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The Europeans (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 Mar 2008

3.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (27 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441405
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 442,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

He is as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare in the history of poetry." Graham Greene"

About the Author

Henry James was born in 1843 in New York City. He attended schoold in New York and later in London, Paris and Geneva, entering the Law School in Harvard in 1862. In 1865 he began to contribute reviews and short stories to American journals. In 1875 he settled for a year in Paris, where he met Flaubert, Turgenev and other literary figures. The next year he moved to London, but in 1898 he left to live at Lamb House, Rye, Sussex. Henry James became an English citizen in 1915, and died in 1916.
He wrote about twenty novels, mong which we remember Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.


Andrew Taylor is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Henry James and the Father Question (2002) and co-editor of The Afterlife of John Brown (2005). He is also co-editor of the Edinburgh Series in Transatlantic Studies, published by Edinburgh University Press.


Inside This Book

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First Sentence
A narrow grave-yard in the heart of a bustling, indifferent city, seen from the windows of a gloomy-looking inn, is at no time an object of enlivening suggestion; and the spectacle is not at its best when the mouldy tombstones and funereal umbrage have received the ineffectual refreshment of a dull, moist snowfall. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"The Europeans", dating from 1878, is one of Henry James's early novels, and also one of his shortest. It involves a common theme in James's writing, the differences between the customs and manners of Europe and those of America. The book is essentially a comedy of love and marriage, and shows the influence of Jane Austen, a writer whom James greatly admired. The "Europeans" of the title, the brother and sister Felix Young and Eugenia Munster, are Americans by ancestry, but have lived in Europe since their early childhood, moving from one country to another. The novel describes what happens when they travel to America to meet their cousins, the Wentworth family who live just outside Boston.

When the two siblings arrive, Mr. Wentworth, the widowed patriarch of the family, warns his household that they are to be exposed to "peculiar influences" which will necessitate "a great deal of wisdom and self-control". Together with the young Unitarian minister Mr. Brand, it is Mr. Wentworth, a well-to-do Harvard-educated lawyer, who is the book's main representative of the Puritan tradition of New England. His outlook on life is very different from that of his nephew and niece. Felix, a young artist, describes his uncle as "a tremendously high-toned old fellow; he looks as though he were undergoing martyrdom, not by fire but by freezing". Whereas Felix is gay (in the original sense of that word), carefree and light-hearted, the old man is austere, devout and deeply serious.

The differences between Eugenia and her relatives are perhaps even greater. She is the morganatic wife of a minor German princeling who now wishes to divorce her for political reasons, a situation which Mr. Wentworth regards with some distaste, although he is too polite to say so.
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Format: Paperback
The Europeans was one of James's early books and at 150 pages you cannot expect too many finely developed sub-plots. Instead, what we get is a novel that concentrates all its efforts on exploring the cultural differences between Madame Munster and her brother, upper class expatriate Americans, born and brought up in Europe, and the wealthy American cousins they come to stay with in Boston. The book does not take sides as to which culture is best but elegantly describes the different approaches to life, and to social relations in particular, that come about as a result of being brought up on separate continents. Baroness Munster (the morganatic wife of a German prince) and her artistic younger brother are high on culture, education and the social graces, but low on cash and to an extent trapped by their formal upbringing. The American cousins on the other hand are wealthy and much freer and relaxed with each other socially - men can mix easily with women - and yet are held back by their Puritan background from enjoying the fruits of their labours. So, both have cultural plusses and minuses, and the book illuminates in a delightful manner how each side learns about the other and, in doing so, how they begin to examine and learn about themselves as well. A light but artful novel.
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Format: Paperback
I am a great lover of 19th century literature from the US or the UK. Whether it is the time and thought given to the observation of behaviours and feelings of characters during a much more slowpaced, leisurely period (and whether people therefore responded to situations in a more or less intense manner) - and what we have in common with such characters 100 plus years later - I cannot say. A mix of both I should think. But in most cases, the Emma Woodhouses, the Mrs Bennetts and Newland Archers are recognisable as people we may meet today. However, in this case, I struggled to comprehend fully many of the players.

I did enjoy this book but had to work to do so. Indeed, I had to go back and reread it to get to the nub of the message. At first blush, it does feel a little inconsequential as to story and motive; almost as if a thin transparent veil has been drawn over the story - so we strain to get to the meaning and essence of the characters. But it warrants further examination - if just to try and appreciate Madame Munster, her true nature and the impact she has on those whom she encounters. Who is she - stripping away the sophistication and worldliness. Is she a worthy person? Is she intelligent? Has she a kind bone in her body? A collation of manners? or is she merely a calculating manipulative gold digger? I fear I still do not know. Gertrude is also somewhat of an enigma, a naive innocent who nevertheless shapes her destiny with far more success than Eugena, whereas the men seem to be very much more straight foward and defined primarily by their response to the women in the book.
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There has long been a comparison perceived between the works of Henry James and Edith Wharton. However this likeness is not particularly evident when it comes to The Europeans, for this is a novella that seems more like an American Jane Austen, written on a three inch by two inch square of ivory with a exuberant whirl of young people all seeming to be lovesick for another member of their circle in this tight microcosm of 19th C society. In those days of course, it was quite normal to be madly in love with and marrying your first cousin - in this modern age, we wouldn't dream of it!
The two Europeans of the title, Felix and Eugenia come to the US looking for their relations and as luck would have it, find them. There is certainly something satisfyingly delicious about the chase for true love, but just when I was expecting everything to fall into place, and each to get their man/woman... there was a little twist at the end, where one does not get their man/woman, souring the cake a little but giving an unexpected dose of a little more interest to this work.
In short - a nice swift enjoyable read, ideal for a long journey.
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