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A Room with a View

A Room with a View

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Encyclopedia
A Room with a View is a 1908 novel by English writer E. M. Forster
E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

, about a young woman in the repressed culture of Edwardian England. Set in Italy and England, the story is both a romance
Romance novel
The romance novel is a literary genre developed in Western culture, mainly in English-speaking countries. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Through the late...

 and a critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation
A Room with a View (film)
A Room with a View is a 1985 British drama film directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant. The film is a close adaptation of E. M...

 in 1985.

In 1998, the Modern Library
Modern Library
The Modern Library is a publishing company. Founded in 1917 by Albert Boni and Horace Liveright as an imprint of their publishing company Boni & Liveright, it was purchased in 1925 by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer...

 ranked A Room with a View 79th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Part one


The first part of the novel is set in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Italy, and describes a young English woman's confusion at the Pensione
Pension (lodging)
A pensione is a family-owned guest house or boarding house. This term is typically used in Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, other Continental European countries, in areas of North Africa and the Middle East that formerly had large European expatriate populations, and in some parts of South America...

 Bertolini over her feelings for an Englishman staying at the same hotel. Lucy Honeychurch is touring Italy with her overbearing older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, and the novel opens with their complaints about the hotel,"The Pension Bertolini." Their primary concern is that although rooms with a view of the River Arno have been promised for each of them, their rooms instead look over a courtyard. A Mr. Emerson interrupts their "peevish wrangling," offering to swap rooms as he and his son, George Emerson, look over the Arno. This behavior causes Miss Bartlett some consternation, as it appears impolite. Without letting Lucy speak, Miss Bartlett refuses the offer, looking down on the Emersons because of their unconventional behaviour and thinking it would place her under an "unseemly obligation" towards them. However, another guest at the pension, an Anglican clergyman named Mr. Beebe, persuades the pair to accept the offer, assuring Miss Bartlett that Mr. Emerson only meant to be kind.

The next day, Lucy embarks on a tour of Florence with another guest, Miss Eleanor Lavish, a novelist who shows Lucy the back streets of Florence, takes her Baedeker
Baedeker
Verlag Karl Baedeker is a Germany-based publisher and pioneer in the business of worldwide travel guides. The guides, often referred as simply "Baedekers" , contain important introductions, descriptions of buildings, of museum collections, etc., written by the best specialists, and...

 guidebook and subsequently loses her in Santa Croce, where Lucy meets the Emersons again. Although their manners are awkward and they are deemed socially unacceptable by the other guests, Lucy likes them and continues to run into them in Florence. One afternoon Lucy witnesses a murder in Florence. George Emerson happens to be nearby and catches her when she faints. Lucy asks George to retrieve some photographs of hers that happen to be near the murder site. George, out of confusion, throws her photographs into the river because they were spotted with blood. Lucy observes how boyish George is. As they stop to look over the River Arno before making their way back to the hotel, they have an intimate conversation. After this, Lucy decides to avoid George, partly because she is confused by her feelings and partly to keep her cousin happy—Miss Bartlett is wary of the eccentric Emersons, particularly after a comment made by another clergyman, Mr. Eager, that Mr. Emerson "murdered his wife in the sight of God." Later on in the week, a party made up of Beebe, Eager, the Emersons, Miss Lavish, Miss Bartlett and Lucy Honeychurch make their way to Fiesole
Fiesole
Fiesole is a town and comune of the province of Florence in the Italian region of Tuscany, on a famously scenic height above Florence, 8 km NE of that city...

, in carriages driven by Italians. The driver invites a woman he claims is his sister onto the carriage, and when he kisses her, Mr. Eager promptly forces the lady to get off the carriage. Mr. Emerson remarks how it is defeat rather than victory to part two people in love. In the fields, Lucy searches for Mr. Beebe, and asks in poor Italian for the driver to show her the way. Misunderstanding, he leads her to a field where George stands. George is overcome by Lucy's beauty among a field of violets and kisses her, but they are interrupted by Lucy's cousin, who is outraged. Lucy promises Miss Bartlett that she will not tell her mother of the "insult" George has paid her because Miss Bartlett fears she will be blamed. The two women leave for Rome the next day before Lucy is able to say goodbye to George.

Part two


In Rome, Lucy spends time with Cecil Vyse, whom she knew in England. Cecil proposes to Lucy twice in Italy; she rejects him both times. As Part Two begins, Lucy has returned to Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, England to her family home, Windy Corner. Cecil proposes yet again at Windy Corner, and this time she accepts. Cecil is a sophisticated and "superior" Londoner who is desirable in terms of rank and class, even though he despises country society; he is also somewhat of a comic figure in the novel, as he gives himself airs and is quite pretentious.

The vicar
Vicar
In the broadest sense, a vicar is a representative, deputy or substitute; anyone acting "in the person of" or agent for a superior . In this sense, the title is comparable to lieutenant...

, Mr. Beebe, announces that new tenants have leased a local cottage; the new arrivals turn out to be the Emersons, who have been told of the available cottage at a chance meeting with Cecil; the young man brought them to the village as a comeuppance to the cottage's landlord, whom Cecil thinks to be a snob. Fate takes an ironic turn as Lucy's brother, Freddy, befriends George and invites him to play tennis one Sunday at Windy Corner. Although Lucy is initially mortified at the thought of facing both George and Cecil (who is also visiting Windy Corner that Sunday), she resolves to be gracious. Cecil annoys everyone by reading aloud from a light romance novel that contains a scene suspiciously reminiscent of when George kissed Lucy in Florence. George catches Lucy alone in the garden and kisses her again. Lucy realizes that the novel is by Miss Lavish (the writer-acquaintance from Florence) and that Charlotte must thus have told her about the kiss.

Furious with Charlotte for betraying her secret, Lucy forces her cousin to watch as she tells George to leave and never return. George argues with her, saying that Cecil only sees her as an "object for the shelf" and will never love her enough to grant her independence, while George loves her for who she is. Lucy is moved but remains firm. Later that evening, after Cecil again rudely declines to play tennis, Lucy sours on Cecil and immediately breaks off her engagement. She decides to flee to Greece with acquaintances from her trip to Florence, but shortly before her departure she accidentally encounters Mr. Emerson senior. He is not aware that Lucy has broken her engagement with Cecil, and Lucy cannot lie to the old man. Mr. Emerson forces Lucy to admit out loud that she has been in love with his son George all along.

The novel ends in Florence, where George and Lucy have elope
Elope
To elope, most literally, merely means to run away with a girl and to not come back to the point of origination. More specifically, elopement is often used to refer to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving hurried flight away from one's place of residence together...

d without her mother's consent. Although Lucy "had alienated Windy Corner, perhaps for ever," the story ends with the promise of lifelong love for both her and George.

Appendix


In some books, an appendix to the book is given entitled "A View without a Room," written by Forster in 1958 as to what occurred between Lucy and George after the events of the novel. It is Forster's afterthought of the novel, and he quite clearly states that "I cannot think where George and Lucy live." They were quite comfortable up until the end of the war, with Charlotte Bartlett leaving them all her money in her will, but World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 ruined their happiness according to Forster. George became a conscientous objector, lost his government job but was given non-combatant duties to avoid prison, leaving Mrs Honeychurch deeply upset with her son-in-law. Mr Emerson died during the course of the war, shortly after having an argument with the police about Lucy continuing to play Beethoven during the war. Eventually they had three children, two girls and a boy, and moved to Carshalton from Highgate to find a home. Despite them wanting to move into Windy Corner after the death of Mrs Honeychurch, Freddy sold the house to support his family as he was "an unsuccessful but prolific doctor."

After the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, George immediately enlisted as he saw the need to stop Hitler and the Nazi regime but he unfortunately was not faithful to Lucy during his time at war. Lucy was left homeless after her flat in Watford was bombed and the same happened to her married daughter in Nuneaton. George rose to the rank of corporal but was taken prisoner by the Italians in Africa. Once Italy fell George returned to Florence finding it "in a mess" but he was unable to find the Pension Bertolini, stating "the View was still there and that the room must be there, too, but could not be found." He ends by stating that George and Lucy await World War III, but with no word on where they live, for even he does not know.

Major themes


The main themes of this novel include repressed sexuality, freedom from institutional religion, growing up and true love. It is written in the third person omniscient, though particular passages are often seen "through the eyes" of a specific character.

A Room with a View is Forster's most romantic and optimistic book. He utilizes many of his trademark techniques, including contrasts between "dynamic" and "static" characters. "Dynamic" characters are those whose ideas and inner-self develop or change in the plot, whereas "static" characters remain constant.

Published in 1908, the novel touches upon many issues surrounding society and politics in early 20th century Edwardian culture. Forster differentiates between conservative and radical thinking, illustrated in part by his contrasts between Medieval (Mr. Beebe, Miss Bartlett, Cecil Vyse) and Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 characters (Lucy, the Emersons).

Lucy personifies the young and impressionable generation emerging during that era, during which women's suffrage
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...

 would gain strong ground. Forster, manifesting his own hopes for society, ends the book with Lucy having chosen her own path—a free life with the man she loves. The novel could even be called a Bildungsroman
Bildungsroman
In literary criticism, bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood , and in which character change is thus extremely important...

,
as it follows the development of the protagonist
Protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

.

Binary opposites are played throughout the novel, and often there are mentions of "rooms" and "views". Characters and places associated with "rooms" are, more often than not, conservative and uncreative — Mrs Honeychurch is often pictured in a room, as is Cecil. Characters like Freddy and the Emersons, on the other hand, are often described as being "outside" — representing their open, forward-thinking and modern character types. There is also a constant theme of Light and Dark, where on many occasions, Cecil himself states how Lucy represents light, but Forster responds but stating how Cecil is the Dark, alluding to the fact that they can never be together, and that she really belongs with George. Interestingly, the name Lucy
Lucy
Lucy is an English and French feminine given name derived from Latin masculine given name Lucius with the meaning as of light . Alternative spellings are Luci, Luce, Lucie...

 means "light", while the name Cecil
Cecil
-Places:*Cecil College, a community college*Cecil County, Maryland, United States*Cecil Field, an airport in Jacksonville, Florida, United States*Cecil, Georgia, United States*Cecil, Ohio, United States*Cecil, Oregon, United States...

 means "blind", i.e. one who is "in the dark".

Forster also contrasts the symbolic differences between Italy and England. He idealized Italy as a place of freedom and sexual expression. Italy promised raw, natural passion that inspired many Britons at the time who wished to escape the constrictions of English society. While Lucy is in Italy her views of the world change dramatically, and scenes such as the murder in the piazza
Piazza
A piazza is a city square in Italy, Malta, along the Dalmatian coast and in surrounding regions. The term is roughly equivalent to the Spanish plaza...

 open her eyes to a world beyond her "protected life in Windy Corner".

Allusions/references to other works

  • Mr. Beebe recalls his first encounter with Lucy was hearing her play the first of the two movements of Beethoven's final piano sonata, Opus 111, at a talent show in Tunbridge Wells.
  • While visiting the Emersons Mr. Beebe contemplates the numerous books strewn around.
"I fancy they know how to read — a rare accomplishment. What have they got? Byron. Exactly. A Shropshire Lad
A Shropshire Lad
A Shropshire Lad is a cycle of sixty-three poems by the English poet Alfred Edward Housman . Some of the better-known poems in the book are "To an Athlete Dying Young", "Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now" and "When I Was One-and-Twenty".The collection was published in 1896...

. Never heard of it. The Way of All Flesh. Never heard of it. Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

. Hullo! Dear George reads German. Um — um — Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and so we go on. Well, I suppose your generation knows its own business, Honeychurch." http://forster.thefreelibrary.com/A-Room-With-A-View/12-1
  • Towards the end of Part One, Cecil quotes a few unidentified stanzas ("Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height", etc.). They are from Tennyson's
    Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson
    Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language....

     narrative poem "The Princess".
  • In the Emersons' home, the wardrobe has "Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes." (a quote from Henry David Thoreau's Walden) painted upon it.
  • In chapter five, after bemoaning the fact that people do not appreciate landscape paintings anymore, Mr. Eager misquotes William Wordsworth's poem title,"The World Is Too Much With Us", saying "The world is too much for us."

Stage, film, radio, and television adaptations


The novel was first adapted for the theatre by Richard Cotterell with Lance Severling for the Prospect Theatre Company, and staged at the Albery Theatre on 27 November 1975 by directors Toby Robertson and Timothy West
Timothy West
Timothy Lancaster West, CBE is an English film, stage and television actor.-Career:West's craggy looks ensured a career as a character actor rather than a leading man. He began his career as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Wimbledon Theatre in 1956, and followed this with several seasons of...

.

Merchant-Ivory produced an award-winning film adaptation
A Room with a View (film)
A Room with a View is a 1985 British drama film directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant. The film is a close adaptation of E. M...

 in 1985 directed by James Ivory
James Ivory (director)
James Francis Ivory is an American film director, best known for the results of his long collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions, which included both Indian-born film producer Ismail Merchant, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala...

 and starring Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Dame Margaret Natalie Smith, DBE , better known as Maggie Smith, is an English film, stage, and television actress who made her stage debut in 1952 and is still performing after 59 years...

 as "Charlotte Bartlett", Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter is an English actress of film, stage, and television. She made her acting debut in a television adaptation of K. M. Peyton's A Pattern of Roses before winning her first film role as the titular character in Lady Jane...

 as "Lucy Honeychurch", Judi Dench
Judi Dench
Dame Judith Olivia "Judi" Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA is an English film, stage and television actress.Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years she played in several of William Shakespeare's plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo...

 as "Eleanor Lavish", Denholm Elliott
Denholm Elliott
Denholm Mitchell Elliott, CBE was an English film, television and theatre actor with over 120 film and television credits...

 as "Mr. Emerson", Julian Sands
Julian Sands
Julian M. Sands is an English actor, known for his roles in the Best Picture nominee The Killing Fields, the cult film Warlock, A Room with a View, Arachnophobia, Vatel, the television series 24 and as Jor-El in the television series Smallville.-Career:Sands began his film career appearing in...

 as "George Emerson," Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis is an English actor with both British and Irish citizenship. His portrayals of Christy Brown in My Left Foot and Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood won Academy and BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, and Screen Actors Guild as well as Golden Globe Awards for the latter...

 as "Cecil Vyse"and Simon Callow
Simon Callow
Simon Phillip Hugh Callow, CBE is an English actor, writer and theatre director. He is also currently a judge on Popstar to Operastar.-Early years:...

 as "The Reverend Mr. Beebe".

BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 produced a four-part radio adaptation written by David Wade and directed by Glyn Dearman
Glyn Dearman
Glyn Dearman was a former child actor whose acting career spanned almost two decades. He is perhaps best remembered for his portrayal of the character Tiny Tim in the 1951 film Scrooge. He was also a BBC radio producer in the later part of his career.- External links :* *...

 (released commercially as part of the BBC Radio Collection
BBC Radio Collection
The BBC Radio Collection was an imprint or record label used for audio books from the British Broadcasting Corporation, mainly of previously broadcast material...

 in 1995) starring Sheila Hancock
Sheila Hancock
Sheila Cameron Hancock, CBE is an English actress and author.-Early life:Sheila Hancock was born in Blackgang on the Isle of Wight, the daughter of Ivy Louise and Enrico Cameron Hancock, who was a publican. Her sister Billie is seven years older...

 as "Charlotte Bartlett", Cathy Sara as "Lucy Honeychurch", John Moffat
John Moffatt (actor)
John Moffatt is an English actor and playwright, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Hercule Poirot on BBC Radio....

 as "Mr. Emerson", Gary Cady as "George Emerson" and Stephen Moore
Stephen Moore (actor)
Stephen Moore is an English actor, known for his work on British television since the 1980s. He is known for his appearances in Rock Follies and other TV series such as The Last Place on Earth, the children's series The Queen's Nose and the drama Mersey Beat and the British TV comedy series Solo,...

 as "The Reverend Mr. Beebe". The production was rebroadcast on BBC7 in June 2007 and March 2010.

In 2006, Andrew Davies
Andrew Davies (writer)
Andrew Wynford Davies is a British author and screenwriter. He was made a Fellow of BAFTA in 2002.-Education and early career:...

 announced that he was to adapt A Room with a View
A Room with a View (2007 TV drama)
A Room with a View is televised adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel, A Room with a View, written by Andrew Davies. It was announced in 2006 and filmed in the summer of 2007...

for ITV
ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

. This was first shown on ITV1 on 4 November 2007. It starred father and son actors Timothy
Timothy Spall
Timothy Leonard Spall, OBE is an English character actor and occasional presenter.-Early life:Spall, the third of four sons, was born in Battersea, London. His mother, Sylvia R. , was a hairdresser, and his father, Joseph L. Spall, was a postal worker...

 and Rafe Spall
Rafe Spall
Rafe Joseph Spall is an English actor. He is best known for his roles in the Edgar Wright films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz , alongside Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. He had previously appeared alongside Pegg and Frost in a 2001 episode of Spaced...

 as Mr Emerson and George, together with Elaine Cassidy
Elaine Cassidy
Elaine Cassidy is an award-winning Irish actress and is best known for playing the lead character Abby Mills in the American CBS TV series Harper's Island, Felicia in Felicia's Journey opposite Bob Hoskins, Runt in Disco Pigs opposite Cillian Murphy, and Lydia in The Others.-Early life:Elaine...

 (Lucy Honeychurch), Sophie Thompson (Charlotte Bartlett), Laurence Fox
Laurence Fox
Laurence Fox is an English actor best known for his leading role as Detective Sergeant James Hathaway in the British TV drama series Lewis...

 (Cecil Vyse), Sinéad Cusack
Sinéad Cusack
Sinéad Moira Cusack is an Irish stage, television and film actress. She has received two Tony Award nominations: once for Best Leading Actress in Much Ado About Nothing , and again for Best Featured Actress in Rock 'n' Roll .-Background:...

 (Miss Lavish), Timothy West
Timothy West
Timothy Lancaster West, CBE is an English film, stage and television actor.-Career:West's craggy looks ensured a career as a character actor rather than a leading man. He began his career as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Wimbledon Theatre in 1956, and followed this with several seasons of...

 (Mr Eager) and Mark Williams
Mark Williams (actor)
Mark Williams is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter and presenter. He is best known as one of the stars of the popular BBC sketch show The Fast Show, as well as for his role as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films....

 (Reverend Beebe). This adaptation was broadcast in the US on many PBS stations on Sunday April 13, 2008.

A theatre adaptation was given by Snap Theatre Company in 1990 to good critical reviews. Adapted by Lawrence Kane and Andy Graham (Artistic Director of the company), it toured schools, colleges, and middle-scale theatre venues throughout England.

Pop culture

  • In the episode "Branch Wars
    Branch Wars
    "Branch Wars" is the tenth episode of the fourth season of the American comedy television series The Office—the show's sixty-third episode overall. Written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Joss Whedon, the episode originally aired in the United States on November 1, 2007 on NBC...

    " of The Office, Pam, Oscar, and Toby have a meeting of the "Finer Things Club," in which they discuss A Room with a View.

  • The Dream Theater
    Dream Theater
    Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band formed in 1985 under the name Majesty by John Petrucci, John Myung, and Mike Portnoy while they attended Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. They subsequently dropped out of their studies to further concentrate on the band that would...

     song "Space-Dye Vest" on the album Awake
    Awake (Dream Theater album)
    Awake is the third studio album by American progressive metal band Dream Theater, released on October 4, 1994 by East West Records. It was the last Dream Theater album to feature keyboardist Kevin Moore, who announced his decision to leave the band during the recording of the album.Much of the...

    contains a quotation from the movie.

  • In the episode "A Messenger, Nothing More" of Gilmore Girls
    Gilmore Girls
    Gilmore Girls is an American family comedy-drama series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, starring Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel. On October 5, 2000, the series debuted on The WB and was cancelled in its seventh season, ending on May 15, 2007 on The CW...

    , Rory shows Lorelai a clip from A Room with a View to demonstrate her time in Europe with her grandmother.

  • The title of the Divine Comedy
    The Divine Comedy (band)
    The Divine Comedy are a chamber pop band from Ireland, fronted by Neil Hannon. Formed in 1989, Hannon has been the only constant member of the group, playing, in some instances, all of the non-orchestral instrumentation bar drums. To date, ten studio albums have been released under the Divine...

     album Victory For The Comic Muse
    Victory for the Comic Muse
    Victory for the Comic Muse is the ninth studio album by The Divine Comedy. It was released by EMI on June 19, 2006. Despite what people might assume, Neil Hannon did not choose the title as a reference to the group's 1990 debut Fanfare for the Comic Muse...

    is taken from a line in the book.

  • On the first season of the U.S. reality show 'The Mole', one challenge refers to 'A Room with a View'.

  • The restaurant "Roomali with a view" in Bangalore, India has been named after this book.

External links