failure accept Lucy's choice is out of character and the reader is left tantalizingly to speculate on Charlotte's sudden change from opponent to ally and to wonder what lay in her past.
I gave Bleak House 4 stars, Room with a View is not as good, it's more of a 3.5 but well worth the read/listen.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
Forster is always readable, has an assortment of interesting (if non-varying) characters, and a dependable story arc. This is one of his best. And yet, there always seems to be something a little lacking in his writing. I wish I could put my finger on it. Maybe it has to do with Lucy's piano playing. Lacking polish but filled with passion. I wish Forster had a little more of that passion, even with less polish. Still, Forster is better than 80% of everything else that's out there so who am I to complain.
"If you like Jane Austen you'll like this too."
The book is not really about much, that is, not much happens as such. What makes it so absorbing is what is said and thought by the characters, and furthermore the way in which they say it. In the same way Jane Austen gives us a window into the manners of a Regency period E M Foster gives us a window into the manners of the Edwardian period in a 'Room with a View'. But all that said it's just a boy meets girl love story in the end. I think Wanda McCaddon delivers a good reading and plays the characters well.
A delightful book beautifully written, full of humour and well read. It pokes fun at Edwardian gentility and conventions. Through its graphic descriptions you can just feel the lazy heat of afternoons in the Italian sun and the warmth of an English summer playing tennis or splashing about in the water. A definite winner.
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