E. M. Forster
Well, let me begin by saying I love the 1985 Merchant Ivory film adaptation of this book, and have seen it more times than I can count. And because of that, it was next to impossible to read this book without humming Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro, and imagining the characters exactly as portrayed by the excellent cast.
Lucy Honeychurch is a young Victorian woman who travels to Florence, Italy with her cousin Charlotte as chaperon. There they meet a host of English people also on holiday, including the Reverend Beebe who has just taken up a position in Lucy's home village, a flamboyant woman novelist named Eleanor Lavish, and the Emersons, a father and son. On arrival at their pension, Lucy and Charlotte find their rooms are not what had been promised. Most importantly, there is no view. The Emersons offer to exchange rooms, creating a comedy of manners as Charlotte abhors feeling obligated to anyone, not the least people like George and his father, whom she judges to be "common." However, there is an attraction between Lucy and George, which Lucy tries to deny. On returning home she is courted by the arrogant and class-conscious Cecil Vyse, and agrees to marry him as a way of putting her attraction for George out of her mind. But of course that's not the end of the story, and when George and his father appear on the scene in England, Lucy has to come to terms with her own feelings and the importance of making choices guided by one's own sense of right and wrong.
I tried to consider this book on its own merits: does Forster's novel stand on its own? I simply couldn't do it. The film is so true to the book; much of the dialogue went directly into the script. I can't quite say why, but I am fairly certain that if I hadn't seen the film I would not have enjoyed this book as much as I did. So I am left giving this book a respectable rating, while urging anyone who has not seen the film to do so ... you will not be disappointed. ( )