By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Wanda McCaddon
When “A Room with a View” was published in 1908, romance and sexuality were a mystery. Forster creates scenes in the life of a young girl, Lucy. These scenes reveal Lucy’s sexual awakening. The poignant confusion of a young girl’s first romantic encounter seems unreal today. Comparing Lucy’s passionate piano playing to Madonna singing “like a virgin for the very first time”, makes Lucy’s first kiss seem like “hooking up” in the 21st century.
Patience is prerequisite for a listener to a Forster’ story; in the age of television, computers, Iphones, Ipads, and other devices of mass distraction, patience is a dwindling resource. Forster reminds one of Virginia Woolf or Somerset Maugham because listener satisfaction comes from the last half of their stories.
“A Room with a View” begins with an English tourist’s visit to Italy. A young girl, Lucy, is chaperoned and the story begins with their arrival at a hotel where some rooms have a view and others do not. Lucy and her companions are disgruntled because they were to have rooms with a view. After confused discussion about the mix-up, an English father and son offer their accommodation to the ladies because they have a view. This is Lucy and the English son’s first meeting.
A trip to Rome from Florence is planned. Lucy is kissed by the English son in a field of flowers. Lucy’s chaperone sees what has occurred and immediately packs Lucy up, returns to Florence and books passage back to England. Lucy becomes engaged to an aesthete, repressed Englishman and presumes she will marry and never hear again of her brief romantic encounter in Italy.
Views change. In a Dickensian coincidence, George Emerson and his father re-enter Lucy’s life. George kisses Lucy again and questions the suitability of her fiancé. Lucy re-evaluates her life and tells her fiancé that she cannot marry him because they are too different from each other. The fiancé agrees with Lucy’s assessment of their incompatibility without knowing about George. The fiancé gallantly accepts Lucy’s evaluation, seems to take the observations to heart as a revelation for personal reform, and leaves.
If a listener survives the pace of these events, the story has hooked its prey. What will Lucy do? Has her fiancé left forever or will a reevaluation of his life compel him to return? Will George marry Lucy? Is Lucy’s judgment impaired by infatuation rather than true love?
Is “A Room with a View” a classic or is it pulp fiction? Forster, like Woolf and Maugham, has stood the test of time and many critics. Not everything they have written is liked by all but few if any writers meet that standard.