Home > Book, classic, Genre, Reading Challenges, Review, romance > Book Review: A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

Book Review: A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

Black and white image of Italian countryside as seen through a window with the book's title and author name on it.Summary:
When Lucy Honeychurch goes to Italy, accompanied by her spinster aunt, she doesn’t want or expect much, except perhaps a room with a view.  But she meets George Emerson and his father, two socialist atheists, and they put her world in a bit of a tizzy.  That all gets left behind, though, leaving room for her to meet the man who will become her fiancee, Cecil.  Back in England, her courtship is soon interrupted by the unexpected arrival into their little town of the Emersons.

Review:
I wanted to like this book.  It sounded like an older progressive, feminist romance novel, and that’s something I can definitely get behind.  The romance, though, turned my stomach, and all of the characters left me sour.

This is a slow-moving book.  The scenes it sets are neither rich nor interesting.  I expected to feel more enveloped in Italy, akin to how I felt when reading Adriana Trigiani, but this didn’t happen.  It felt a bit like your cousin who isn’t very good at describing things is trying to tell you all about her vacation to Italy without the help of pictures.  In a book where not very much happens for at least the first 2/3 of it, this is more important of a shortcoming than it might otherwise be.

I cannot name a single character in the book I enjoyed, although Lucy’s brother at least elicited a neutral feeling from me.  They’re all about what you would expect from upper middle class British in the early 1900s.  Lucy is dull and timid. Her aunt is mean and overly concerned about appearances.  One suitor is is an upper-class prick, and the other is a supposed “bad boy,” although only in the sense that if this was a boarding school he might not tie his tie properly.  It all was so predictable and dull.  I was expecting a fiery heroine but instead I got Miss Plane Jane from down the road.

What really swayed me against the book, though, was one of the scenes we are clearly supposed to find very romantic, but which I found problematic at its most basic level.

Lucy was playing tennis with a bunch of people, and she winds up walking through the garden back toward the house with George.  George knows she is engaged to Cecil, and Lucy has expressed to him a few times that she is not interested in pursuing a relationship with him.  He grabs her, at which point the following happens:

“No–” she gasped, and, for the second time, was kissed by him. (page 174)

This is the second time, because the first kiss was a mutual one that happened in Italy many months prior.  So what happens is that George grabs her without asking, knowing she is uninterested and engaged to another man, she tells him no, and he proceeds to kiss her anyway.  This sexual assault is supposed to endear George to us!!! It is incredibly offensive, and I was so turned off I wanted to stop reading.  I didn’t so I could write an honest review for you all, but honestly the entire rest of the book was soured for me because we are expected to root for Lucy to estrange herself from her friends and family to marry a man who clearly shows zero respect for her as a person, a man who has sexually assaulted her.  How is that a romance? Putting forward stories like this as the desired norm, as a couple who are deeply in love and should be looked up to and aspired for, isn’t good for anyone reading these books.  Relationships and romance should be based on mutual trust and respect.  It’s ok for a person to make a mistake.  We’re all human.  But these mistakes should be acknowledged as mistakes and apologized for, never to be done again.  Not held up as the romantic actions of a person in love.

This reads as a mid-range, late 1800s style British romance, in spite of being published in the early 1900s.  I could see this being for someone else who enjoys that style more than I do, but I cannot in good faith recommend it when the romantic hero of the book sexually assaults the heroine, and we are supposed to root for him to win her heart.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: won from a book blog

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