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The Europeans: A Sketch (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Henry James , Ian Campbell Ross
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

25 Jun 2009 Oxford World's Classics
Eugenia, Baroness M"nster, wife of a German princeling who wishes to be rid of her, crosses the ocean with her brother Felix to seek out their American relatives. Their voyage is prompted, apparently, by natural affection; but the Baroness has also come to seek her fortune. The advent of these visitors is viewed by the Wentworths, in the suburbs of Boston, with wonder and some apprehension.
The brilliant Eugenia fascinates her impressionable cousins and their more worldly neighbour, but she is baffled by these people, 'to whom fibbing was not pleasing'. Meanwhile Felix, painter of trifling sketches, eases them all in and out of various amorous complications, with 'no fear of not being, in the end, agreeable'.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (25 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019955563X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199555635
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 803,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Henry James (1843-1916), son of Henry James Sr. and brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author and literary critic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He spent much of his life in Europe and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for novels, novellas and short stories based on themes of consciousness and morality.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peculiar Influences 30 Mar 2011
By J C E Hitchcock TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cultural differences acutely observed 9 Aug 2010
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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful 25 May 2011
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull lives represented in all their dullness
New England, 1870s. Siblings Eugenia and Felix – American, but brought up in Europe - come back to their family in the U.S. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bob Ventos
2.0 out of 5 stars America v Europe
The language is hard going - like wading through treacle We hear that Eugenie is witty entertaining etc.etc. but we never hear /read it.
Published 6 months ago by M. barbara Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars Light-hearted masterpiece or simple "badinage"?
I hesitated: who am I to "dare" to criticize Henry
James and give only four stars to this novel, considered
as a masterpiece of style and wit and irony and a summit... Read more
Published 12 months ago by elisheva guggenheim
5.0 out of 5 stars great
I have read other novels by this author and can't wait to read this one. It will make a good read on holiday.
Published 17 months ago by tiddioggie
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but sweet
I had never read any Henry James before and I selected “The Europeans” because other reviewers on Amazon had commented on the fact that this is a fairly short novel. Read more
Published 18 months ago by E. A. Banks
1.0 out of 5 stars Did I spectacularly miss the point?
I like classic literature so thought I'd give Henry James a go. Let me save a few hours of your life by summing up The Europeans:

- Promising start involving rich young... Read more
Published 23 months ago by AD
3.0 out of 5 stars Keep your powder dry for James's bigger works.
A pleasant enough tale of sophisticated Europeans moving to late 19th century puritan Boston, but with limited bite and grip. Read more
Published on 28 July 2010 by Brownbear101
2.0 out of 5 stars All's well that ends well
This is a novel in superlative style: 'heroic, magnanimous, exalted, brightly, caressingly, exquisite, fascinating, wonderful, sublime, radiant, delightful ... Read more
Published on 17 May 2006 by Luc REYNAERT
3.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant and quick read, but little more
This is one of James's early works, and shows an indebtedness to Jane Austen. It is the story of a European brother and sister (of American parentage) who come to Boston on a... Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2004 by Mr. D. N. Sumption
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