When thinking about my White Whale pick for Bingo this year I was coming up short. Then the Go Fug Yourself Book Club on Goodreads voted to read A Room with a View for October and I found my whale. Many classics are heavy reads, but I found A Room with a View to be refreshingly light on the whole with some lively characters. It’s an accessible story, funny, biting, poignant, wistful, romantic. It’s a study of (mostly) good people, who love one another as best they can, who save one another from muddles.
The plot, from Goodreads is as follows: Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance. Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Bertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George. Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Edwardian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil. Will she ever learn to follow her own heart?
I love the word muddle, and it shows up throughout the novel. Mr. Emerson tells Lucy she has gotten herself into a muddle. And it was, indeed, a muddle with all the lying she was doing near the end of the novel. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The conflict of the book is between open kindness and honesty, and strict adherence to manners. But the heart of this book is the romance. George and Lucy barely know each other and are young but do grow up over the course of the book. The romance between Lucy and George is like one of the songs Lucy plays and in leaving the conventional, boring Cecil, Lucy is choosing to live as she plays. What I wasn’t necessarily expecting was the observations about societal norms, especially George’s speech where he declares that while he and Cecil share some of the same flaws that he loves Lucy better, in a real way, because he wants her to have her own thoughts. A good book and a whale I’m glad to have finally taken on.
Bingo Square: White Whale