A Room With A View

By accident, I caught HBO's presentation of David Lean's 'A Passage to India' based on the E. M. Forster novel. I liked the movie so much that I did some background research of both the movie and of E. M. Forster. Listed under Forster's other works was 'Howard's End'. A movie adaptation of Howard's End came out in 1992 and I remember going with my parents and siblings to see it. I only dimly recall parts of the movie - a lush garden, somebody getting attacked and a bookshelf falling on him - I must have had other things going on at 22 so I didn't pay too much attention. Well, I watched it again lately and I liked it a lot. Continuing with my interest in E.M. Forster's work I picked up and read 'A Room with A View'.

The plot of 'Room' is very simple. But, as is usual with Forster, at one point, a 'twist' is introduced - a jarring little adjustment to the storyline. Just one. This is true for 'A Room with a View' and also for 'Howard's End' and 'A Passage to India'. One little imperfect misalignment in a perfectly aligned English world. And that is enough to serve as a fulcrum to move the entire work from boring to brilliant.

That 'twist' is one source of the magic; another source would be in the details. The world of 'Room with a View' does not exist anymore but E. M. Forster has given us a detailed and captivating snapshot of this era. The details of the Edwardian world in both England and Italy come to life in these pages and it is a wonderful thing to read about.

Beyond the gorgeous details and the clever plot the question must be asked: What is this about? Surely 'A Room with A View' is not about some room with a view is it? No, it's not, but the title is well chosen. This period piece will last beyond its day because it talks about something immortal. 'A Room with a View' is about how to know if you should marry somebody.

Yes. That's it exactly. How to know if you should get married; and the thousand distractions that will contrive to keep the knowledge from you. It is about the kind of courage and wisdom that is needed to make the decision that will lead to joy instead of sorrow. Ha! And E.M. Forster unfolds this process and explains it so wonderfully, and correctly: Through the movements and rhythm of his novel. Not a single direct lesson in the book. We are given this explanation through the experience of a girl named Lucy Honeychurch. Indeed, we become Lucy Honeychurch when reading this book. And that is always a sign of a good book. A boss of mine, also a booklover, once explained it so perfectly: We read books in order to experience life through another's eyes and gain wisdom through the experience.

There is wisdom to be gained in 'A Room With a View' and beyond that there is also the pleasure of reading the work of an author who knows his craft.

Posted: June 9, 2010