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 HappinessIn 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 NovelsThe Text Of This World S Classics Paperback Is That Of The First English EditionJames S Preface Is Included, And A New Introduction, Notes, And Selected Variant Readings 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 andabout 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. Book ReviewIt 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 missAbout MeFor 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 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. 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 headEven 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.Let it be said that this time, HJ did not irritate the hell out of me, which is a huge improvement 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 Am still seeking words for the experience of reading The Golden Bowl Less fun than Wings of the Dove,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, muchto 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 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 evencomplex 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 afterthan 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. 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 oneof 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 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. 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 manyIt 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 firstor 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 thehumble 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 getandcryptic, 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 beNothing 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 smokeHis cigar in short oncealone could express itThe Colonel smoked on it But she wasn t, said the Colonel very smokinglyHe 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. 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 astable 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.