This classic comedy-of-manners (240 pages) was published in January of 1988 by Bantam Classics. The book takes you to Florence, Italy and an English manor house. Melissa read A Room with a View and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
By turns moving, funny, and biting, this coming-of-age story travels from sun-dappled Florence and the Italian countryside to rolling green lawns of Surrey in Edwardian England.
The story opens in the Pension Bertolini in Florence, an inn for traveling English gentlefolk that is so British, ‘it might be London.’ We meet Miss Charlotte Bartlett — chaperone, stifled, judgmental, lonely — and Miss Lucy Honeychurch, her niece, on a trip abroad for finishing. The inn and their rooms — significantly, without a view — are a disappointment to both Charlotte and Lucy. The travelers are further disillusioned by the other guests at the inn who are deemed unfortunate by the uptight Charlotte; she holds particular ire for the uninhibited Mr. Emerson and his fanciful son George.
Despite Lucy’s intentions to be good — that is, to be quiet and humble and respectable — our heroine is almost always in a muddle. She lives a tidy, ordered existence, but she’s naturally curious and, deep down, wants to fight against a society that views overt kindness as indelicate. When she plays Beethoven on the piano with passion, it inspires another character to remark: ‘If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both for us and for her.’
But nothing — not a scrape with death, nor a stolen kiss in a field of wildflowers on an outing in the Italian hills — gives Lucy the courage she needs to defy convention. She returns to the cool, well-understood drawing room of her family home at Windy Corners in Surrey and succumbs to the comfort of a respectable fiancé and a conventional life.
But, as we all know, books are powerful things The chance reading of a passage in a scandalous novel jolts Lucy out of her muddle. What she does next unbalances Lucy and everyone around her in the best way possible.
It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road. — E. M. Forster
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