A Room With A View was first published in 1908. It involves the gloriously named Miss Lucy Honeychurch, a young women from the upper middle classes, who meets an unconventional young man while traveling in Rome Florence, and who is thrown back together with him in England. Lucy is, in most ways, a completely conventional girl. However, the local clergyman, Mr. Beebe, who is staying at the same pension as Lucy in Italy, notices that there is a discrepancy between how Lucy lives her life and how she plays the piano.
The romance here is just barely sketched in – George and Lucy barely know each other, and – let’s be honest here – they are babies. They are undergraduates wearing black and drinking coffee in the dorm basement while discussing Walt Whitman and Sylvia Plath. I’m not judging. I was totally that undergraduate and that time of life served me well and I can still come up with a good barbaric yawp today. I’m just saying that these people are less equipped to work through a real relationship that involves budgeting and children and working through conflict than two adorable lemurs on LSD.
And yet, how can we not root for Lucy and George? Their love story works for two reasons. The first is that they are both adorable. They are a pair of Golden Labrador Retrievers. By the way, the excellent movie adaptation stars both a young Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands, and the puppy eyes are strong with those two. All shall fall before them.
The second reason that the romance works is that the romance is clearly symbolic. In throwing off the conventional Cecil, who is perturbed when Lucy plays music too passionately, behaves too erratically, or any other way displays true personality and autonomy, Lucy is choosing to live as she plays. She also considers being a spinster like Charlotte, but Charlotte is not a role model of happy spinsterhood. Charlotte is dependent on others and passive aggressive to the point where it’s a true work of art to watch that woman work a room. Lucy wants physical and emotional passion and art and romance and adventure with George, she will by golly get it.
This book is lovely and lyrical and both ferociously biting and surprisingly sweet. The bond between Lucy and her family, and the concern and tenderness that Mr. Emerson and George have for each other, feel authentic and heartwarming, and Mr. Beebe’s continual championing of Lucy is very kind.