A Room with a View

by E.M. Forster

Perhaps I actually do know what possesses me to rent the 1985 film while in the middle of reading the book: Some of the language and themes are so archaic as to be pretty befuddling to the modern reader. So, I think I rent the movie so I can have a better sense of what is going on, plot-wise, because in some places in the book, I really am not sure. To this end, watching the movie works fine, and aside for some Hollywood elision of disparate parts of the narrative, the film stays very true.

I can't help instantly comparing A Room with a View to The Old Wives Tale. E.M. Forster and Arnold Bennett are both British novelists. Both of these books are written within a year of each other, both published just after the turn of the century, and most prominently, both books compare & contrast falling in love with presence of mind (if that's possible) versus...well...the antithesis of that! The former has both situations personified by a single character here, whereas the latter chooses sisters to embody the opposing philosophies.

I have to tell you—and it's obvious from the rankings on the main page—I find The Old Wives Tale far superior. A Room with a View is somewhat fatuous, employs a lot of artistic license, & never feels quite real. Granted that E.M. Forster wrote this book in 1908, and it was a much smaller world then, but the liberty taken to constantly, "randomly" run characters into one another "unexpectedly" is simply not believable. The world wasn't that much smaller a hundred years ago! This technique is heavy-handed and makes the story seem contrived, overwrought, and obvious. Forster even gives a line of dialogue about this very silliness to a character who reflects, "It is odd how we of that pension, who seemed such a fortuitous collection, have been working into one another's lives." Yes, E.M. Forster, it's odd! A love story meant to instruct about passion—true passion—shouldn't read something akin to The Importance of Being Ernest or Twelfth Night. This very lightness undermines the most important predominating theme. I find support for my view in that the film, in order to convey said passion, must rely on a couple of stellar Puccini arias (sung famously by Kiri Te Kanawa here) to punctuate the key moments and tell you how to feel. This works of course (and here I have to add that when Classic Bitch was in high school and saw this movie for the first time, she took these exact scenes so trenchantly to heart—on account of the music—that she actually fell in love with Dame Kiri and opera in general from that day on)! My life was shaped by this film's score in some regard.

Another thing Forster hits you over the head with is this whole room–view metaphor. The book ain't just about two guys on holiday at a B&B who trade their room that has a view to two gals on holiday at the same B&B who have a room without a view, folks! If you did a word count I daresay "room" & "view"—in all kinds of contexts, both literal and figurative—might come up nearly as frequently in the book as "the" and "and." To wit: "Also that men fall into two classes—those who forget views and those who remember them, even in small rooms." (Got it, E.M., got it!)

Classic Bitch is going to stop picking on E.M. Forster now and share some delightful portions of this book with you. Anachronisms for love or passion or lust abound in this book! Lucy Honeychurch's nascent passion—unknown as yet even to herself—is described throughout the book as a "ghost" or "nerves," which I love (God forbid you call it what it is). Also, at what point along the way did we lose the expression "making love" as it refers to a moment of passion or an expression of love—like a kiss even, or hand holding—and not solely to sexual intercourse? I have to say...can we go back to the old way? I think our society and language both are the poorer for the narrowing of this definition. Hey! Want to know something else A Room with a View and The Old Wives Tale have in common? Attributing sex or lust or passion to the Greek god Pan. This is too funny! Of course a hundred years ago you yourself couldn't have any feelings like that inside you...they must come from the outside! Who can we blame? Let's see here...I know! How about that wascally wabbit, that ol' god of nature? He's the one who's making me feel all tingly! It's not me, it's him! This is fabulous, but it was somewhat lost on me until I did a little research on Pan. Who is this little devil to whom so many big feelings get attributed? So apparently, according to mythology, Pan actually charmed the moon right out of the sky! O.K. That's enough for me. Got it loud & clear: This Pan stuff is not to be questioned anymore. I'll only hope to encounter him myself one day. Perhaps, in my spring fever, those are his cloven hoof steps I hear approaching now...

Favorite quotes (some of which illustrate what's been discussed above):
• "You are young, dears, and however clever young people are, and however many books they read, they will never guess what it feels like to grow old."
• "So it happened that from patronizing civility he had slowly passed if not to passion, at least to a profound uneasiness."
• "Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome "nerves" or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire."