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20. E. M. Forster, "A Room With A View"
el_staplador wrote in queerlit50
... and we're back to dead British authors writing about Italy and snobbery. (And, incidentally, earworming me something chronic.) Interesting clustering, given that in my head my ideal Big Happy Queer City is Paris, and nowhere in Italy at all. (Yes, I've already read The Well of Loneliness...)

As it is, we're back in Florence, perhaps twenty years before the Pappagalli begin to spread their wings. Once again, the focus is on the English at home and abroad. Lucy Honeychurch, who is getting on for the nicest character in the book, is travelling with her depressing cousin Charlotte, 'doing' Italy, staying in a respectable pension with other respectable English people. Only some of them are not so respectable... oh, England, England, so tied up in class! We've come a long way, and, reading this, one might very well say, thank goodness. In 1908, if you don't get, or can't be bothered with, the rules, you've had it, and no nice English girl will look twice at you. (Except when she does.) The trouble begins with the view over the Arno, and, specifically, the room with that view.

Very rich in description - in the good way. I was wandering through some of the parts of Surrey (only lightly fictionalised in ARWAV) a few weekends back; times change, views change, but Forster bridges the gap skilfully. He - or, rather, the Penguin editor - thoughtfully includes a few pages, entitled 'A View Without A Room', written mid-century by way of an update. What happened to everybody in the war, and so forth.

With regard to gender issues, it's almost ahead of its time. Almost, I say - actually, a lot was happening in 1908. The author's tacit implication that Lucy ought to have her own life is a breath of fresh air. Apart from Lucy, I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Mr Beebe, who is very much in the model of Trollope's Mr Harding - a thoroughly likeable and perceptive clergyman who is all too human. Which leads me to the bit I was not so keen on: the implication that a life lived alone, particularly for a woman, is some kind of perversion. Personified in Charlotte, averted in Lucy, it's plain depressing and wrong. And ironic, given that the First World War is looming on the horizon, and the world is about to discover just how useful single women can be...

Nothing much in the way of queer scenes, unless you count the skinny-dipping. But he could only write Maurice once, after all.

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I think Forster was especially occupied with alone-ness, and particularly feared it. It's too bad that it ties up with so much of what has been said (and continues to be said) about women in our society, because I really think it's more about Foster's own view of the world.

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