Sometime in the first decade of the 20th Century, young Miss Lucy Honeychurch is in Florence with her older, constantly worrying cousin Charlotte Bartlett as companion and chaperone. When they discover that the rooms they’ve been assigned have no nice view, Lucy is disappointed. An older gentleman, Mr. Emerson, offers to trade them, as the rooms he and his son were given have lovely views. “Ladies care about that sort of thing, men do not”. Miss Bartlett is worried about the impropriety of the trade, that accepting the rooms may leave them in debt to these strangers, but is convinced by other guests, and Lucy gets her view.
During her stay in Italy, Lucy discovers art and architecture and when she manages to escape the overbearing presence of her cousin, she quite enjoys herself. Luckily, Charlotte makes friends with the vaguely ridiculous lady novelist, Eleanor Lavish, so seems a bit distracted much of the time. Lucy has several encounters with the Emersons, who seem to have fairly radical notions for the time, both of social and gender equality. George, the son, seems to be of a rather gloomy and melancholy disposition, but the father is always cheerful and friendly.
While on one of her rambles, Lucy witnesses a man being stabbed to death in square, swoons and wakes up in the arms of young George Emerson. Later, during an outing in the Florentine countryside, George kisses Lucy on a hillside covered in violets, but they are interrupted by a shocked Charlotte before anything else can happen. Miss Bartless whisks her charge off to Rome before anything else untoward can happen, and Lucy and George don’t see each other again.
Several months later, back in England, Lucy accepts the marriage proposal of Mr. Cecil Vyse, the third time he asks her for her hand (the first having been in Rome and the second in the Alps). Lucy’s brother Freddy is none too happy about this turn of events, as he finds Cecil a stuffy and pretentious bore, but Mrs. Honeychurch is pleased for her daughter, as the Vyses are in a more rarefied social circle than the Honeychurches. Lucy’s future looks set to be predictable, respectable and rather dull, with her thoughts, tastes and opinions carefully curated by her future husband. Then the Emersons unexpectedly let a house in the neighbourhood and Lucy is suddenly torn as to what she really wants.
I was disappointed with the book, as I thought it much less romantic than the movie adaptation. When looking up the link for the book on Amazon, it turns out someone wrote a “Wild and Wanton” version. Somehow, despite my wish for more overt romance in this, I think I’ll skip it.