What happens in Florence, stays in Florence.
Unless this is the early 1900’s and you’re visiting the city with your annoying spinster cousin, then you kiss some boy in a field of violets for like two seconds and nobody ever lets you forget it.
This is a brief, sweet little novel about Lucy Honeychurch (winner of the prestigious award for Most Adorable Name Ever), who goes to Florence with previously-mentioned spinster cousin. Despite lack of A ROOM WITH A VIEW, Lucy has a very nice time, sees some artwork, does some self-discovery, and smooches a very unsuitable boy (escandalo!) who might be a Socialist (double escandalo!). Then they go back to England and she gets engaged to a schmuck.
For this part of the novel, I was mostly coasting along, having a reasonably good time reading about well-off English people and their Well-Off English People Problems (“Our Italian pension is owned by a Cockney lady! So-and-so isn’t the right kind of blandly religious! And for the love of God WHO WILL YOU MARRY?!”). It was mildly entertaining, and I was a huge fan of Mr. Emerson from the get-go. George, sadly, never quite did it for me, and Lucy I found to be kind of boring until, UNTIL, the glorious moment when she breaks up with her lame fiance and gets awesome. Here’s part of her breakup speech:
“When we were only acquaintances, you let me be myself, but now you’re always protecting me…I won’t be protected. I will choose for myself what is ladylike and right. To shield me is an insult. Can’t I be trusted to face the truth but I must get it second-hand through you? …you wrap yourself up in art and books and music, and would try to wrap up me. I won’t be stifled, not by the most glorious music, for people are more glorious, and you hide them from me. That’s why I break off my engagement.”
Bella Swan, are you paying attention? Because this concerns you.
After that moment, I was suddenly 100% invested in Lucy and her attempts to figure herself out. Maybe I imagined it, but it seemed like the writing became so much more beautiful after that, and I was reading the story more carefully and with more interest than I had before. It was a slow start, but Forster’s fantastic characters managed to win me over in the end (yes, even the annoying spinster cousin).
Verdict: three out of five stars