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The Golden Bowl (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 25 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (25 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441276
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 354,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Henry James was born in 1843 in Washington Place, New York, of Scottish and Irish ancestry. His father was a prominent theologian and philosopher and his elder brother, William, is also famous as a philosopher. He attended schools in New York and later in London, Paris and Geneva, entering the Law School at Harvard in 1862. In 1865 he began to contribute reviews and short stories to American journals. In 1875, after two prior visits to Europe, he settled for a year in Paris, where he met Flaubert, Turgenev and other literary figures. However, the next year he moved to London, where he became so popular in society that in the winter of 1878-9 he confessed to accepting 107 invitations. In 1898 he left London and went to live at Lamb House, Rye, Sussex. Henry James became a naturalized citizen in 1915, was awarded the Order of Merit and died in 1916.

In addition to many short stories, plays, books of criticism, autobiography and travel, he wrote some twenty novels, the first published being Roderick Hudson (1875). They include The Europeans, Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Princess Casamassima, The Tragic Muse, The Spoils of Poynton, The Awkward Age, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.

Product Description


'One of the greatest pieces of fiction ever written' - A. N. Wilson 'A wonderfully luminous drama' - Gore Vidal

About the Author

Henry James was born in 1843 in new York, with Scottish and Irish ancestry. Having studied in New York and Europe, he became a lawyer, and started writing in 1865. Spending time in Paris he knew Flaubert and Turgenev, before moving to London and then Sussex.

Philip Horne is a Reader in English at UCL. He is author of the acclaimed Henry James: A Life in Letters and series editor for several of Penguin Classics' Henry James' novels.

Ruth Yeazell is the Chase Professor of English at Yale University.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Although Henry James collaborated with others on a novel after this one, and also started a few others, this is the last complete novel that he produced in his lifetime. In his last stage of writing and development he once again goes back to his theme of Old World knowledge, and New World innocence. If you have never read any of James' works before, then this is not an ideal place to start, the story is quite long because it arguably goes into too much detail in places. Ever since it was first published this book has always been given a very mixed reception by critics, with some saying that it is a let down considering what James had written before.

The main plot idea is pretty simple, as arguably are all James'. Maggie Verver and her father are both American and rely on each other to the exclusion of all others, in some ways a kind of incestuous relation, but a simple innocent one, not something sordid. They both get married, neither of them knowing that their partners are 'involved'. When Maggie finds out she decides to take some kind of action. At the same time we have the Assingham's looking on at what is happening, or rather we have the wife who reports everything to her husband.

Taking in how people can innocently contribute to problems, and due to ignorance don't realise what is going on under their noses, this book is a detailed and charged look at marriage, and how people have to work to keep a marriage intact.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Helle Dorrit Sorensen on 12 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the story of a very rich American father and daughter, who are very conscientious towards each other, but nevertheless take it completely for granted that their 'creatures', the daughter's husband and the father's wife, should be completely at their beck and call. And moreover, so does the author. At a certain point the 'creatures' rebel and try to make a secret life of their own, but the are discovered and punished. How they are punished! And quite rightly according to the author. Well, well. A good book, but uncomfortable from the views of today.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Henry James' "The Golden Bowl" is the last masterpiece from the pen of a great novelist. 14 Dec. 2009
By C. M Mills - Published on
Format: Paperback
Henry James (1843-1916)was born into a wealthy family in New York City. His father was a philosopher; his brother William a teacher at Harvard and his sister Alice a noted diarist. Henry James pioneered the international novel in which innocent Americans have to deal with evil and the mores and complexities of life in Europe.
The Golden Bowl was published in 1904 and is the last of the three famous novels in HJ's late period. The other two novels are "The Wings of a Dove" and The Ambassadors." All of these novels are difficult reading.
The Golden Bowl tells the long story of Adam Verver a fabulously wealthy widower from American City who is living in London. His daughter Maggie weds Prince Amerigo from Rome while Adam weds Maggie's schoolgirl acquaintance the fetching Charlotte Stant. In complex prose and psychological exploration James looks at this quartet's relationship with microscopic (and to some readers boring, prolix and dull scrutiny.) Mrs. Assingham is the friend of the characters who makes comments on what is going on in their unusual familial situation. She knew that Amerigo and Charlotte were lovers prior to their respective marriages to father Adam and daughter Maggie. Sometimes it seems that Maggie has almost an incestuous relationship with her indulgent father.
In the biblical book of Ecclesiastes the golden bowl is symbolic of life. In this late Victorian novel it stands for life and also the marriage of Maggie and Amerigo. The bowl has a crack in it symbolizing their less than perfect union. Maggie learns of the affair between Charlotte and Amerigo through intricate psychological detective work, the discovery of the golden bowl in a London antique shop and conversation with Mrs. Assingham. Therefore, the novel is a bildungsroman in which we are able to trace the maturation of Maggie from a callow girl to a responsible human being. As the novel ends she and Amerigo and their child remain in England while Adam and Charlotte leave for America.
This novel is not for a novice to James or adult fiction. His sentences are long and he spends a great deal of time exploring the emotions within the minds of Amerigo, Mrs. Assingham and Maggie. Very little action occurs
other than in the fertile imagination of the characters (especially Maggie). The Golden Bowl is one of the greatest novels ever written and is the best novel authored by Henry James. It demands to be read slowly with full concentration and can be better understood through rereading and paying attention to the critical comments on the work. Henry James is not everyone's cup of tea but he is worthy of study and appreciation for his mastery of the art of fiction.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Anything Written by Henry James Equals a Masterpiece! 11 Oct. 2010
By Donald Sass - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Absolutely superb, stimulating, satisfying, rewarding masterpiece, one of Henry James' best, and he is probably my favorite author. Actually, I disagree with the review which pronounces this as his best novel--I think that honor would go to "The Ambassadors," which I re-read every few years and have, since I first came upon it in college. I so much love the manner in which he writes, the simple subject matter which he transforms into gripping drama, the lengthy, almost convoluted sentences that force one to remember, to pay attention, to think. All of James' novels, including this one, seem to be written to be re-read again and again. There are simply too many layers, too many subtleties, there is too much psychological action, real human emotion and interaction to absorb in a single read through. I would recommend "The Golden Bowl" to anyone, though those who haven't read a Henry James novel before might start with "Portrait of a Lady," "The American," "Daisy Miller," or something less stylistically complex. I suspect that as one immerses himself in the writings of Henry James, there just won't be enough of his writings to satisfy the whetted appetite for his works.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"the shriek of a soul in pain" ... 25 Aug. 2010
By Tim Ellison - Published on
Format: Paperback
While I have not read every novel there is to read, I can say that I have not read anything like this - not even within the Jamesian canon. It is difficult to summarize The Golden Bowl, because if I were simply to reveal the plot to you, it would seem hardly to merit 600 of James's densest pages. What is it? That is the question, and in fact, it is a novel about questions - watching people ask questions. What is the golden bowl? Does it mean nothing? Anything? Can I MAKE something or someone have a particular "value" - a market "price?" How do I ascertain someone else's knowledge without being explicit? What is worth sacrificing: a lover, a father, a friend? To quote from the novel, "knowledge, knowledge was a fascination as well as a fear." Such is the attitude of the reader as he or she approaches the text.
I had the good fortune to read this novel with the Penguin editor, whose enthusiasm for Maggie Verver and Colonel Bob was infectious; The Golden Bowl has among the smallest cast of characters of any James novel, and it is easy to feel deeply connected to a given figure in a given reading. Like "The Ambassadors," "The Golden Bowl" is a novel about growing up. You will also grow up as a reader and possibly as a person if you wrestle hard enough with this text. And it is quite a wrestle: James's writing here is extremely oblique, and there are passages that are remarkably obscure. (The section on Adam Verver especially comes to mind; I read that three or four times and there are few sentences that are a tad regrettable in their sinuosity.) If you find yourself struggling, you're not alone. But the struggle is worth it. All the characters in this novel struggle with the truth, as does, it seems, Henry James.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Strange Inertness 10 Sept. 2011
By Joseph Barbarie - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is with a heavy heart -- although, I hope, not a heavy hand -- that I commit this review to the Amazonian aether. Graham Greene's description of Henry James comports entirely with my own: "He is as solitary in the world of the novel as Shakespeare is in that of poetry." In terms of energy and skill, of fiendish pursuit of psychological minutia, as an architect of his character's souls and of gorgeous, perfectly turned prose, James is godlike.

Here, however, all of those Jamesian virtues, particularly with respect to his prose, seem to have passed the state of ripeness, and gone over to a sickly sweet state of rot. The plain fact is, this novel is nearly impossible to understand. All of those Jamesian subordinate clauses, those secondary and tertiary referents, are mashed and clotted together as though in some great, confused dish that is part dessert, part entree, and part antipasto.

The action, too -- save for that between the main set of secondary characters, the Assinghams -- is strangely inert. The middle portion of the novel, which tracks Maggie's discovery, or growing awareness, of the problem, sags terribly under the weight of James's orotundity. This is similar to the sort of psychological action limned with such sureness of touch in "The Portrait of a Lady," "What Maisie Knew", or even "The Aspern Papers." Typically for James, it is where the previous blankness (or mild strangeness) of a character is revealed to be absolute moral depravity. This sort of "reveal" is usually James's strength, and in the context of this book, should be the portion of greatest suspense on the reader's part. Here, however, Maggie's gradual descent from naivete is flat, even a bit predictable.

Now, it is to be remembered that we have, after all, a work of the greatest English novelist under consideration. That is to say, even weak, ropey James is still Henry James -- it is just not up to the impossibly high standards set by earlier works. Indeed, the episodes between the Colonel and Fanny Assingham are amusing, and done with the deftness that one usually associates with this writer.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Favorite Henry James -- So Far 31 Dec. 2011
By Allen Riberdy - Published on
Format: Paperback
Yes, yes. We all love THE AMBASSADORS. And until THE GOLDEN BOWL, it had been my favorite as well. Sure, I'll concede that THE GOLDEN BOWL is difficult to read. But it's not like, say, Thomas Pynchon or James Joyce. It's only difficult because of the long sentence constructions with, as another reviewer observed, the multiple subordinate clauses. It's not as if anything is intentionally encrypted. These subordinate clauses are necessary because that's how we think. Ha! Well, that's how I think anyway.

If anyone had told me that a minute in real time would be two pages or more in the novel I don't know if I could have started it. However, if one reads slowly and concentrates a little bit, it's really not hard to follow. James captures the characters' assessment of each possible utterance and its potential outcomes before the they speak. He puts us right into the center of their minds. Take for example, the incredible showdown early in the book between Charlotte and Fanny Assingham. Following the conversation as each wins and loses the upper hand was thrilling. James tells us exactly what they are thinking and how those thoughts alter as each lady takes her turn in besting the other.

Then there's Maggie's slow realization of her situation. There is not one shred of evidence presented to her before she's fully aware of all that's going on. It's merely in observing how utterly and unnaturally normal and accommodating that Charlotte and Amerigo are that makes everything clear to her. One has to doubt whether this is truly plausible, but it makes for a great novel.
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