Thursday, May 16, 2013

"A Room with a View" by E. M. Forster (again)

Remember when I re-read Pride and Prejudice only a few months after my previous reading, and I said it was a very different experience?  I was able to look at it more from the standpoint of a writer rather than reading strictly for enjoyment, and I learned a few things from it I wouldn't have otherwise.

When my husband read my post about that experience, he asked me if I'd ever re-read any other books close together like that.  And I realized I really haven't.  Oh, I've occasionally read a book over again as soon as I'd finished it for the first time, just because I didn't want to leave that world and my new-found friends there.  I know I did that with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I used to do it more often when I was younger and had more time to read.

So when I got my own copy of A Room with a View from my mom as a birthday present, I decided to read it again right away, to see if once again, as second reading in quick succession led to some new revelations.  Plus, there's a revelation on the very last page of the book that completely changes your view of one of the characters (I won't spoil it further), and I wanted to see if that revelation really did make the character's actions seem different all through the book.  (Kind of like how I wanted to re-see The Sixth Sense right away to see if the main character's back was ever visible through the rest of the movie.)  And not only did that character's actions make a completely different kind of sense this time through, but I definitely had a different reading experience than I did the first time.

For one thing, I didn't laugh as much as I did the first time.  I tend to laugh at surprising or delighting things, absurdities, and characters behaving so very much like themselves that they amuse me.  The latter only works when I already thoroughly know a character, which is part of why I love a lot of series so much.  Because I have this desire to imaginarily befriend characters, the more time I get to spend with them the better I get to know them, and the happier I am.

Okay, to get back on track here, I also really picked up on Forster's emphasis between dark and light this time.  When Lucy is trying to convince herself to marry Cecil, it says, "She disliked confidences, for they might lead to self-knowledge and to that king of terrors -- Light"  (p. 158).  Later, when Lucy comes to understand herself, it says, "the darkness was withdrawn, veil after veil, and she saw to the bottom of her soul" (p. 167).  It seems this "darkness" represents, not evil, but more like self-delusion, despair, ignorance.  Light, by contrast, then represents self-knowledge, hope, truth.  If you pay attention to when Forster mentions either light or dark in relation to a specific character, even if one of them is standing in a shadow or the sunlight, you can better understand what he's saying about that character's attitudes and beliefs.  I should really re-read it a third time and mark all the instances, because I didn't really notice this theme until about halfway through the book.

And finally, I just absolutely fell in love with Freddy Honeychurch this time around.  He's so very genuine and boyish and real.  Last time, I kept expecting him to get annoying, and kind of reserved my affection in fear of such an event.  Not so this read-through.  I think he may actually become my favorite character of all.

Okay, that's enough rambling.  I have a head cold and have taken a decongestant, which always discombobulate me, and I'm actually not sure this will make any sense whatsoever to anyone else.  Oh well.  Onward and upward!

Particularly Good Bits:

On the cornice of the wardrobe, the hand of an amateur had painted this inscription:  "Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes" (p. 102).

The armour of falsehood is subtly wrought out of darkness, and hides a man not only from others, but from his own soul (p. 132).

"I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms" (p. 136).  (My favorite line in the whole book.)

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  PG for a bunch of grown men skinny dipping in a pond and getting caught.


  1. I noticed that you were reading this one and thought "Didn't she just read that one really recently?" Of course you did! You're review convinced me to try it. And now I'm slowly making my way through. Slowly being the key word because I'm not reading it every single day. But I am enjoying it so far! And since it's my first time, there are lots of absurd moments that make me laugh. ;) The things some of the characters will say or think!

    1. Hooray! I'm so excited you're trying it -- and liking it! I laughed and laughed the first time through. I think I'll put it away for a few years now, so the next time I read it it will make me laugh again :-D


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