I. Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin companion, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, travel to Italy where they stay in a British pension with other Brits and want to properly appreciate the sights with other proper tourists. There they meet the Emersons, a father and son who are more free spirited, and thus viewed with mild suspicion by the other tourists. Lucy likes them, though she’s torn between her feelings and her sense of what proper, refined people think and believe. These warring desires are brought to a head by a Slightly Dramatic Event (these are Edwardians, after all; we can’t get too crazy here)….
II. Back in England after her adventure, Lucy has one more chance to decide whether she wants a life based on Societal Expectations (her fiance is a too stuffy for even her own family) or whether she’ll follow desires she’s pushed deep down.
The book meditates on the difference between desires and expectations, and also highlights how in Proper society, emotion is a hindrance and ought to be repressed.
Lucy’s perception of what her family wants and expects is not exactly what they do want for her, and she gets tangled up in her mind trying to fulfill expectations that actually bore her. Her deep desires aren’t even to be a rebel, they just aren’t to be a stuffy society lady, which is what she thinks she ought to want.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it as it is a pretty slim classic, and it’s not a difficult read.
There’s also an excellent 1986 film version with a tiny Helena Bonham-Carter as Lucy. The pace is deliberate, but I think it captures the spirit of the book well; the acting is excellent (Judi Dench! Maggie Smith! Daniel Day-Lewis as THE stuffiest British person you can imagine!) and allows the story to unfold.
★ ★ ★ ★