Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster or Lucy Goes to Europe and What She Found There

Cover of "A Room With a View (Two-Disc Sp...

Cover via Amazon

One goal this summer is to meander through the Advanced Placement books I inherited from former teachers and determine my own class reading list.  Some books are friends (Hi, Jane, good to see ya) and others I am waiting for an unspecified time to introduce myself (Portrait of a Young Man). Length is a consideration at this point, meaning reasonable so I can get through as many as possible. Fortunately, there are many in that category and are  waiting patiently for my in my book bag.  I am concerned my students are going to be better read than I when it comes to the suggested AP reading list.  Can’t have students being smarter than teacher, eh?

My list began with Room with a View. Though the book is not overpowering in length, I moseyed through it.  Forster is not a dine and dash author; one must read and relish. Vocabulary, writing style (that omniscient narrator is a little cumbersome at times), and pacing are all considerations. These are not insurmountable problems. My real problem was how Helena Bonham-Carter’s face kept popping up during my reading. This stems from having watched the Bonham-Carter adaptation ever so long ago and her white linen suit and expressive face would hover at the edges of the novel.  It wasn’t terribly disconcerting, although it makes it difficult for a clean read,*


Having finished the book, I have decided it’s a definite keeper, and to interest my students in reading it I’ve pulled some snippets to share with them.

  • Mr. Beebe was right.  Lucy never knew her desires so clearly      as after music.  She had not really      appreciated the clergyman’s wit, nor the suggestive twitterings of Miss Alan.  Conversation was tedious; she wanted something big, and she believed that it would have come to her on the wind-swept platform of an electric tram.
  • Why were most big things unladylike?  Charlotte had once explained to her why.  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.  Poems had been written to illustrate this point.


These passages spotlight why Room With A View is a TBR (to be read.) Forster underscores Lucy’s quest for what makes herself tick, and she wants to do it on her own.  She is tired of others telling her what to say, what to think, and how to act, for it has numbed her creative aspirations to do for herself.  The only time she feels moved out of this numbness is after playing music.  Music becomes a catalyst to opening up her emotional pores, so to speak.  The music stirs a yearning within, although she is not quite sure of what, but she does know it involves moving from where she is, hence, the train metaphor.

After my booktalk on RWAV I will end with a clincher as to why they should select it for their TBR list: And is Lucy’s predicament of finding herself so different  your own desire to break free and become your own person? (So, try it, you’ll like it).

If the selected passages don’t tempt my students I intend on nudging their interest through sex and violence, which are spices few resist, especially among youth.


Throughout the book Lucy experiences life by increments and when she tries to rush into larger experiences, the results are tragically unexpected.  About on her own she witnesses a murder in the public square and that incident is the catalyst for other events. Having been protected from the baser aspects of life, Lucy does not know how to acknowledge this unexpected violence.  Nothing like an old-fashioned impassioned stabbing to open the eyes that life is not all lace and crumpets. She is rescued by George.

  • In chapter six we find Lucy is unsure what to do about the attentions of  George Emerson:
    • In an open manner he had shown that he wished to continue their intimacy. She had refused, not because she disliked him, but because she did  not know what had happened, and suspected that he did know.  And this frightened her.

Lucy refers not to the incident when George in an impetuous moment kissed her, rather she refers to how he came to her aid after she had witnessed the street murder.  To talk of death, seemingly creates more intimacy than sharing life through a kiss.  Neither event had she partaken prior to coming to Italy, and both significant events are shared with George.  No wonder the poor girl is not ready to continue on—she must be thinking whatever is the next step, and that is the page-turning question:  How awakened is Lucy going to become?  And will it be with George?

Lucy Honeychurch—I believe we all have a bit of Lucy within us, and it doesn’t necessarily take an Italy to find ourselves, but I hope we all have a George in our lives, someone who prevents us from making a costly mistake, and someone who helps us realize how alive we really are.

After the book I sought out the movie versions.  Helena, not being available, I checked out the Masterpiece Theater version.  Andrew Davies is masterful at sifting through the dross to pull out the shiny bits of a novel.  Sadly, I was none too happy with Mr. Davies in how he ended the MT version.  Major spoiler if I continue.  Excuse me while I go out to find if Helena is still busy.

*reading the book FIRST and then watching the movie in order to form my own visuals of characters, etc.

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2 thoughts on “A Room with a View by E. M. Forster or Lucy Goes to Europe and What She Found There

  1. There’s a Masterpiece Theater version??!!! Oh, boy. I keep hearing “Poor Charlotte!” since I saw the Helena B-C version before reading the book. I agree with you; we all could use a George Emerson-type person in our lives to make us more aware of life’s magical possibilities.

    • I placed a hold on the B-C version and will definitely be comparing them. Cousin Charlotte in the newer version is quite perfect, playing that mixture of liking her one minute due to her caring, and then wanting to thump her due to her meddling. Hope you find it. 🙂

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