Friday, August 1, 2008

A Room With a View by E. M. Forster

This review is special for two reasons. First, it's another I pulled from my archive as I am not quite ready to post a new review. Second, it includes my review of both movie adaptatoins of the book.

I read A Room With a View by E. M. Forster last summer. The book is divided into two parts. As it happened I read the first part the day before to my daughter's birth (I just didn't know it then) and the second part I didn't get around to reading until a week or two after she arrived. I'm not sure if that had anything to do with it, but I found the first part of the book a little slow and confusing and the last part of the book faster paced and interesting.

A Room With a View is the story of a young English woman, Lucy Honeychurch around the turn of the last century. As I mentioned the story is divided into two parts.

The first part takes place in Florence, Italy where Lucy has traveled with her older and maiden chaperon. While in Italy she meets a handsome young man, George Emerson. Lucy becomes confused over her feelings for him and her internal struggle for adventure and excitement all the while knowing what is expected of her as a proper young woman. During a group trip to the country Lucy finds herself suddenly alone in a field with George. George becomes overcome with Lucy's beauty amongst the flowers and kisses her. Shocked at his "insulting" behavior Lucy's chaperon whisks her off to another city in Italy.

In the second part of the book they have returned to England and Lucy is engaged to a family friend, Cecil, whom they ran into during their travels (post Florence). It appears that Lucy has given up her dreams of adventure and any feelings towards George and has settled for what is right and proper when suddenly George reappears and confesses his love to Lucy.

I am not an E. M. Forster fan, but I did enjoy the book. The writing style as I mentioned was a little slow at first, but did pick up as the story progressed. Many of the supporting characters are very Victorian, especially Cevil, while Lucy and George seem to have the mind and will of a spirited younger generation what you'd expect to see in the roaring 20s. The copy I read was borrowed from the library and was only 242 pages.

As a side note, A Room With A View has been made into two films. The first in 1985 staring well knowns that include Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Daniel Day-Lewis. This version stays fairly close to the book and is a worthwhile watch, excepting a completely unnecessary swimming scene (*note: be ready to fast forward/DVD scene skip. This scene wasn't included as such in the book... at least I didn't pick up on it if it was implied.) The actors are good and the costumes beautiful. The video quality isn't the best, perhaps because it is an older film, but the ending is true to the book and the movie is overall good.

The most recent version, filmed in 2007, which aired on PBS in early 2008 also included a few familiar faces. Lucy's chaperon, Charlotte (Emma '96, Persuasion '95), Cecil (Becoming Jane, Miss Marple, Foyle's War, Gosford Park), Mr. Beebe (Sense & Sensibility '08, Stardust), and Mr. Emerson (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Enchanted). What I didn't like about this version is that screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride & Prejudice '95) took several liberties with the story. But still the film was well made, the actors well chosen, the costumes beautiful and the video quality very good. Unfortunately there still is that unnecessary swimming scene (note quite as bad as the '85 version, but still a worthwhile scene skip). As for the ending, it starts off with the book ending, but then Davies takes some more liberties and when it was finished I was rather disappointed.

So in a nutshell. If you're interested in the story plot -- read the book. If you want to or prefer to see the movie it's a toss up which one you should watch. Both are good, but have their failings. The book is the best of the three.

No comments: