Monday, August 13, 2007

Just freakin' say what you mean!


I always thought it would be romantic to live in the times of corsets (This was before I knew that tight corsets could rearrange a girl's innards.). When there were gentlemen and manners, simplicity and.... I think that I had an unrealistic fantasy of history.

But really? I think just maybe life back then may well have been boring. I think that's why I never did read Austen when I was young. I tried once. I'm not sure which book it was, but my ever-wise mother pushed it on me, and I gave it a shot. What I found within (for the handful of pages I allotted) was a world full of gossiping and meaningless chatter about clothing and balls. No one SAID what they were thinking. It drove me nuts, and before I could cotton on to the satire or humor, I gave up. Never, so far, to return.

It's this memory that A Room with a View evokes; a society so concerned with propriety and appearances, that honesty isn't at all valued. I can't help it (well, I probably could, but my soul would rot), if I have an opinion, I will state it. I will be honest. I'm not going to assault people with opinions they don't want to hear, but I'm not going to pretend to feel anyway other than how I feel. I can hold my tongue, but the result is often an awkward silence heavy with things unsaid. I haven't quite figured out how to get out of those yet. Which is why I think that perhaps I wouldn't fair will in those olden days. It's also a MAJOR point of conflict in Forster's classic. And thus, August's Book Group selection.

Sonia, a fellow librarian and occasional Book Group participant, asked me upon arrival whether I liked the book. I told her that I would decide after we discussed it. It turns out that I do like this book. I certainly respect it. I might just read it again someday. Or maybe I'll just watch the movie. I hear tell it's good. Sonia and I decided that had we discovered this novel in college, it would have been a perfect subject for one of those interminable papers. Assuming, of course, the freedom to actually pick your own subject matter. A rare thing, indeed.

Lucy is a perfectly proper girl. She goes where she should, does what she should, thinks what she should think. It doesn't really occur to her that there is any other option. Until Florence. On holiday with her very proper spinster cousin, a small spark of individuality ignites. It's most appalling to her at first, but eventually, the freedom she felt only in her music can't be snuffed out despite what she knows to be proper. Right isn't always socially acceptable.

Reasons why I like this book:

If Forster were alive today, and happened to be, you know, sitting next to me (why not?), I'd smack him about the head for pages 184-5. I just about threw the book across the room, I had such a physical reaction. I didn't realize how much I had invested in the story until I thought I'd be robbed of my happy ending.

"'It is so difficult...to understand people who speak the truth. ... When he first came here he not unnaturally put people's backs up. He has no tact and no manners - I don't mean by that that he has bad manners - and he will not keep his opinions to himself'" p 8.
"...the ghoulish fashion in which respectable people with nibble after blood" p 48.
"'...for we fight for more than Love or Pleasure: there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count'" p 191.

It's about class and manners and love and truth. Sometimes the words get in the way, but deep down, that's what it's all about. Truth does count.

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My obsession with Honesty shall continue with some rather... unflattering reviews this weekend (how many is several, again?). After we get those out of our system, I'll review some of the BEST I've read this year (hint: look over in that right column, and you might just know which books...)

Interesting coincidental observation: this is the 3rd book group in a row whose setting is primarily England, and the 4th in a row for the blog. This shall change on Wednesday, when you shall see the first round of the ONE SHOT WORLD TOUR. Wednesday's edition is BEST READ WITH VEGEMITE. Guess which country we visit first! You can find the full multi-blog schedule in several places, but try Colleen first.

Good grief, this post is long.

3 comments:

Sonia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sonia said...

Truth does count..nice. Great review :) I used to want to live in corset times too. Or Little House on the Prairie times- talk about an unrealistic fantasy of history though.

eisha said...

Oh yeah. I liked this book too. But SEE THE MOVIE. It cuts the wordy bits out. And JULIAN SANDS! OMG, he was so hot in that!