Hot Best Seller

The Golden Bowl

Availability: Ready to download

'A thing to marvel at, a thing to be grateful for.'A rich American art-collector and his daughter Maggie buy in for themselves and to their greater glory a beautiful young wife and noble husband. They do not know that Charlotte and Prince Amerigo were formerly lovers, nor that on the eve of the Prince's marriage they had discovered, in a Bloomsbury antique shop, a golden b 'A thing to marvel at, a thing to be grateful for.'A rich American art-collector and his daughter Maggie buy in for themselves and to their greater glory a beautiful young wife and noble husband. They do not know that Charlotte and Prince Amerigo were formerly lovers, nor that on the eve of the Prince's marriage they had discovered, in a Bloomsbury antique shop, a golden bowl with a secret flaw. The superstitious Amerigo, fearing for his gilded future, refuses to accept it as a wedding gift from Charlotte. 'Don't you think too much of "cracks,"' she is later to say to him, 'aren't you too afraid of them? I risk the cracks...' When the golden bowl is broken, Maggie must leave the security of her childhood and try to reassemble the pieces of her shattered happiness. In this, the last of his three great poetic masterpieces, James combined with a dazzling virtuosity elements of social comedy, of mystery, terror, and myth. "The Golden Bowl" is the most controversial, ambiguous, and sophisticated of James's novels. The text of this World's Classics paperback is that of the first English edition (1905). James's Preface is included, and a new introduction, notes, and selected variant readings.

*advertisement

Compare

'A thing to marvel at, a thing to be grateful for.'A rich American art-collector and his daughter Maggie buy in for themselves and to their greater glory a beautiful young wife and noble husband. They do not know that Charlotte and Prince Amerigo were formerly lovers, nor that on the eve of the Prince's marriage they had discovered, in a Bloomsbury antique shop, a golden b 'A thing to marvel at, a thing to be grateful for.'A rich American art-collector and his daughter Maggie buy in for themselves and to their greater glory a beautiful young wife and noble husband. They do not know that Charlotte and Prince Amerigo were formerly lovers, nor that on the eve of the Prince's marriage they had discovered, in a Bloomsbury antique shop, a golden bowl with a secret flaw. The superstitious Amerigo, fearing for his gilded future, refuses to accept it as a wedding gift from Charlotte. 'Don't you think too much of "cracks,"' she is later to say to him, 'aren't you too afraid of them? I risk the cracks...' When the golden bowl is broken, Maggie must leave the security of her childhood and try to reassemble the pieces of her shattered happiness. In this, the last of his three great poetic masterpieces, James combined with a dazzling virtuosity elements of social comedy, of mystery, terror, and myth. "The Golden Bowl" is the most controversial, ambiguous, and sophisticated of James's novels. The text of this World's Classics paperback is that of the first English edition (1905). James's Preface is included, and a new introduction, notes, and selected variant readings.

30 review for The Golden Bowl

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    The Golden Bowl is a wonderful novel. Through his usual beautiful but convoluted and sinuous prose that swims around itself again and again, Henry James tells us the story of four people, two men and two women, and two marriages. These two marriages, whose essence holds secrets and truths, is the heart of its plot. Yes, it seems a simple enough plot and it revolves around the most basic human shortcoming that is adultery; and the relationships that are instigated by these four individuals. Adam The Golden Bowl is a wonderful novel. Through his usual beautiful but convoluted and sinuous prose that swims around itself again and again, Henry James tells us the story of four people, two men and two women, and two marriages. These two marriages, whose essence holds secrets and truths, is the heart of its plot. Yes, it seems a simple enough plot and it revolves around the most basic human shortcoming that is adultery; and the relationships that are instigated by these four individuals. Adam Verver, a very wealthy American art collector without scruples, has acquired almost all the material possessions his heart desires. However, he then makes his most important purchase, a husband for his daughter Maggie. And in Prince Amerigo, he finds the perfect candidate: impoverished royalty. He can provide what Mr. Verver most wishes for Maggie, a title. And Maggie is delighted with her father’s plans: “…You are at any rate a part of his collection,” she had explained— “one of the things that can only be got over here. You’re a rarity, an object of beauty, an object of price. You’re perhaps absolutely unique, but you’re so curious and eminent that there are very few others like you—you belong to a class about which everything is unknown. You’re what they call a morceau de musee.” “I see. I have the great sign of it,” he had risked— “that I cost a lot of money.” However, this marriage upsets the harmonious balance in the father and daughter relationship. Maggie now determines that the best thing is for her widower father to remarry. So, to alleviate her guilty for having married, Maggie will suggest that her father marries her school friend Charlotte Stant – vivacious, smart and likewise poor American – unsuspecting her prior romantic relationship with Amerigo himself. So begins the play of love and marriage. And so the shrewd stage is set, and we readers are only left to enjoy its sinuosity. Four people, two marriages and their infidelities… As we read we glimpse the roots of The Golden Bowl’s plot, as it probes deeply into the complicated issue of fidelity not only in Amerigo and Maggie’s relationship but also between the widowed father and his steadily devoted daughter. Between Adam and Charlotte; between him and Prince Amerigo; and between Princess Maggie and her young childhood playmate, Charlotte. And we discover, through a dialogue between Fanny – the matchmaker – and her husband, that this plot is not simple at all but deeply complex: "Well are you trying to make out that I’ve said you have? All their case wants, at any rate,” Bob Assingham declared, “is that you should leave it well alone. It’s theirs now; they’ve bought it, over the counter, and paid for it. It has ceased to be yours. "Of which case," she asked, "are you speaking?" He smoked a minute: then with a groan:" Lord, are there so many?" "There's Maggie's and the Prince's, and there's the Prince's and Charlotte's." "Oh yes; and then," the Colonel scoffed, "there's Charlotte's and the Prince's." "There's Maggie's and Charlotte's," she went on—"and there's also Maggie's and mine. I think too that there's Charlotte's and mine. Yes," she mused, "Charlotte’s and mine is certainly a case. In short, you see, there are plenty. But I mean,” she said, “to keep my head.” Where lies the guilt of all these infidelities, or where does it all begin? Even after both marriages the millionaire father and his daughter remain so devoted to each other that their two sposi are left for themselves. The father and daughter relationship seem dominant while the others are abandoned to their company. What complicates this unbalance is the fact that father and daughter encourage Charlotte and Prince Amerigo’s to entertain each other, which is further muddled by their previous affair. Charlotte and Amerigo discuss exactly that: "But things turn out—! And it leaves us"—she made the point—"more alone." He seemed to wonder. "It leaves you more alone." "Oh," she again returned, "don’t put it all on me! Maggie would have given herself to his child. I’m sure, scarcely less than he gives himself to yours. it would have taken more than ten children of mine, could I have had them—to keep our sposi apart." She smiled as for the breadth of the image, but, as she seemed to take it, in spite of this, she then spoke gravely enough. "It's as strange as you like, but we're immensely alone." As might be expected, consequences arise. Therefore, part of the blame must lie with Adam and Maggie who are so involved with each other and so involved in each other’s lives that they fail to notice the underlying problems in their marriages. Henry James’ ethereal writing style… The Golden Bowl might seem simpler than his other novels, but Henry James is still loyal to himself. The book is filled with ambiguity: nothing is black and white, good or bad. Nuances and innuendos are plenty in his prose. He gives nothing away, but lets the readers learn and discover for themselves about the people and their relationships; we have to learn as we usually do in normal life, by paying attention to dialogues and inferring our understanding of it all. So, we are left to our own conclusions, and so its reading is much more enjoyable for those that brave it. As we read a dialogue between Fanny and the prince, we are exposed to James's powerful and ethereal writing, where the symbols are not always effortless: The 'boat,' you see"—the Prince explained no less considerably and lucidly—"is a good deal tied up at the dock, or anchored, if you like, out in the stream. I have to jump out from time to time to stretch my legs, and you'll probably perceive, if you give it your attention, that Charlotte really can't help occasionally doing the same. It isn't even a question, sometimes, of one's getting to the dock—one has to take a header and splash about in the water. Call our having remained here together tonight, call the accident of my having put them, put our illustrious friends there, on my companion’s track—for I grant you this as a practical result of our combination—call the whole thing one of the harmless little plunges off the deck, inevitable to each of us. Why not take them, when they occur, as inevitable—and, above all, as not endangering life or limb? We shan’t drown, we shan’t sink—at least I can answer for myself. Mrs. Verver too, moreover—do her justice—visibly knows how to swim. But the beauty of his prose conquers the most attentive reader: They learned fairly to live in the perfunctory; they remained in it as many hours of the day as might be; it took on finally the likeness of some spacious central chamber in a haunted house, a great overarched and overglazed rotunda, where gaiety might reign, but the doors of which opened into sinister circular passages. And the author confesses his ambiguity: Charlotte was in pain, Charlotte was in torment, but he himself had given her reason enough for that; and, in respect to the rest of the whole matter of her obligation to follow her husband, that personage and she, Maggie, had so shuffled away every link between consequence and cause, that the intention remained, like some famous poetic line in a dead language, subject to varieties of interpretation. Through a prose that is highly introspective, a kind of interior monolog that overwhelms the reader and prefers to sail upon a vast ocean of impressions that we never know where is leading us; and a style of dialogue, to which James is committed, that has the virtue of realism but does not define. I would imagine that James uses Fanny frequently in these conversations, for she is the most neutral character, through whom he can explore the main character's consciousness. As we can read in a dialogue between Maggie and Fanny, that infers but fails to define: "My dear child, you're amazing." "Amazing—?" "You're terrible." Maggie thoughtfully shook her head. "No; I'm not terrible, and you don't think me so. I do strike you as surprising, no doubt—but surprisingly mild. Because—don't you see?—I AM mild. I can bear anything." "Oh, 'bear'!" Mrs. Assingham fluted. "For love," said the Princess. Fanny hesitated. "Of your father?" "For love," Maggie repeated. "Of your husband?" "For love," Maggie said again." The metaphor of the golden bowl itself is most fitting to develop the author’s characteristic symbolic prose: it is the bowl itself that leads Maggie to the startling realization that both her husband and her friend have been deceiving her, and James prose and plot are amply fulfilled here: "Well, what I want. I want happiness without a hole in it big enough for you to poke in your finger." "A brilliant, perfect surface—to begin with at least. I see." "The golden bowl—as it WAS to have been." And Maggie dwelt musingly on this obscured figure. "The bowl with all our happiness in it. The bowl without the crack." Through his vague dialogues and perplexing prose, James leads the reader to discover by himself or herself the family dynamics, the sacrifices made; he leads the readers to judge each character and to determine where and if there is any sin being committed. James’ clear deep understanding of the human condition, and of how humans interacted, is enthralling and drives the plot to its ultimate resolution. Fanny Assingham took in deeper—… “He’s splendid then.” “Ah, that as much as you please!” Maggie said this and left it, but the tone had the next moment determined in her friend a fresh reaction. "You think, both of you, so abysmally and yet so quietly. But it's what will have saved you." "Oh," Maggie returned, "it's what—from the moment they discovered we could think at all—will have saved THEM. For they're the ones who are saved," she went on. "We're the ones who are lost." "Lost—?" "Lost to each other—father and I." And then as her friend appeared to demur. “Oh, yes,” Maggie quite lucidly declared, “lost to each other much more, really, than Amerigo and Charlotte are; since for them it’s just, it’s right, it’s deserved, while for us it’s only sad and strange and not caused by our fault.” Why I prefer Portrait of a Lady and why a lower rating for The Golden Bowl The Golden Bowl is a fascinating book, but I have to make it clear that my favorite Henry James remains The Portrait of a Lady. I hope to be able to explain my preference by the end of this review. Since The Portrait of a Lady is the only other Henry James novel I read, it is my only parameter. Compared to this book, I found The Golden Bowl more direct in format and thus easier to follow. It’s focused on the characters, their communications and somewhat less on their personal feelings and influence of the scenes. I don't think the prose is quite as tortuous as it is in The Portrait of a Lady, and the plot straighter forward, and James here seems to require less of the reader. While The Portrait of a Lady concerns the internal anguish of Isabel Archer, here we are facing two characters, Prince Amerigo and Maggie Verver, or possibly three, if we include Charlotte Stant. While reading The Golden Bowl, I could not wholly sympathize with its most compelling character, Maggie, for her role as the betrayed is in part the result of her actions. While in The Portrait of a Lady, I felt earnestly for Isabel Archer, despite her naiveté. Thus, I was much more involved in the reading of the latter. It seems fair to say that Maggie asserts herself; she did not appear to become a victim if we consider her marriage. But to the end, she believes that she and her father have lost the most. So, what option did she have but to choose her marriage, could she have chosen her father in detriment of that? Not in her time. Thus, in a sense, she resigns herself to her fate much as Isabel Archer did in The Portrait of a Lady. Of course, Maggie's actions are what will define how The Golden Bowl ends, as Isabel Archer likewise leads her novel to its closing. Their choices, regardless if we agree with or dislike them. Isabel’s decision we could say was more moral, and Maggie’s more expedient. I hope to have explained fairly well my choice here, but deep down it is a question of preference, and I liked Isabel Archer better and enjoyed The Portrait of a Lady more. Despite its 4-star rating, I relished reading The Golden Bowl, and strongly recommend it. _____

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    Henry James is funny. I see already the raised eyebrows inspired by that statement. 'Fun' might well be the last quality that anyone has ever associated with Henry James, but as I read this book, I began to have the impression that the author had a lot of fun writing it. I certainly had fun reading it. The fun was in the characters, who they were and how they spoke. It was in the shifting points of view, which revealed so many things to the reader and hid just as many more. It was in the constant Henry James is funny. I see already the raised eyebrows inspired by that statement. 'Fun' might well be the last quality that anyone has ever associated with Henry James, but as I read this book, I began to have the impression that the author had a lot of fun writing it. I certainly had fun reading it. The fun was in the characters, who they were and how they spoke. It was in the shifting points of view, which revealed so many things to the reader and hid just as many more. It was in the constant play between the known and the unknown, the said and the unsaid. It was in the cool acknowledgement that the coincidence at the centre of the plot was the sort of thing that happens mainly in novels. It was in the clever way in which the golden bowl, in a story about collecting beautiful things, becomes a symbol of the failure of the power of purchase. But the best fun for me was in the way the author seemed to insert himself, and the reader alongside him, into the heart of the story. I could examine all those claims one by one, slowly and carefully, but the examination would very likely take as long as the book itself so I'll just focus on the last point: how I felt Henry James inserted himself and the reader into the novel. From early on, two characters stood out for me, Mrs Assingham and her husband Bob, otherwise known as Fanny and the Colonel. Fanny and the Colonel are not main characters, the story might easily have been told without them, but I'm choosing to imagine that Henry James created them to inject exactly the element of fun he himself needed while writing, and which he wanted to offer the reader as a kind of bonus. The book is divided into two parts, the first more or less written from the point of view of a handsome but impoverished Italian called Amerigo who marries an American heiress called Maggie whose father collects art objects of every kind. The second part is mostly from the point of view of Maggie. In both parts, Fanny Assingham is given special treatment: a chapter every so often in which the narrative centers entirely on her and the Colonel. During these sections, Fanny analyses the thoughts and actions of all the other characters as if she were the author and had created them all and understood all their motives, even the most hidden. Her analysis takes the form of a series of hilarious dialogues with the Colonel in which she mostly speaks and the more humble Colonel mostly listens. In fact Henry James calls her the Sphinx at one point, and the Colonel is some old pilgrim in the desert, camping at the foot of that monument. As her theories get more and more cryptic, the Colonel reacts like a typical reader, raising an eyebrow here, wincing visibly there, and sometimes showing such an exhausted patience with his wife's circling of the other characters' motives that indulgent despair was generally at the best his note. At other times, he keeps up with the complex logic of her theories remarkably well, this was another matter that took some following, but the Colonel did his best, and he occasionally asks the kind of irritable question we the readers may silently put to the author, "Are you saying that…?” But the Colonel is mostly patient in spite of the labyrinthine intricacies of Fanny's thought, he’d adopt it and conform to it as soon as he should be able to make it out. The only thing was that it took such incalculable twists and turns. So the Colonel reacts exactly like a reader of Henry James; after all, which reader of his longer books has not felt that indulgent despair from time to time. In spite of all the serious analysis Fanny indulges in, there's still a lot of humour in her exchanges with the Colonel. They are playing a game together which they both enjoy. When she broods about the punishment the other characters may have to endure, he teasingly asks what his own punishment will be. 'Nothing - you're not worthy of any,' she replies, like a magnificent monarch. When she's not being regal, she's being tragic, it had still been their law, a little, that she was tragic when he was comic, and even if the Colonel pretends to be long-suffering, his cigar invariably gives him away. Many of their exchanges are punctuated by reference to the Colonel's pleasure in smoking his cigar or his pipe as he listens to his wife being tragic. He paid this the tribute of a long pull on his pipe…. After a long contemplative smoke… His cigar in short once more alone could express it.… The Colonel smoked on it.… 'But she wasn't," said the Colonel very smokingly.… He listened to his companion tonight, while he smoked his last pipe, he watched her through her demonstration, quite as if he had paid a shilling.… The Colonel's pleasure from smoking is so constantly underlined that I began to see other meanings in it. At one point he is described, on taking his pipe from his mouth, as 'ejaculating' his response, after which, the Colonel sat back at his ease, an ankle resting on the other knee and his eyes attentive to the good appearance of an extremely slender foot which he kept jerking in its neat integument of fine-spun black silk and patent leather. It seemed to confess, this member, to consciousness of military discipline, everything about it being as polished and as perfect, as straight and tight and trim, as a soldier on parade. Putting all that together, alongside the names Henry James chose for these two characters, Fanny and Assingham, I felt there had to be something salacious in his intentions with regard to the provocative pair. I may be hilariously wrong but I reserve the right to analyze and interpret things in my own way, just as Fanny Assingham does. You are free to raise an eyebrow, and even wince - like the Colonel. …………………………………………………………… When I finished this book and turned to the Appendix, I found a passage in which Henry James speaks of the pleasure he got from writing the book. Addressing us, the readers, he says, It all comes back to that, to my and your ‘fun’ - if we but allow the term its full extension; to the production of which no humblest question involved, even to that of the shade of a cadence, is not richly pertinent... Just as Fanny relies on the Colonel to listen to her analysis and see her through, Henry James relies on us, and engages to come out at the right end if we will have sufficient patience. I very much feel he did in this book, and that I did too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James

    Book Review It is difficult to give a low review to one of your favorite authors. And I've read this book twice. But it barely changed me upon a second read. Somewhere between a 2 and a 3, this book has many great moments; however, it's also very disconnected, almost as those there are several stories consolidated in a single book with at unmatched effort made to weave them together properly. The language -- great and consistent. The characters -- strong and memorable. The plot -- confused an Book Review It is difficult to give a low review to one of your favorite authors. And I've read this book twice. But it barely changed me upon a second read. Somewhere between a 2 and a 3, this book has many great moments; however, it's also very disconnected, almost as those there are several stories consolidated in a single book with at unmatched effort made to weave them together properly. The language -- great and consistent. The characters -- strong and memorable. The plot -- confused and confusing. The theme and lesson -- uncertain where it is trying to go. If I separated the stories, they'd each get a 3+, but when I look at this as a whole, as characters in a charade, or people in love... it's time period seems inaccurate. I am considering reading this a third time, as it's been a good 15 years since the last read. And I do adore him as a write, but this one was a miss. About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    Good Lord, do I hate this book. This is very, very late Henry James, when he was hopped up on painkillers and "writing" his novels via dictaphone. Consequently, the entire book reads like a very, very long, barely edited transcript of a dying Victorian intellectual rambling incoherently for hours in turn of the century English, because that's exactly what it is. The narrative is simplistic, is buried underneath clouds of irrelevant and soporific detail, and frankly isn't very interesting to begi Good Lord, do I hate this book. This is very, very late Henry James, when he was hopped up on painkillers and "writing" his novels via dictaphone. Consequently, the entire book reads like a very, very long, barely edited transcript of a dying Victorian intellectual rambling incoherently for hours in turn of the century English, because that's exactly what it is. The narrative is simplistic, is buried underneath clouds of irrelevant and soporific detail, and frankly isn't very interesting to begin with. The characters are wooden and uninteresting. The entire book is less about actual storytelling and more about talking at great length about arcane Victorian traditions without actually getting to the point. For all of the thousands of words in this book, very few of them actually have meaning. This book adds nothing to either literature in general or to James's reputation, and only came to be because he was delirious and lonely at the end of his life and wanted to write one last epic novel despite being physically incapable of doing so. Even so, he should have let it die when it became obvious he couldn't do it properly. Actually publishing this turgid mess as a novel was a crime against humanity. Avoid this one at all costs unless you're a very, very, very patient masochist, or you're too pretentious to realize how absolutely awful this book really is.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melindam

    ETA: Well, Henry James was either a freaking genius totally beyond the praise or criticism of lowly, unworthy readers, like yours truly OR a self-indulgent, pompous ass and I, for one, am still yearning for a chance to be able to travel back in time and throw this book at his self-indulgent, pompous head! OK, so I am reading this book, kind of...which is a weird feeling, because you should either be able to read something or not, but I cannot put this any better. Even though I am presented with t ETA: Well, Henry James was either a freaking genius totally beyond the praise or criticism of lowly, unworthy readers, like yours truly OR a self-indulgent, pompous ass and I, for one, am still yearning for a chance to be able to travel back in time and throw this book at his self-indulgent, pompous head! OK, so I am reading this book, kind of...which is a weird feeling, because you should either be able to read something or not, but I cannot put this any better. Even though I am presented with the subconscious of the characters to an almost painfully detailed degree, yet I feel totally detached from them. Whether it is the language or the literary technique or my misguided attempt to "bond" with the characters on some level to be able to care for them or at least to understand them a little, I find it impossible. It's like looking at a grand, gorgeous aquarium with splendid, majestic, colourful fishes swimming around, but even though you try to take in & delight in all the details, you have to realise that you just can't, because the water is muddled or the glass containing them somehow magnifies & distorts your view and you get a splitting headache by looking through it too long. PHEW.... Still, let's see if I can continue in smaller doses. Original review: Dear Henry James, after all these years I still cannot decide if it's just me or you or the both of us (aka the fault in our stars). Maybe we met in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe there will come a time when a possible reunion ends in desperate hugs and tears & the question of "why did we waste all those precious years?" arises. I don't know ... Let's give our relationship another try in 2019. Yours in obfuscation, Melinda

  6. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Henry, I love you, but get to the freakin’ point! I like a long, baroque, convoluted, labyrinthine sentence as much as the next guy and usually enjoy unpacking the types of twisty phrases and syntax James is known for, along with coaxing out the meaning of said sentences that illustrate complex characters and their even more complex relationships. I've enjoyed several other Henry James novels quite a bit, especially The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove. But the writing in this one see Henry, I love you, but get to the freakin’ point! I like a long, baroque, convoluted, labyrinthine sentence as much as the next guy and usually enjoy unpacking the types of twisty phrases and syntax James is known for, along with coaxing out the meaning of said sentences that illustrate complex characters and their even more complex relationships. I've enjoyed several other Henry James novels quite a bit, especially The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove. But the writing in this one seemed to take his style one unnecessary step further, rendering the untangling of the prose so strenuous it practically made me cross-eyed. The main trouble was, I could see enough of the story to know I wanted to understand it thoroughly, but the opacity of the prose got in the way of my comprehension. What I did get out of this was that the nuanced relationships, motivations, communications and/or obfuscations were part of an intriguing psychological drama, but I kept feeling that I was missing parts of the meaning. After two or three readings of some sentences, I would resolve to cut my losses, move on, and hope it all became clearer in context further on. Sometimes it did, but much remained hazy behind the whirly-gig of words. This was James’ last novel and one Goodreads reviewer who also had problems with the prose speculated that perhaps old age and ill health were taking their toll on Mr. James’ brain cells and style. I don’t know if that could be true, given this novel’s general reputation and high acclaim from many quarters. It may be my own brain cells to blame, which are not as spry as they used to be. I’m certainly going to give The Ambassadors a try in the future, but after more than three months of The Golden Bowl, it may be next year or even 2018 before that happens. For now I think I’m going to binge on much shorter, lighter fare for a while. The 3-star rating is an average of my appreciation (if not enjoyment) of this and my frustrations. (Sorry, T.D.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    David

    Am still seeking words for the experience of reading The Golden Bowl. Less "fun" than Wings of the Dove, more serious in manner. Chilling. Yet, oddly, the one James novel that could be counted as having a "happy" ending. As often with James, there is the fascination of watching the movements of a complicated machine or curious contraption and feeling a sort of wonder as you follow, or try to, how the dang thing works. Also, as with Wings, I found the book an astounding psychological investigatio Am still seeking words for the experience of reading The Golden Bowl. Less "fun" than Wings of the Dove, more serious in manner. Chilling. Yet, oddly, the one James novel that could be counted as having a "happy" ending. As often with James, there is the fascination of watching the movements of a complicated machine or curious contraption and feeling a sort of wonder as you follow, or try to, how the dang thing works. Also, as with Wings, I found the book an astounding psychological investigation, an amazing case study of what I find myself compelled to call the politics of love or the politics of marriage. Or the politics of sex. For at the heart of the book is the portrait of a power struggle, between the American ingenue, Maggie Verver, and the brilliant, gorgeous Charlotte Stant, Maggie's BFF from school days, who also happens to be the lover of the European playboy aristocrat Maggie's father Adam's money buys Maggie for a husband. Blind to the relationship between her husband and Charlotte, Maggie pushes her father to marry Charlotte, thinking to make up to her widower father for leaving him all by himself, prey to every passing gold digger. One way to register, fictionally, the situation James sets up is to think back to Jane Austen's Emma and Emma Woodhouse's dilemma about how to manage her semi-invalid father's distress when she marries Mr. Knightley at the end of the novel. Essentially, in the Golden Bowl James follows what happens after the marriage -- with the semi-perverse twist that he adds the spice of an adulterous relationship, as if Mr. Knightley had been carrying on with Jane Fairfax and Emma, in her last bit of match-making, had gotten her father and Jane married to one another -- had brought the snake into her own garden. The passages, at the beginning of volume 2, that trace Maggie's dawning suspicions and doubts about the real relationship between her husband and her step-mother must rank among the most brilliant interior portraits of the contest between awareness and resistance to awareness in all of literature, fictional or psychological; they are worth a hundred psychological studies. And I found it at once inspiring and chilling to watch Maggie proceed from innocent passivity to deliberate agency in pursuit of both knowledge and the political goal of winning her husband--not back but for the first time--from Charlotte, which is the core contest of the book. Maggie's ruthlessness is matched only by her passion, for James makes it clear that the Prince has claimed the sexual avidity of both women. There are passages where James with extraordinary insight shows how the Prince, aware of his erotic power, uses it to blind and dazzle Maggie, and how Maggie, if she is to realize her goal, must exert her own force of will to beat back the appeal, while at the same time feeling the full force of her own desire. For the satisfaction of her desire remains, after all, the ultimate prize she is after. The Prince dangles the prize in front of her tempting her to snatch at it before she has in fact won it -- before he is in her power rather than she in his. There is much, much more to say and note, especially about Adam and Maggie Verver as American characters in contact and conflict with Europe. Suffice it to say that, as one of the astonishing, chilling masterstrokes of his investigation, James portrays Adam and Maggie as ultimately guided by the determination that, having bought Maggie a real European aristocrat for a husband, they are not going to stand for being cheated or satisfied with anything less than the real thing they bought and paid for. They indicated the value they set in the financial price they paid, and they won't, and don't, rest until they've got what they paid for!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lynne-marie

    I am re-reading the mature James right now and have found The Golden Bowl an ethereal experience. James' use of words as well as his deliberate failure to say things and still communicate epiphany after epiphany is staggering. The sentences fall into one's mind like honey and their sense is as gall. All within the formal right-acting of the drawing rooms of the very well to-do. I feel, reading these books as if I am under a spell. It hurts me that there is only one more of this period of his wri I am re-reading the mature James right now and have found The Golden Bowl an ethereal experience. James' use of words as well as his deliberate failure to say things and still communicate epiphany after epiphany is staggering. The sentences fall into one's mind like honey and their sense is as gall. All within the formal right-acting of the drawing rooms of the very well to-do. I feel, reading these books as if I am under a spell. It hurts me that there is only one more of this period of his writing life, but I'm going to prolong the sleep-walking period by adding on The Portrait of a Lady, which is considered the best of his earlier books. Oh, bliss!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    He tried, too clearly, to please her – to meet her in her own way; but with the result only that, close to her, her face kept before him, his hands holding her shoulders, his whole act enclosing her, he presently echoed: ‘ “See”? I see nothing but you.’ This late work (1904) of James is one replete with echoes: on the local level characters repeat each others’ words, giving significance to changes of emphasis within repetition; on a meta-textual level, this book replays themes and relationships He tried, too clearly, to please her – to meet her in her own way; but with the result only that, close to her, her face kept before him, his hands holding her shoulders, his whole act enclosing her, he presently echoed: ‘ “See”? I see nothing but you.’ This late work (1904) of James is one replete with echoes: on the local level characters repeat each others’ words, giving significance to changes of emphasis within repetition; on a meta-textual level, this book replays themes and relationships which have haunted James’ oeuvre. The love triangles of The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove, especially, reach a conclusion here in a text which expands the triangle into a more stable quartet or square. It intersects, too, with Wharton’s The Age of Innocence though giving a very different emphasis to the participants. Structurally, this cleverly divides into two halves focalised around Prince Amerigo (note the connotations of his name) in the first part and his American wife, Maggie, in the second. Almost all the ‘action’ takes place in the consciousness of the protagonists, and scenes of dialogue and confrontation are given thrilling emphasis. At the same time, though, this novel contains some of James’ most dense – even impenetrable – prose (I think he was dictating his work by this point) and there are whole chunks where it’s hard to follow quite what he’s trying to articulate. It seems odd to me that some readers find James dry: to me, his books are frequently imbued with sex and sensuality, however submerged, and the sense of secret desires heighten the erotic frisson, especially here between Amerigo and Charlotte, his wife’s best friend and now married to his father-in-law. Overall, the characters here don’t have the same pull as Isabel Archer or the extraordinary Kate Croy. With layer upon layer of irony, James might have finally worked out how to stabilise the erotic triangle that animates some of his other works but I was left slightly unsatisfied – and curious about what Charlotte does next.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Henry James - you are awful. I will spend no more of my life reading you. What is the point?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    For a man who was never married nor, to the best of my knowledge, was ever in a long-term relationship with a woman, Henry James has written a novel that drills down deep into the heart of the dynamics of marriage and relationships between the sexes. While a stoutly thick novel, it largely swings back and forth between the relationships of three married couples--just six people; and like most of James's fiction, The Golden Bowl is a psychological tour-de-force. This is a tale that allows the rea For a man who was never married nor, to the best of my knowledge, was ever in a long-term relationship with a woman, Henry James has written a novel that drills down deep into the heart of the dynamics of marriage and relationships between the sexes. While a stoutly thick novel, it largely swings back and forth between the relationships of three married couples--just six people; and like most of James's fiction, The Golden Bowl is a psychological tour-de-force. This is a tale that allows the reader to experience what a protagonist is thinking, and about what a protagonist thinks another protagonist is thinking. Sometimes facts are not facts, and sometimes assumptions and inference provide glimpses through clear glass, and other times everything is murky and quite unclear. This is a complicated and richly complex novel that involves a very wealthy American patron of the arts, Adam Verver, and his daughter, Maggie. While in Europe acquiring art for his museum back in the states, the Ververs decide to acquire a husband for Maggie. Enter Prince Amerigo of a titled, but now poor, Italian family. Ah, but this marriage now upsets the harmonious balance in the relationship between father and daughter. Maggie now determines that the best thing is for her widower father to remarry. Enter Charlotte Stant, a young, vivacious and street-smart poor American expat. Little known to Maggie and Pere Verver though is that Prince Amerigo and Miss Stant are very 'well acquainted', very well indeed. It is probably safe to postulate that as long as there are humans linked in marriages or relationships there will be adultery or cheating; not in each and every relationship, but it is a real enough threat that we all know that lurks in the darker fringes of our psyche and soul. The question that remains to be answered in each and every relationship is how it is dealt with; and that is what this novel--The Golden Bowl--explores. Not only the circumstances leading to the extramarital affair, but how each of the characters in the novel responds to it. I think, for me, the novel's most powerful character is Maggie. Through the course of the novel the reader watches her mature and grow in knowledge and the capability to see what is happening around her and deal with it in the fashion that brings the least amount of pain and anguish to all involved, and most especially to her father and even herself. The most tragic character for me is Charlotte Stant, as I believe that she knows going into her marriage with Maggie's father, Adam; and even her adulterous relationship with Prince Amerigo; that while she can attain financial stability, it is not clear that she will ever achieve romantic stability. There is a scene near the end of the novel where Charlotte and Maggie have a quiet, but forthrightly candid conversation on the balcony of the Verver estate. Both women know what the other knows, and both women know what needs to occur moving forward. The reader can almost hear both women panting as they breathe and think, the reader can feel the pounding of the pulses in arteries of both women as they face off and discuss how they will manage their marriages. It is gripping stuff, to be sure. Like The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl is late Henry James, and it requires the reader's full dedication, commitment and concentration. Nuance, subtlety, innuendo, and inference are your watchwords. Masks and facade camouflage the powerful undercurrents of emotions that course through each of the characters as the tale unfolds. And while Henry James has crafted a fascinating portrait of marriage and relationships in The Golden Bowl, it is first and foremost a brilliant examination of human nature, and this is its relevance to each of us as we can see glimpses of our own selves and our own behaviors in each of the novel's characters. A solid 4.5 stars for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    In this, the last of his final three major novels, James employs his characteristic inimitable and elliptical style, using long and complex syntax combined with nuanced half-thoughts and utterances that suggest rather than state, that allude to rather than demonstrate, that imply rather than assert, such that his characters and situations are built up gradually by the reader’s catching hints and making inferences, just as occurs in “real life” outside the pages of fiction. To follow the narrativ In this, the last of his final three major novels, James employs his characteristic inimitable and elliptical style, using long and complex syntax combined with nuanced half-thoughts and utterances that suggest rather than state, that allude to rather than demonstrate, that imply rather than assert, such that his characters and situations are built up gradually by the reader’s catching hints and making inferences, just as occurs in “real life” outside the pages of fiction. To follow the narrative and make sense of the story requires a degree of attentiveness and sensitivity not often required in contemporary fiction and is one of the principle delights of reading James’ writing, the effort being amply rewarded. The story is told by a non-omniscient third person narrator, and since there is little action and much dialogue, the reader must interpret conversations in much the way we do every day with each other, trying to understand just what the speaker is trying to communicate and to conceal. The plot is easily told. The fabulously rich American industrialist and art collector Adam Verver and his beloved daughter Maggie are residing in London. Prince Amerigo, an impoverished Italian nobleman, marries Maggie, having of necessity given up his lover, Charlotte Stant, whom he cannot afford to marry. Maggie knows nothing of his history with Charlotte, but, because she thinks her father is now lonely, she engineers the marriage of Adam and Charlotte. Over the following few years, the foursome is inseparable. Eventually Maggie discovers the hidden relationship between Amerigo and Charlotte, and the remainder of the book follows the trajectory of the results of that discovery. This is one of my favorite novels, a tour-de-force of psychological sensitivity and masterful writing. The tale is timeless, plumbing the themes of desire and jealousy, openness and concealment, rationality and emotion. A joy to read, the novel also inevitably leads the reader to reflect on language, the role and function of conversation, and the subtleties of interpersonal interactions in daily life. Highly recommended!

  13. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    So far typical James plotting and manipulation Even if James' opinion of women wasn't well know, it would easily be determined by the behavior of his female characters-conniving, meddling, shallower The most enjoyable chapters include the discussions of the guilelessness of the couples between Colonel and Fannie Assingham. The ambiguous use of pronouns, the constant need for clarification and the backtracking makes for entertaining reading. I'm really torn over the ending. I have strong feeling f So far typical James plotting and manipulation Even if James' opinion of women wasn't well know, it would easily be determined by the behavior of his female characters-conniving, meddling, shallower The most enjoyable chapters include the discussions of the guilelessness of the couples between Colonel and Fannie Assingham. The ambiguous use of pronouns, the constant need for clarification and the backtracking makes for entertaining reading. I'm really torn over the ending. I have strong feeling for both Maggie and Charlotte, but I'm not sure how to discuss them without giving away too much of their pivotal relationship. I could give this book 3.5, but I'm really more a fan of james' short stories compared to this.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Flora

    Unbearably good, and almost impossible to read. How does that work? I have no idea. But I love it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez

    Although The Portrait of a Lady will no doubt always be Henry James' most read and most loved novel, I think The Golden Bowl is his masterpiece. Published in 1904, The Golden Bowl, along with The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, constitutes James' final, and most complex, phase as a novelist. The Golden Bowl, set in England and in Italy during 1903 to 1906, is the story of four people, two men and two women, and two marriages. Two marriages whose core holds the same secret, the same unackno Although The Portrait of a Lady will no doubt always be Henry James' most read and most loved novel, I think The Golden Bowl is his masterpiece. Published in 1904, The Golden Bowl, along with The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, constitutes James' final, and most complex, phase as a novelist. The Golden Bowl, set in England and in Italy during 1903 to 1906, is the story of four people, two men and two women, and two marriages. Two marriages whose core holds the same secret, the same unacknowledged truth. The plot is a simple one, and revolves around that most human of all "failings"--adultery--or at least the suspicion of adultery, and in this case, suspicion may prove to be more deadly than the actual deed, itself. Adam Verver, a wealthy American industrialist, sans scruples, has acquired almost all the material possessions his heart desires. When he travels to Europe, accompanied by his young daughter, Maggie, however, he has one important "purchase" yet to make--a husband for Maggie. He thinks he's found the perfect candidate in Prince Amerigo. And in some ways, he has. Although now impoverished, Prince Amerigo is descended from an aristocratic Florentine family, a family who lives in the once elegant Palazzo Ugolini. Prince Amerigo can provide Adam Verver's descendants with something Adam, himself, cannot provide at any price...a title. Maggie, herself, finds the Prince charming and delightful and is not at all averse to her father's plans for her marriage. But the course of love and marriage is, more often than not, a rocky road, and predictably, complications lie in wait for Maggie in the form of her best friend, Charlotte Stant. Fanny Assingham, a American expatriate now living in London thinks she's found the perfect way around those complications, however, and Fanny suggests that Adam and Charlotte marry. It will be one, big, happy family - Adam and Charlotte and Prince Amerigo and Maggie - or so Charlotte thinks. One of the biggest problems in the marriages of Adam and Maggie isn't what the reader might expect. The real problems surface only when Adam and Maggie, who are both very happy with the situation, begin spending far too much time together, leaving Prince Amerigo and Charlotte to devise ways to amuse themselves on their own. As might be expected, consequences ensue. Part of the blame, of course, must lie with Adam and Maggie, themselves, who are so involved with each other and so wrapped up in each others lives that they fail to notice the problems inherent in their own marriages. The Golden Bowl is a book filled with ambiguity. Nothing is black or white, good or bad, something that makes it all the more challenging to its reader, but all the more rewarding as well. The Golden Bowl is a character study par excellence, and as such, it is filled with more innuendo and delicately shaded nuance than are any of James' other books. In this novel, James left much for the reader, himself, to answer. And, lest any reader think the "sin" in this book is what's on the surface, it isn't. It's excessive attachment, excessive clinging, excessive selfishness. The book's title isn't superfluous. The Golden Bowl really does contain a golden bowl and it's this that leads Maggie to the startling realization that both her husband and her best friend have been lying to her...for quite some time. Does she assert herself? Does she become a victim? Does she resign herself to her fate, much as Isabel Archer did in The Portrait of a Lady? That, of course, would be unfair to disclose, but it is Maggie's actions that brings The Golden Bowl to a surprising end. The Golden Bowl is Henry James at his finest. His narrative powers, in my opinion, have never been greater than they are in this magnificent novel, though I do know people who find this book rather boring. I really think those people wouldn't like James no matter what book of his they chose to read, and indeed, if one is new to the work of Henry James, this isn't the place to begin. Daisy Miller would be a far better choice. I found The Golden Bowl to be a richly dense tapestry, as James layers scene upon scene, set piece upon set piece, weaving all into a seamless whole. The Golden Bowl does contain James' beautiful, flowing, convoluted prose that meanders and continuously folds back on itself again and again, however, I don't think the prose is quite as convoluted as it is in The Portrait of a Lady. The Golden Bowl is divided into two sections, with the first being titled "The Prince" and the second, "The Princess." As the novel opens, Prince Amerigo is in London, considering his options and lost in thought regarding Maggie Verver: The Prince had always liked his London, when it had come to him; he was one of the modern Romans who find by the Thames a more convincing image of the truth of the ancient state than any they have left by the Tiber. Brought up on the legend of the City to which the world paid tribute, he recognised in the present London much more than in contemporary Rome the real dimensions of such a case. If it was a question of an Imperium, he said to himself, and if one wished, as a Roman, to recover a little the sense of that, the place to do so was on London Bridge, or even, on a fine afternoon in May, at Hyde Park Corner. Perhaps, more than any other book written by James, The Golden Bowl is a very interior, introspective book. Yes, even more so than The Portrait of a Lady, for, while that book concerned the internal torment of one very naïve person, Isabel Archer, The Golden Bowl contains the internal torment of two, Prince Amerigo and Maggie Verver, and by extension, Adam Verver and Charlotte Stant, and save for Maggie, none of these characters is, in the slightest bit, naïve. Surprisingly, for me at least, the most sympathetic character isn't Maggie, it's Charlotte. Maggie and Adam are "collectors"--they treat people in much the same way they treat objets d'art. It is indicative of the genius of James, however, that our sympathies never settle, but constantly shift, first to Charlotte, then to Maggie, then to Adam, then to the Prince. It is also indicative of the genius of James that, despite the tragic failings of each of the four main characters in The Golden Bowl, there is something to be pitied in each of them. If I have one small criticism of this magnificent novel, it's the fact that it lacks story tension, and as such, might be just a little overly long. In the end, The Golden Bowl revolves around the torment we endure because of the lies we tell ourselves, the words we leave unspoken. This book constantly asks the questions: What constitutes truth? What constitutes a lie? What is right and what is wrong? James never makes the answers clear and this book is filled with much nebulous ambiguity. In the final analysis, one must ask oneself if tragedy lies in the doing or in the unacknowledged desire of what we want, and perhaps, need, to happen.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Josh B.

    This is possibly one of the most tedious, overwrought books I have ever read. On that negative note, I have enjoyed other books by Henry James, mainly The Portrait of a Lady, which was actually quite good. It appears that his late works, The Golden Bowl, Wings of the Dove etc, are in his most annoying, self-indulgent style, and most of them are practically unreadable. And this book is indeed unreadable. Henry James style is overly wordy and verbose, his sentences go on for paragraphs. I found mys This is possibly one of the most tedious, overwrought books I have ever read. On that negative note, I have enjoyed other books by Henry James, mainly The Portrait of a Lady, which was actually quite good. It appears that his late works, The Golden Bowl, Wings of the Dove etc, are in his most annoying, self-indulgent style, and most of them are practically unreadable. And this book is indeed unreadable. Henry James style is overly wordy and verbose, his sentences go on for paragraphs. I found myself having to stop reading in the middle of a sentence just to keep track of what he was saying. This book is so wordy that it took me several months to finish it, and several times I found myself angrily throwing this book against the wall. How can anyone endure this? I have read other author's who are very wordy, such as James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Eliot, but never have I encountered writing so painfully excruciating. The plot isn't very interesting either for that matter, there's very little action in this book, and it seemed that James liked to "suggest" rather than describe actions or a scene, which doesn't work very well when your writing style is like verbal diarrhea. What sounds like an interesting plot, adultery and intrigue, come off like hot air in Henry James writing style. I was really looking forward to reading more Henry James after The Portrait of a Lady, but this book ruined him for me. I can safely say I probably will never read any more Henry James again, thanks to this book. And as far as this book, consider yourself warned..

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yani

    Me encanta la complejidad de la escritura de Henry James. Demorar en terminar un libro es una buena señal... pero no siempre. En este caso, se me hizo difícil acabarlo porque, sinceramente, no me podía conectar con la historia. En ciertos momentos creí que el problema de los personajes era la falta de comunicación entre ellos. Sin las conversaciones esquivas y la desesperante pasividad de los protagonistas (por supuesto, el hecho de que la narración se concentre en sus pensamientos ayuda a elabo Me encanta la complejidad de la escritura de Henry James. Demorar en terminar un libro es una buena señal... pero no siempre. En este caso, se me hizo difícil acabarlo porque, sinceramente, no me podía conectar con la historia. En ciertos momentos creí que el problema de los personajes era la falta de comunicación entre ellos. Sin las conversaciones esquivas y la desesperante pasividad de los protagonistas (por supuesto, el hecho de que la narración se concentre en sus pensamientos ayuda a elaborar esa sensación), el libro hubiera durado mucho menos. Haría una relectura, pero será para un momento en el que esté despejada.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    What a tour-de-force this book is! Even more so than in any of the other James' novels I've read, there is the story on the surface and the story underneath -- or maybe even stories. Near the end I found the story underneath very chilling, though very subtle. The power of this one scene could change your thought process about what you thought was going on previously. How James gets into the heads of these individuals is amazing -- or should I say masterful, as he is in complete control, and all What a tour-de-force this book is! Even more so than in any of the other James' novels I've read, there is the story on the surface and the story underneath -- or maybe even stories. Near the end I found the story underneath very chilling, though very subtle. The power of this one scene could change your thought process about what you thought was going on previously. How James gets into the heads of these individuals is amazing -- or should I say masterful, as he is in complete control, and all I could do was follow.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carolina Morales

    Everytime one thinks of domestic tragedy, psychological studies and familiy issues, there are three authors I beleive must be paid attention to: Liev Tolstoi, Thomas Hardy and Henry James. If you're looking for a wholesome study concerning the historic context of the plot, go for Tolstoi. In case you have a strong stomach to physical pain and human misery, Hardy is your pick. However, whenever you're searching for a detailed examination of the myriad of human feelings and behaviour, James is defi Everytime one thinks of domestic tragedy, psychological studies and familiy issues, there are three authors I beleive must be paid attention to: Liev Tolstoi, Thomas Hardy and Henry James. If you're looking for a wholesome study concerning the historic context of the plot, go for Tolstoi. In case you have a strong stomach to physical pain and human misery, Hardy is your pick. However, whenever you're searching for a detailed examination of the myriad of human feelings and behaviour, James is definitively your author. The Golden Bowl is a late novel in Jame's collection of oeuvres. It was published in 1904 and, apparently, wasn't warmly welcomed by readers nor the critic. Adam Verve, America's first billionaire, one fine day decided to go shopping for a husband to his only daughter, Maggie, a kind hearted young lady. And what would fit daddy's little princess better than an athentic European Prince? So he sets up Italian impoverished aristocrat Amerigo, a less than pure match to Maggie, as he used to be lovers with her schoolgirl friend, Charlotte. And, lo and behold! what a coincidence, Charlotte is precisely Maggie's choice to replace her as mistress of her daddy's home. A very complicated set of couples is therefore displayed. Charlotte and Amerigo reconnect as lovers as a very tormented Maggie is trying to save her father's feelings and spouse pride, so she conceals her learning of the adultery from both her daddy and 'dear friend' Charlotte. Maggie starts to plot a subtle scheming to drive the other couple away from the old continent, back to America, as she'd rather stay away from her father than risk to lose him as well as her husband. In short words, this novel is also the process of a naïve little maiden (with a damsel in distress hint) to a grown mature woman. Who kept the best part of the bargain was Amerigo, as he had previously delightened his passion along with Charlotte but has fallen truely in love with a seductively strong wife. As in other James' plots, I recognise the main theme, in my humble opinion, as how people make choices unaware of the complexity of consequences and later consider the price to pay way too high, concealing their deceit and growing resigned of their self elected fates.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Reichenbaugh

    The Golden Bowl is James's last "major" novel, one of the three produced at the height of his artistic output. Like his other two novels in this period, The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, it's another "difficult" but rewarding novel to get through. It follows the experience of two marriages of an American father and daughter to a pair of former lovers in Europe. It explores wealth, class, adultery and of course James's fascination of the clash between American and European cultures. Amer The Golden Bowl is James's last "major" novel, one of the three produced at the height of his artistic output. Like his other two novels in this period, The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, it's another "difficult" but rewarding novel to get through. It follows the experience of two marriages of an American father and daughter to a pair of former lovers in Europe. It explores wealth, class, adultery and of course James's fascination of the clash between American and European cultures. Americans are often possessed of a naivete when confronted by the "old-world" sophistication and corruption of the European society they experience. It's another long novel and mired in symbolism with regards to the "golden bowl" of the title, presented as a wedding gift purchased from an antique store. I read it many years ago and may perhaps read it again, or not. I would recommend The Wings of the Dove and The Ambassadors before this novel. I'm of the belief that these novels have fallen out of favor among the scholars out there, but I believe they're still worth reading.

  21. 4 out of 5

    woodshadows

    Anytime I`ve come across the name of Henry James, despite having not previously read any of his works, by the very intonation of his name it was conferred upon me a sense of a writer of english extraction, highly refined, a tad ponderous and droll. I read turn of the screw. I next came upon golden bowl. Or as I affectionately like to call it, 'the bowl' (toilet or otherwise; a point on which I willfully remain obscure). What a revelation!!! Stuffy nerdy english major material? I think not! This is Anytime I`ve come across the name of Henry James, despite having not previously read any of his works, by the very intonation of his name it was conferred upon me a sense of a writer of english extraction, highly refined, a tad ponderous and droll. I read turn of the screw. I next came upon golden bowl. Or as I affectionately like to call it, 'the bowl' (toilet or otherwise; a point on which I willfully remain obscure). What a revelation!!! Stuffy nerdy english major material? I think not! This is a laugh-fest from start to finish. This is the meandering madness of a curious individual (henry james). I've said it, it's madness (this is the hilarity of course). We have the italian prince, who marries rich girl maggie verver, whose friend charlotte comes and marries maggie's father adam verver, an action done to alleviate maggies shame for having abandoned her quasi-incestual father-daughter dynamic, only oops! charlotte and the prince, well, they've been in a relationship in the past, so the now mother-in-law (charlotte) and son-in-law (the prince) must fight their urges, as their respective spouses (adam [father] and maggie [daughter] spend all their time together, neglecting the prince and charlotte. All the drama and intrigue is seen and discussed at (very great) length between Fanny Assingham (*giggle*) and her husband the colonel; the colonel by the way, being the literary equivalent of a 3 year old with a persistent refrain of questioning. eg) fanny: what is the what of the who, but you *SEE, it really is the way of the where, oh the poor dearies - - ! colonel: so the what is the who of the where? fanny: the when isn't going *TO who the why of the what, you see they really are when'ing the while away colonel: the when is wanting the *WHAT of the where - -? *caps locks are Henry James' This continues for several pages. Fanny's husband is very very interested in the lives of the prince and charlotte. He is so very interested that he asks in every minutae the details of their intrigues. Fanny of course never just says they want to boink, it's more fun to spin circles of vague obscurity, page after long page. Oh, there's also some reference to a cracked golden bowl, I think the metaphor is that the bowl is cracked and imperfect just like their relationships! and even by extension - - - LIFE ITSELF. Cups are mentioned a lot too, they add to this pervading sense of the bowlness of life. It's deep, don't sink.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sciosarah

    Much as Henry James was incapable of getting his point across in anything but extremes - extreme extended metaphor and simile, absolutes, and exaggerations, without ever actually COMING to the point, it is impossible to place the Golden Bowl in the center of the scale, and give it anything but a complete condemnation or total absolution. I, for one, am incapable of redeeming this novel. There is a part of me that wants to believe that this book, for the extreme effort that obviously went into cre Much as Henry James was incapable of getting his point across in anything but extremes - extreme extended metaphor and simile, absolutes, and exaggerations, without ever actually COMING to the point, it is impossible to place the Golden Bowl in the center of the scale, and give it anything but a complete condemnation or total absolution. I, for one, am incapable of redeeming this novel. There is a part of me that wants to believe that this book, for the extreme effort that obviously went into creating it, has some sort of redeeming value. It seems to me virtually incomprehensible that a book so rife with emotional undercurrents, subtleties of speech, bright imagery and strong moral sentiment could fall so flat on it's own face. And yet somehow, Henry James has allowed the best aspects of this novel to become it's downfall. Whatever it was (and it was something, alright) it just didn't work.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I love Henry James. I do. Wings of the Dove and Portrait of a Lady are two of the coolest books ever, populated by some of the most memorable, complicated characters in literature. Kate Croy? Merton Densher? Isabel Archer? Madame Merle? GIMME. Gimme those long, languid afternoons in someone else's enigmatic mind, making unexpected choices, saying unexpected things in unexpected, lyrical ways. Take me back. But this one? God. The characters are so boring. The plot is so... the kindest thing I can I love Henry James. I do. Wings of the Dove and Portrait of a Lady are two of the coolest books ever, populated by some of the most memorable, complicated characters in literature. Kate Croy? Merton Densher? Isabel Archer? Madame Merle? GIMME. Gimme those long, languid afternoons in someone else's enigmatic mind, making unexpected choices, saying unexpected things in unexpected, lyrical ways. Take me back. But this one? God. The characters are so boring. The plot is so... the kindest thing I can say is "nonexistent." The pace is ambling. The imagery is completely lost on me, if it's there at all. The ending is... annoying in a way that I can't articulate. If you're going to give me a frustrating ending, give me the proper ARGHHHH of Portrait of a Lady. Don't give me this wishywashy halfway.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    As a good friend of mine once said, "Life is too short to read Henry James and although I did not listen and ploughed through to the end of this turgid and verbose tome I find that, improbably as it may seem to some, thatI must now concur!!!! See what it has done to me!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mariel

    I didn't nod off into my bowl of Golden Crisp cereal even once. Honest Abe and Trustworthy Carl from down the street will vouch for me. (Those are not sarcastic nicknames.)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Unquestionably one of the great masterpieces of literature, this incredible book is in many ways James’ supreme expression of his impressionistic style. Brilliance and genius throughout, with many unforgettable scenes and great, subtle psychological insight. A fitting end to James’ “major” period. Beyond that, not much to say - I liked the first half of the book much better than the second, as the first part focused on a variety of characters (and I couldn't get enough of Charlotte, with the scen Unquestionably one of the great masterpieces of literature, this incredible book is in many ways James’ supreme expression of his impressionistic style. Brilliance and genius throughout, with many unforgettable scenes and great, subtle psychological insight. A fitting end to James’ “major” period. Beyond that, not much to say - I liked the first half of the book much better than the second, as the first part focused on a variety of characters (and I couldn't get enough of Charlotte, with the scene where she has put together the "Winchester" visit my favorite), and the second part was entirely focused on Maggie, and was too narrowly focused. The book, like the others in his late trilogy, is at times almost impossible to read. I took James' recommended approach of reading just a little every day, and so it took me a couple of weeks to get through. Some chapters I ended up reading several times. Again, as with "Wings" and "Ambassadors", James likes to paint dots on the canvas, and it takes a while sometimes for the picture to become clear. I'm not going to argue for James' realism - I don't really believe anyone - except perhaps him? - has such finely tuned sensitivities. His lack of comprehension of any sort of sexual aspect to his characters (although there is a little bit of it here) is still his biggest problem in the "realism" category, but it is hardly a fatal flaw, and perhaps in modernism too much focus is made on this aspect. We are much too cynical. I think what is real is perhaps the _lack_ of drama - not every story in real life ends in a blow up, there are secrets that are buried more than revealed. He is the opposite of a Eugene O'Neill, who treats everything as a big Freudian confession. Here, even at the end of the book, much of importance is shrouded in mystery. But still, what makes the book truly incredible, is its enormous art and subtlety, truly unlike any other writer. Henry James is a "writer's writer," full of just the greatest language and expressions. He's the kind of writer who makes you want to write, and I suspect his influence is far greater than suspected. You can talk about the wonder of James Joyce, but much of his writing is a "writing killer," I'm not sure after reading Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake you feel like writing a novel, more likely you want to hide under your bed. Anyway, like the other books in the late trilogy, this book is highly recommended - as far even as the "must read" category - for writers, language lovers, English majors, and most definitely not for beach readers or those otherwise looking for an "easy read." The book is difficult and incredibly frustrating at times as - like the other books in the trilogy and the late short stories - you can read an entire page and not have the slightest clue what James is getting at. Rereading the page, or better, going back to it at the end of the chapter, will reveal more, but certain very long sentences, still, failed to make an impression. I am not alone in this, so it doesn't concern me too much, but be prepared if you venture down this path. Finally: I loved this book, an expression I don't use much; I found it deeply and personally stirring, which is a reaction I occasionally have, and am not afraid to admit.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    If you like unrelentingly lengthy sentences, heavy symbolism, adultery + voyeurism + love quadrangles, and a persistent aura of foreboding, then this is the novel of your dreams! I think this book, combined with the movie, which I watched shortly after, would be a great way to convince someone never to get married.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Henry James has bested me and I can't go on. I can't penetrate his long sentences -- none of them are straight lines. They all have a handful of little branches that confuse meaning rather than clarify. I gave it my level best and now I don't care.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Illiterate

    Late James. Affected characters. Stilted dialogue. Tortuous prose. No thanks.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Maher

    The impulse to marvel at each magnificent sentence in THE GOLDEN BOWL led me to beg my weary husband, “Hey, listen to this.” For example: “It was all, at bottom, in him, the aesthetic principle, planted where it could burn with cold, still flame; where it fed almost wholly on the material directly involved, on the idea (followed by the appropriation) of plastic beauty, of the thing visibly perfect in its kind; where in short, in spite of the general tendency of the 'devouring element' to spread, The impulse to marvel at each magnificent sentence in THE GOLDEN BOWL led me to beg my weary husband, “Hey, listen to this.” For example: “It was all, at bottom, in him, the aesthetic principle, planted where it could burn with cold, still flame; where it fed almost wholly on the material directly involved, on the idea (followed by the appropriation) of plastic beauty, of the thing visibly perfect in its kind; where in short, in spite of the general tendency of the 'devouring element' to spread, the rest of his spiritual furniture, modest, scattered, and tended with unconscious care, escaped the consumption that in so many cases proceeds from the undue keeping-up of profane altar-fires.” Faced with such high style, a reader might flow on and on in the exquisiteness of the prose. Yet the plot probes deeply if circuitously into the issue of fidelity: The fidelity between a widowed American father and his constantly obliging daughter; between him and his royal but poor son-in-law, Prince Amerigo; and between Princess Maggie and her perfect, splendid (but poor) young childhood playmate, Charlotte Stant, whom Maggie chooses as a wife for her father because she fears her marriage has altered her bond with her father. All these, of course, are secondary to the marital fidelity between the two husbands and wives: father and Charlotte; Prince Amerigo and Maggie. Within both marriages, accompanied by a near-miraculous Principino (baby son of Prince Amerigo and Princess Maggie), equilibrium seems to reign for a year or two. The characters profess it. For father and daughter, it’s especially exquisite. Yet day in and out, as the millionaire father and his daughter devote themselves to contenting one another and rejoicing in the adorable Principino, (tended by a silent but efficient governess whose name changes in my Kindle version), the two sposi, left to themselves, lose their standing. Complicating the arrangement is the fact that the millionaire father prefers his daughter and grandchild to any other society. He tacitly encourages Charlotte and Prince Amerigo to lend themselves to London’s society in lieu of their sposi. One rainy March afternoon, Charlotte, in fear of boredom, arrives in a shabby carriage at the home of Prince Amerigo and Maggie—ostensibly to pay a call on Maggie, despite knowing her friend is with her own husband and the Principino “as usual.” Once the servants have left the Prince and Charlotte to their tea, Amerigo says the millionaire father would dote equally on a child of his own and Charlotte’s. Whereupon, Charlotte confesses she has long hoped for that and believes her husband has hoped the same. Now, however, Charlotte is convinced “it will never be,” though not through her fault, and refers to her millionaire husband as “the poor duck.” Prince Amerigo asks Charlotte what she would say if her husband were to ask her where she spent the day. Her answer would be the truth: She has kept the Prince company in his solitude. Charlotte and the Prince agree that the father and his daughter have confidence in their sposi. Such confidence, one repeats to the other. This chapter ends with the Prince and Charlotte aware of themselves within a tightened, separate circle. Thus: “Their lips sought their lips, their pressure their response and their response their pressure; with a violence that had sighed itself the next moment to the longest and deepest of stillnesses they passionately sealed their pledge.” The affair established, the novel expends further grandeur and great subtlety divining who KNOWS. The question is posed but generally understood indirectly, as in: Know? How can one live without knowing? As a knowing foursome, they entertain guests throughout the summer. Maggie, of course, has her quiet, self-conscious suspicions, which are eventually confirmed, most curiously, by a man who has sold her a golden bowl for too high a price. Repentant, he visits her and sees photographs of Charlotte and Prince Amerigo who had years ago come to his shop, and considered buying the same bowl, except that the Prince noted a serious flaw. With great delicacy and patience, Maggie then contrives to give her father the idea that he and Charlotte might return to America. Maggie wanders outside during a dinner party and Charlotte follows, asking her friend if she has offended her. Of course, she has not, and so Charlotte then asks Maggie to allow her a kiss, which the dinner party happens to witness. Following this, Charlotte, who has clearly lost her equilibrium, begins taking walks in the bright of day. Maggie notices this and notices, too, that Charlotte has walked off with the second volume of a book when she hasn’t read the first. Maggie follows her to give her friend the correct volume. This kindness is enormously suggestive, for Maggie has observed that her father seems to have cast a spell upon poor Charlotte like a long loose rope around her neck. Before long, it’s clear that the father and daughter have finally succeeded in making lives apart from each other. The foursome should part. The inevitable arrangement, achieved through Maggie’s magnificent patience and perspicacity, lessens Charlotte’s splendor considerably. Yet the millionaire father shows no discontent, The impulse to marvel at each magnificent sentence in THE GOLDEN BOWL led me to beg my weary husband, “Hey, listen to this.” For example: “It was all, at bottom, in him, the aesthetic principle, planted where it could burn with cold, still flame; where it fed almost wholly on the material directly involved, on the idea (followed by the appropriation) of plastic beauty, of the thing visibly perfect in its kind; where in short, in spite of the general tendency of the 'devouring element' to spread, the rest of his spiritual furniture, modest, scattered, and tended with unconscious care, escaped the consumption that in so many cases proceeds from the undue keeping-up of profane altar-fires.” Faced with such high style, a reader might flow on and on in the exquisiteness of the prose. Yet the plot probes deeply if circuitously into the issue of fidelity: The fidelity between a widowed American father and his constantly obliging daughter; between him and his royal but poor son-in-law, Prince Amerigo; and between Princess Maggie and her perfect, splendid (but poor) young childhood playmate, Charlotte Stant, whom Maggie chooses as a wife for her father because she fears her marriage has altered her bond with her father. All these, of course, are secondary to the marital fidelity between the two husbands and wives: father and Charlotte; Prince Amerigo and Maggie. Within both marriages, accompanied by a near-miraculous Principino (baby son of Prince Amerigo and Princess Maggie), equilibrium seems to reign for a year or two. The characters profess it. For father and daughter, it’s especially exquisite. Yet day in and out, as the millionaire father and his daughter devote themselves to contenting one another and rejoicing in the adorable Principino, (tended by a silent but efficient governess whose name changes in my Kindle version), the two sposi, left to themselves, lose their standing. Complicating the arrangement is the fact that the millionaire father prefers his daughter and grandchild to any other society. He tacitly encourages Charlotte and Prince Amerigo to lend themselves to London’s society in lieu of their sposi. One rainy March afternoon, Charlotte, in fear of boredom, arrives in a shabby carriage at the home of Prince Amerigo and Maggie—ostensibly to pay a call on Maggie, despite knowing her friend is with her own husband and the Principino “as usual.” Once the servants have left the Prince and Charlotte to their tea, Amerigo says the millionaire father would dote equally on a child of his own and Charlotte’s. Whereupon, Charlotte confesses she has long hoped for that and believes her husband has hoped the same. Now, however, Charlotte is convinced “it will never be,” though not through her fault, and refers to her millionaire husband as “the poor duck.” Prince Amerigo asks Charlotte what she would say if her husband were to ask her where she spent the day. Her answer would be the truth: She has kept the Prince company in his solitude. Charlotte and the Prince agree that the father and his daughter have confidence in their sposi. Such confidence, one repeats to the other. This chapter ends with the Prince and Charlotte aware of themselves within a tightened, separate circle. Thus: “Their lips sought their lips, their pressure their response and their response their pressure; with a violence that had sighed itself the next moment to the longest and deepest of stillnesses they passionately sealed their pledge.” The affair established, the novel expends further grandeur and great subtlety divining who KNOWS. The question is posed but generally understood indirectly, as in: Know? How can one live without knowing? As a knowing foursome, they entertain guests throughout the summer. Maggie, of course, has her quiet, self-conscious suspicions, which are eventually confirmed, most curiously, by a man who has sold her a golden bowl for too high a price. Repentant, he visits her and sees photographs of Charlotte and Prince Amerigo who had years ago come to his shop, and considered buying the same bowl, except that the Prince noted a serious flaw. With great delicacy and patience, Maggie then contrives to give her father the idea that he and Charlotte might return to America. Maggie wanders outside during a dinner party and Charlotte follows, asking her friend if she has offended her. Of course, she has not, and so Charlotte then asks Maggie to allow her a kiss, which the dinner party happens to witness. Following this, Charlotte, who has clearly lost her equilibrium, begins taking walks in the bright of day. Maggie notices this and notices, too, that Charlotte has walked off with the second volume of a book when she hasn’t read the first. Maggie follows her to give her friend the correct volume. This kindness is enormously suggestive, for Maggie has observed that her father seems to have cast a spell upon poor Charlotte like a long loose rope around her neck. Before long, it’s clear that the father and daughter have finally succeeded in making lives apart from each other. The foursome should part. The inevitable arrangement, achieved through Maggie’s magnificent patience and perspicacity, lessens Charlotte’s splendor considerably. Yet the millionaire father shows no discontent, and finds a quiet moment to communicate with his daughter, through intently focused gaze, that he will continue as perfectly as ever with the no longer brilliant, but always upright Charlotte. If I had read this masterpiece as younger woman, I might have lost patience with so much “spiritual furniture.”

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.