10 March 2007

79. E.M. Forster, A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Well, I said I was going to go back to my Modern Library dreams, and I just finished my first book of the year, E.M. Forster's A ROOM WITH A VIEW.

The room in question is a hotel room in Florence, Italy, in a hotel where two women, Charlotte and Lucy, are staying. Charlotte is older and is sort of Lucy's chaperone. Their first night at the hotel they meet a man and his son George who have the view, and offer it to the women. Charlotte turns them down, saying it wouldn't be proper for the two women to say where two men had been staying. Eventually she relents, and they take the room and become acquainted with the man and his son (the Emersons), as well as other characters staying at the hotel. Somewhat later, Lucy and Charlotte go home and the book changes to a more domestic scene.

I "got" this book via e-mail (Dailylit), which may be why I had a hard time getting into this one at first. Sure, we all have first and last names like the characters did, but keeping track of whose last name belonged to whom was a little distracting. And halfway through we get a whole new cast of characters as the trip ends. Still, there was a point at which it all fell into place. I only wish I could tell you where in the 89 e-mails that point lay...

If published today, I think this book may have been shelved under chick lit. "Lucy thought her life was perfect... until one trip to Italy and a sexy new suitor forced her to rethink it all." I'm thinking Marian Keyes. (And don't take that as a negative! While I lived in Spain I read a lot of Keyes books in Spanish, to pick up some slang and get a break from my course reading.) Then again, the whole social critique aspect of the book -- especially dealing with tourists abroad and the changing state of unmarried women -- would have to be updated substantially, although its questions are often still pertinent.

As for Dailylit, I'm going to keep using it, but I think it's best for shorter books. Some weeks I would let Monday through Friday's e-mails pile up, and I think if I had seen "Part 27 of 403" in the subject line I might have just given up entirely. So I'm going to take one of the shortest books, and one that I really should have read by now, Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. Speaking of educational must-reads, I think everyone else I know was forced to read this in school at some point. Better late than never!

Ellen VS. The Modern Library: 41-59

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