Secrets, Symbolism, and Sexuality:
Why “A Room With a View” is Still a Must-Read

On Our Bookshelves: A Room With a View


NOVEL: A Room With a View

AUTHOR: E.M. Forster



Young Lucy Honeychurch plays piano passionately and beautifully. The Reverend Mr. Beebe observes that “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting–both for us and for her.”

A thoroughly conventional, always chaperoned, sheltered, proper Edwardian woman, she has to make a choice about whether to live by society’s rules and do what is expected of her, or pursue what her heart desires. (First, of course, she has to figure out just what it is that her heart desires.)


Some have interpreted this romantic and optimistic novel as a metaphor for E.M. Forster’s struggles with his own sexuality, Lucy, with her choices to make in life, being something of an alter ego for a closeted gay man. (Forster’s only novel to address homosexuality directly was the controversial and posthumously-published Maurice.) I think that reading makes good sense, but the theme of choosing one’s own path and rejecting what’s false, pretentious, and repressive is even larger than that, and really does speak to everyone.


Pay close attention to the names in this book; Forster isn’t as heavy handed as Dickens, but Lucy means “light,” and Cecil means “blind.” The Emersons seem to allude to Ralph Waldo (and the other transcendentalists).


Plus there’s a trip to Florence, a field of violets, impulsive kisses, boys skinny dipping with the vicar, secrets kept, secrets told, and some notable instances of surprising decency. Read it, and buy a copy for someone you love.


(There’s also a terrific Merchant Ivory film of A Room with a View from 1985, with Helena Bonham Carter starring as Lucy, and also featuring Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, and Daniel Day-Lewis. Watch it with someone you love.)

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 5 Whistles





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An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

What If?, Randall Munroe

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham


Lead-In Image: Zastolskiy Victor /


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at