After returning from Italy, a young woman struggles to adjust to her new fiance, and quell the disturbing yearnings for romance so recently awakened.
The first half follows English rose Lucy Honeychurch’s trip in Florence with her rather annoying cousin/chaperone Charlotte. Lucy and Charlotte fall in with a group of fellow countrymen, several of whom the find quite vulgar. When Lucy witnesses a murder in a public square, she catches the fancy of young George, who proceeds with a disastrously improper attempt at pitching woo in a picturesque glade. Lucy is humiliated, and runs back into the bosom of mother England and engages herself to supercilious Cecil Vyse.
Lucy’s mind constantly returns to the scene in the glade, and Forster uses her contemplations to develop notions of love, romance, sentiment, and passion. He brings great intellectual force to bear on the nature of love, but does so through the hopes and dreams of a girl seeking answers to questions she doesn’t yet know how to ask.
Forster has a keen eye for human nature, particularly when those human beings are deluded or acting foolish, and these insights feel modern even though the courtship process has changed/disappeared. And Lucy is one of the most charming characters in literature, flaws and all.
I was not engaged with the book, however, until Lucy returned to England. I found Forster’s writing too elliptical in many parts, too much like the metaphysical ending of A Passage to India. It’s beautiful writing, but not grounded enough. Too much poetry, not enough soul for me. But I imagine that when I reread this book–and reread it I certainly will–I’ll get more out of it . (My brain was a little frizzled from a bit too much reading for work.)
I read this book for the Winter Classics Challenge, which is now over. I didn’t finish it in time, but I’m fine with that because I’m a speedreading underachiever. Check out fellow challenge entrant Petunia’s review, too.