One-Minute Book Reviews

April 15, 2008

Did Masterpiece Theater Get It Right With ‘A Room With a View’?

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:05 pm
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I missed the new production of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View on PBS on Sunday night, so I can’t comment on its success or lack of it. But it would be easy to misread Forster as a romanticist — just as it’s easy to misread Jane Austen that way — based on A Room With a View. David Garnett avoids the trap in his Great Friends: Portraits of Seventeen Writers (Atheneum, 1980). Forster was a social reformer, notes Garnett, the late author of Aspects of Love and son of the Russian translator Constance Garnett. All of his novels are about “the tyranny of conventions, the subjection of women and the indifference or contempt of the British upper middle class for all people of different race or origin.”

Forster typically assaults his society by bringing in an outsider who exposes its hypocrisy. That role goes in A Room With a View to old Mr. Emerson, whose son George comes between Lucy Honeychurch and her attachment to the dull Cecil: “Mr. Emerson is the touchstone who shows up the values of the conventional middle classes as genteel nonsense and brings the book to a happy ending by telling the heroine that, ‘Love is of the body’ – which she doesn’t understand at once, but which makes her see that the engagement she had accepted would not do.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Forster certainly is not a ‘romance writer’. But A Room with a View is about love, as well as about many other issues, among them the ubiquitous social inequalities of his time. These themes are not mutually exclusive of each other. A good writer is one that can integrate these complex issues in an insightful and captivating manner in his story. Both Forster and Austen are successful in this way. The multiplicity of roles and emphasis certainly are at work too. Zadie Smith’s 2003 Orange Word Lecture on Forster, Austen, and love offers an ingenious perspective on this subject.

    Comment by Arti — April 15, 2008 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

  2. That lecture sounds great. Thanks so much for calling it to my attention. I’ll read it and perhaps quote from it on this site at some point.


    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — April 16, 2008 @ 12:17 am | Reply

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