The first on the scene of the two contenders is George Emerson, whom Lucy, together with her chaperone Miss Bartlett, meet in Florence. George Emerson and his father give up their rooms (with a view of the Arno) so that Lucy and Miss Bartlett may have A Room With A View. The Emersons are socialists and Mr. Emerson is in trade; this makes them of the not quite right sort for Lucy Honeychurch, who has a (pretty tenuous) claim to be in the landed class. Still the gentlemen's kindness results in a group excursion to the hills near Fiesole, where George, uninvited, kisses Lucy.
Miss Bartlett, the chaperone, appears on the scene, late, but not late enough, and Lucy, who was inclined to ignore it, acknowledges herself insulted and they run away to Rome.
The scene in the second part of the novel moves back to her home in England. Though the families were already acquainted, Lucy and Cecil Vyse became closer in Rome. After refusing him twice, Lucy accepts Cecil's offer of marriage, and that is where the second part starts. The Vyses are from the neighborhood, much more suitable in class and pretensions, and with some misgivings on the part of Lucy's family, the marriage looks set to go ahead.
Then the Emersons take a cottage in the neighborhood, at the instigation of an unwitting Cecil Vyse. And the plot thickens...
Though I'd seen the 1985 Merchant-Ivory film version, with Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, I'd completely forgotten how the story turned out, and I was quite impressed with the way Forster kept up the suspense until the very end. Lucy could have married the right guy, the wrong guy, become an old maid--there were plenty of examples of that in the book--or, as I thought for a while, died of a fever in Greece, and I did not know which.
Near the end old Mr. Emerson tells Lucy:
'Take an old man's word: there's nothing worse than a muddle in all the world. It is easy to face Death and Fate, and things that sound so dreadful. It is on my muddles that I look back with horror--...Do trust me, Miss Honeychurch. Though life is very glorious, it is difficult...Man has to pick up the use of his functions as he goes along--especially the function of Love."Advice to live by. Did Lucy follow it, and correctly? It's worth reading it to find out.
My Reader's Block Mount TBR Challenge.