A Room with a View

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 6. Book #1, Florence by Isabel1 Comment

The first book I chose to read was “A Room with a View” by E. M. Foster. Right off the bat, I was reading about feelings and sensations I myself have felt, feelings that are universal to those who travel, particularly in Italy. If there are stages of grief, there are certainly stages of travel: excitement, fear, lost and found. These different stages are perfectly shown through Lucy Honeychurch, the leading lady of the novel. She finds herself in Florence with her overbearing cousin Charlotte in the way that most people find themselves in a new country with a family member or two at a younger age. She starts off quite excited, though if anything, a little disillusioned by the need to have everything be perfectly lovely; “It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room…. To fling wide the windows… to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches…” (p.14.) The title problem arises at the beginning of the book; having a room with a view. Why is this so important? Because if one is to travel to a beautiful place such as Italy, everything must go perfectly, right? This is the mindset she seems to have; that idyllic idea that we all get in our heads when we imagine going abroad. When one pictures going to Florence, they see their perfect little room with the beautiful view of the city, wandering about the piazzas, eating the delicious foods, and taking in the delicate sights. This is how Lucy first goes about her trip, with this romanticized idea of going with the flow; “We will simply drift,” (p.17), though since she has a chaperone and seems to live a sheltered life, she doesn’t really know what this means.

This illusion comes crashing down the second she is left alone by her other chaperone, Miss Lavish. “A few minutes ago she had been all high spirits…now she entered the church depressed and humiliated…” (p. 19). Alone at the Santa Croce, suddenly the church is dull and cold. Her experience has gone from a fun adventure to a boring, intimidating visit all because suddenly she must make her own decisions. It is at this moment when the reader starts to understand that she has been lost this entire time, in her heart (sorry for the cheesiness.) And it is also in this moment that we get the first real encounter that will start to change her and allow her to find herself; meeting up with the Emersons. From here on out, the real Italy comes out to play; the one that isn’t clean and dainty. It is real, it is dingy, and it makes her feel alive. This is the goal of travel, in my opinion. It’s not a vacation; it is an eye opener. It is a life giver, in that you use all the skills you learn from your travels to further enrich the rest of your life. That’s why people do it. And later on in the book, Lucy does use the skills she learned in Italy to enrich her life and make her OWN decisions; “I must know my own mind and where I must go.” (p171). She is able to push past her own close-minded illusions of what life is supposed to be and makes it what it should be; hers.


  1. Isabel,
    It seems as if the book you read perfectly encapsulates traveling/studying abroad! If you have not felt a barrage of sometimes conflicting, other times complimentary, emotions, are you traveling correctly? I have to admit that I completely understand and can relate to Lucy Honeychurch’s original naiveté! It’s so hard not to romanticize another city, especially when it is so different from the one in which you live. I think it’s a totally human reaction and human expectation to assume everything will go swimmingly perfect. It’s how we deal with the not so perfect moments that is the true test of our character and our experience abroad. I’m happy to hear that Lucy later finds herself and discovers the true Italy. I hope we all have that epiphanic moment in our respective sites.
    Funny story. I do have a room with a balcony and a pretty nice view. When I first saw my dorm, I was so happy because I obviously wanted to wake up as Lucy dreamed! And then I learned that as per NYU’s regulations, I can’t open the glass doors… 🙁

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