Saturday, July 28, 2007

Review: Room with a View by E M Forster

Get it here
I saw the film based on this book back in 1988, when I was 20 years old. Perhaps you remember it: Julian Sands got to plant the most romantic kiss in history on Helena Bonham-Carter. The fact that Julian's career didn't quite reach the highest of heights may well be put down to the fact that a generation of young men with floppy fringes envy him with all their souls.
So I was quite keen to dive into the book, especially as I had a cast of characters in period costume lined up in my head. And what a treat it is.
Firstly, its very funny. Secondly, its very wise. Thirdly, it is much more to do with snobbery and class divisions than I expected. Everyone in the film looks roughly equal - something the book makes clear is not the case.
The plot is simple enough - a love triangle between the free thinking George Emerson, the priggish aesthete Cecil, and the lovely Lucy, who is torn between the conventional choices of her upbringing, and the incomprehensible yearnings of her soul.
The horror for me is realising that at age 20, when I thought George Emerson was the coolest man alive, I was actually doing a fairly good approximation of Cecil, who can only appreciate virtues in objects, and not in people - except by treating them as objects.
The emancipation of women is an implicit theme, and it is jarring to realise how little some attitudes have changed since 1908, when this book was written. George's wish for his wife to have her own mind will not be shared with every modern bridgegroom. The weaknesses of the book derive from Mr Forsters attempts to layer the story with a Renaissance vs Gothic theme, and a very Cecil-like summary of the competing merits of Beethoven and Schumann.

This is read by Kara Shallenberg, AKA Kayray, who is an unstoppable force of positivity in all her Librivoxian dealings. Her sunny, warm voice brings the whole work to life, and seems especially alive to the many comic episodes. In the years to come, when they sing folk songs about her (and they will), they may well mention this reading as a keeper.


Kara said...


I'm so glad you liked it!

Ah, yes, it's a wonderful film, just wonderful. Sighhhhh.

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