A Room with a View

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A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster, about a young woman in the repressed culture of Edwardian England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation in 1985.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked A Room with a View 79th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.


Plot summary

Part one

The first part of the novel is set in Florence, Italy, and describes a young English woman's confusion at the Pensione Bertolini over her feelings for an Englishman staying at the same hotel. Lucy Honeychurch is touring Italy with her overbearing older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, and the novel opens with their complaints about the hotel,"The Pension Bertolini." Their primary concern is that although rooms with a view of the River Arno have been promised for each of them, their rooms instead look over a courtyard. A Mr Emerson interrupts their "peevish wrangling," offering to swap rooms as he and his son, George Emerson, look over the Arno. This causes Miss Bartlett some consternation, this behaviour being seen as impolite. Without letting Lucy speak, Miss Bartlett refuses the offer, looking down on the Emersons because of their unconventional behaviour and thinking it would place her under an "unseemly obligation" towards them. However, another guest at the pension, an Anglican clergyman named Mr Beebe, persuades the pair to accept the offer, assuring Miss Bartlett that Mr Emerson only meant to be kind.

The next day, Lucy embarks on a tour of Florence with another guest, Miss Eleanor Lavish, a novelist who shows Lucy the back streets of Florence, takes her Baedeker guidebook and subsequently loses her in Santa Croce, where Lucy meets the Emersons again. Although their manners are awkward and they are deemed socially unacceptable by the other guests, Lucy likes them and continues to run into them in Florence. One afternoon Lucy witnesses a murder in Florence. George Emerson happens to be nearby and catches her when she faints. Lucy asks George to retrieve some photographs of hers that happen to be near the murder site. George, out of confusion, throws her photographs into the river because they were spotted with blood. Lucy observes of how boyish George is. As they stop to look over the River Arno before making their way back to the hotel, they have an intimate conversation. After this, Lucy decides to avoid George, partly because she is confused by her feelings and partly to keep her cousin happy–Miss Bartlett is wary of the eccentric Emersons, particularly after a comment made by another clergyman, Mr Eager, that Mr Emerson "murdered his wife in the sight of God." Later on in the week, a party made up of Beebe, Eager, the Emersons, Miss Lavish, Miss Bartlett and Lucy Honeychurch make their way to Fiesole, in carriages driven by Italians. The driver invites a woman he claims is his sister onto the carriage, and when he kisses her, Mr. Eager promptly forces the lady to get off the carriage. Mr. Emerson remarks how it is defeat rather than victory to part two people in love. In the fields, Lucy searches for Mr. Beebe, and asks in poor Italian for driver to show her the way. Misunderstanding, he leads her to a field where George stands. George is overcome by Lucy's beauty among a field of violets and kisses her, but they are interrupted by Lucy's cousin, who is outraged. Lucy promises Miss Bartlett that she will not tell her mother of the "insult" George has paid her because Miss Bartlett fears she will be blamed. The two women leave for Rome the next day before Lucy is able to say goodbye to George.

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