When Lucy Honeychurch arrives in Florence she’s feeling peevish and disappointed. After travelling abroad for the first time Lucy finds their little hotel filled with fellow Britons, and even the woman in charge speaks English with a Cockney accent. What’s the point of leaving England if you’re still surrounded by the same people? Plus, Lucy and her chaperoning cousin were promised rooms with a view of the Arno river, and instead their accommodations look over a courtyard. But when a rough around the edges man and his enigmatic son offer to switch rooms, Lucy’s horrified, uptight, passive-aggressive cousin (played by Maggie Smith in the 1985 movie) is sure that would NOT be proper. Lucy (portrayed in the film by Helena Bonham Carter) wavers, confused. Where is the balance between embracing experience and living within the rules of propriety? If I could give A Room with a View more than 5 stars I would. E. M. Forster writes beautifully, and he tells Lucy’s story with both sympathy and insight.
The Demon in the House and Summer Half are two of the 30(!) books in Angela Thirkell’s witty and wonderful Barsetshire series, set in Britain during the 1930’s and 40’s. Thirkell borrowed her imaginary English countryside setting from Anthony Trollope, and descendants of a few of his characters make appearances in her stories. Highly entertaining.
Moving, hard-to-put-down, sometimes heartbreaking, and utterly fascinating, Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart is less massive than Juliet Barker’s The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors, but it’s a good choice for someone not ready to dive into the delights of Barker’s thorough, 1,000+ page tome. In spite of the title, Charlotte is the main but not only focus this new biography, because it also covers the lives of Emily, Anne, Branwell and their father--they were such a close family it would be impossible to leave any of them out. All four of the siblings were imaginative and obsessive writers so that from a very young age they were creating their own shared literary worlds. I especially enjoyed the way Harman related the novels the sisters published to their life experiences. Anyone who loves Jane Eyre, or who is interested in life outside of London during the middle of Victoria's reign, will find this biography fascinating. I read an advanced review copy given to me by the publisher; review opinions are mine.