A Room with A View by E.M. Forster- A Review

“It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.”

 

I love a good romance novel and this one is set in the Edwardian era so I knew I had to read it. I had previously read the memorable opening of the novel during an English lesson because it was an unseen text for a mock exam. After finding out who had written the piece I stored it in my mind as something which could be read later. The Italian side intrigued me because I didn’t know much of tourism in the Edwardian era. Now get ready for some spoilers.

 

The novel is concerned with a young woman’s emotional growth on a trip to Italy as she slowly sheds the constraints placed on her through rejecting a stuffy fiancé in favour of true love with a more passionate man. ‘A Room with a View’ is a Romance but it is also a Comedy of Manners with constant quips and grains of wisdom. I went into it with very high expectations so I ended up being disappointed. I often felt there was more scope for both comedy and romance. Aside from Cecil, many characters felt unmemorable and their various stereotypes weren’t pronounced enough to create a funny effect. I also expected it to be more fast- paced and it did sometimes drag.

 

I must stress that I though the plot itself was without fault; my main criticism is about the style and execution. Of course, I am open to a second reading because some books tend to improve upon further reading such as ‘The Great Gatsby’. Moreover, there were parts that really did resonate with me. The dilemma that Lucy faced and her characterization were brilliantly done. Forster really does show the constraints of Edwardian society and the way it can result in mental decay especially for women. Equally, he creates the possibility of a more fulfilling and imaginative existence very vividly that Lucy’s rejection of Cecil really does feel quite revolutionary.

 

I would still recommend ‘A Room with a View’ and will give it a second chance. Please let me know what things you enjoyed about it so I can look out for them in future.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton- A Review

“She had been fashioned to adorn and delight”

 

Having previously read ‘The Age of Innocence’ for an English essay on marriage, I was already acquainted with Wharton’s ability to analysis New York society through sharp and cutting social commentary. ‘House of Mirth’ is probably the more famous of the two novels as it cemented Wharton’s reputation as a writer. However, I don’t wish to compare the works too frequently. If you haven’t read beforehand, be warned that my review will almost certainly contain spoilers.

 

The novel traces the fall of penniless socialite Lily Bart down the rigid New York hierarchy till her eventual death from an overdose of sleeping draught. But it is not these events in themselves that make the novel so captivating. Rather, it’s the way in which her fall is traced and presented as an almost inevitable downward spiral. Of course, there were plenty of opportunities for Lily to remedy her position but for reasons of honour and conduct she often chooses to decline them. Yet Wharton’s narrative makes the downward spiral seem so unavoidable that the reader cannot truly dislike Lily for her decisions.

 

For me the characterisation of Lily Bart was the strongest part of the novel. The novel’s other characters are simply not as compelling and they do tend to blur together in their hypocrisy and close mindedness. It really does feel as though it is Lily alone battling against this mass, whose values she hold so dear even though they lead to her destruction. Indeed, her circumstances are very tragically ironic. Lily’s lack of agency makes her more striking because we are put into her closeted life. Each idea and hope she has is rapidly crushed by external circumstance or her internal morals and we are with her through each defeat.

 

By contrast, Lawrence Selden is much less interesting perhaps because we do not enter his mind as much. I found his rejection of society and rebelliousness less admirable because unlike Lily he has such an option. As a bachelor and a lawyer, he can distance himself from society because he does not need it as acutely as Lily. The love story between Lawrence and Lily was in my opinion, of secondary importance. It never felt likely to come together. Ultimately, it is a story of social ruin not love so their relationship became a plot device to chart that. Selden is almost like the reader as he has a more sympathetic reaction to Lily’s misery.

 

The distinction between men and women and the elite and ordinary is drawn very distinctly in the novel. Money and gender relations are inextricably linked as Lily presents marriage, as being strategic and calculated. It reminds us of how matrimony is somewhat superficial and based on financial and social gain. Men give women security through marriage but ironically each time Lily receives any money or emotional support from a man it is condemned as scandal. The hypocrisy is infuriating for the modern reader as you begin to feel just as confined as Lily who is punished by her own beauty and kindness which are so valued by New York society.

 

I know I probably haven’t touched on all the themes presented in the novel but these were the ones that I found most striking. If you want to read about tragedy, social hierarchy and suppression of women ‘House of Mirth’ is definitely right for you. I would love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments. Please be free to disagree with me if you adore Lawrence Selden or find Lily Bart to be foolish.

The typical and difficult first post

To kick off my adventures into the blogosphere, I’m going to introduce myself. What better way to approach this awkward task than by using a list?

I love history.

I’ve studied it since I was 12 and it’s always been a favourite so I’m going to spend £9,250 a year to carry on because it’s difficult to imagine my life without it. I love a good history documentary and my guilty pleasures tend to be period dramas that are grossly inaccurate or camp. Downton Abbey I’m looking at you.

But I also love Art and Art History.

I nearly ended up studying Art History at university. It’s always something I’ll wonder about but I’m happy with my decision. I still try to keep Art in my life through visiting galleries. I used to study Art A Level which I loved because it let me improve my drawing and painting skills and think more creatively. Currently, I’m trying to get back into making art and salvaging everything I learnt in two years.

I have a lot passions that I need to put more effort into. 

Art can be included in this. But I have lots of other projects or aims that I want to fulfil during my gap year. Learning Spanish, running long distances and starting a blog are the more ambitious ones.

I’m Indian- sort of.

This is a tricky one that can’t fully be explored in a few lines. My parents are definitely Indian and I even spent five years of my life in India. We moved to the UK in the 90s and have been here ever since so I’m not sure what that makes me. ‘Second generation immigrant’  is probably the best term but of course it’s deeper than that.

I’m short -really short.

Not like in a 5″3 way. Frankly, I would be grateful to reach the 5 foot mark because I come in at 4″10.  This is quite amusing so I’ve been exposed to most short-jokes imaginable. People also feel the need to tell me I am short because apparently I don’t know it myself. This is greatest joke of all.

I would say I am a cat person but I appreciate a good doge meme.

My life and bed is shared by two furry critters by the name of Cookie and Casper who are the best things in life. There will be pictures later but for now you will have to trust me when I say they are adorable.

I love most animals so I’ve decided not to eat them anymore. 

Going veggie wasn’t a big dramatic change because I’d been considering it for a long time. I slowly started to cut down on my intake. My last non-vegetarian meal was a chicken stir fry on an aeroplane from American. Looking back, I should’ve made sure it was a nicer meal that wasn’t heated up in a metal box at 36,000 feet.

I went to a grammar school.

Again, this isn’t something I can fully discuss in a few lines because a lot happened. It’s made me who I am today and I am very grateful for having the opportunity to be educated at some of the best schools in the country. It was pressurised and towards the end, almost unbearable but I made it out alive with plenty of advice and study tips so you don’t make the same mistakes!

Documenting life is very important to me. 

This is probably the reason why I’ve decided to blog as it’s just another way of preserving memories. I have a diary and a bullet journal too which I know I will appreciate looking at in years time. Hopefully this blog can also be something to fondly look back at.