from The Ambassadors


The Ambassadors is one of three books acknowledged as "great" from Henry James's late period. With the other two Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl, it made the list of the top 100 books of the 20th century. If it is like The Golden Bowl at all, I would say that it deserves its place among the top novels, probably more so than many others on the list. And my reading so far suggests that such praise is not unwarranted. Additionally, this book, at least initially, seems to have a somewhat lighter tone than either of the other two, or indeed, than much of James's work outside of the short story.

Here's an example.

from The Ambassadors
Henry James

"Ah, they couldn't have come--either of them. They're very busy people and Mrs. Newsome in particular has a large full life. She's moreover highly nervous--and not at all strong."

"You mean she's an American invalid?"

He carefully distinguished. "There's nothing she likes less than to be called one, but she would consent to be one of those things, I think," he laughed, "If it were the only way to be the other."

"Consent to be an American in order to be an invalid?"

"No," said Strether, "the other way round. . . ."

This conversation takes places between the protagonist, Strether, and the catalyst for the story Miss Gostrey. And it leaves little doubt in the reader's mind regarding Miss Gostrey's opinion of Mrs. Newsome.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 25, 2008 8:06 AM.

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