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"Then Miss Lavish said: 'Tut! The early Victorians.' Just imagine! 'Tut! The early Victorians.'"

Some of you might remember how very much I hated The Scarlet Pimpernel, published in 1905 and one of the most sentimental, shitty novels I've ever read. It made me regret my usual stance of pining for a bygone age, because if the people of that age liked Baroness Emmuska Orczy's writing, we would clearly not get along. But A Room With a View, published in 1908, semi-redeems that literary period in English history.

I've long avoided E.M. Forster's novels, partially due to a confusion with English novelist C.S. Forester (how am I not supposed to confuse those two?), who wrote The African Queen, which the 1951 super-awesome Katharine Hepburn/Humphrey Bogart movie was based upon. I read The African Queen while going through my teenage puritanical phase, and my young sensibilities were SHOCKED and thoroughly dismayed by the cavalier nature with which Mr. Forster discusses Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart's characters going to bed with each other. "SEX HAS NO PLACE IN A DECENT NOVEL," my mind thundered.

As a side note, I was also a big teenage proponent of the Hays Code, i.e. the rules that forbade all kinds of licentious behavior in films prior to pretty much the 1950s when things started gettin' all racy. Needless to say, I was not fun at parties.

One of my several issues with this Really Quite Good But at the Same Time Slow, Dragging work is that I don't understand how people in 1908 liked it, unless they were all obsessed with Italy (which, let's admit, there's a good chance they were). I avoided it for years because I hate that long period in English lit where they had Let's Go on a Soul-Enlightening Trip to Italy! novels scattered all around (although I guess we've never left that phase -- I'm looking at you, Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love). But at least living in 2011, when I started reading it, and Forster referenced the Piazza Signoria, I could and did just google image that shit. Did everyone in England have some kind of intense knowledge of Italian landmarks, so they didn't need to find a picture of it? Forster seems to assume they know all about this one piazza in Florence. Maybe they did.

The piazza apparently EVERYONE KNOWS
I should confess I haven't finished this book yet, but I've watched the second half of the movie, so I feel justified in posting about it.

It has characters who are actually meant to be idiotic, which is a pleasant change from the fricking Pimpernel. They deliver fantastic, pretentious statements while waxing rhapsodic about the countryside, like "Ah, the town! Beautiful as it is, it is the town." There were also some excellent chapter titles, which will make me love a book despite other glaring faults (such as it being really, really boring and having pages and pages of characters sitting around thinking about how bored they are, and QUELLE COINCIDENCE, characters). But yes, "Music, Violets, and the Letter 'S'" you won me over.

There's a lot of looking out at Italian views (NOT SO OFTEN FROM ROOMS -- I could've said 'vistas' there, but that would not have been as amusing) and the main character Lucy having no idea how she feels ever, and lots of repressed Edwardian people trying to reinforce their repressedness on the next generation, but that generation is RESISTING. In general, you feel like the author is intelligent and Somehow Knows What He's Doing, which is nice.

Actually, this is one of the few books that's made me interested in its author. I feel like I would like him more than the book. C.S. Forster, I will be reading about you on Wikipedia and assuming everything I read is true because I refuse to exercise my research skills beyond that point.


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