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3.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Bowl, 16 July 2013
This review is from: The Golden Bowl (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
If you have never read any of Henry James' work before, I would strongly discourage you from picking this as your starting point! I speak from experience, unfortunately - and it took me a long time to pick anything else of his up.

As somewhat of a literary snob, I am rather disappointed that I didn't like this more. I ploughed through this novel with good intentions, but I can't say that it wasn't a relief to reach the end. I found it rather convoluted and difficult to follow, and can honestly remember only several incidents that occur throughout. I feel that it's longer than it ought to be. The bowl is mentioned at the start of the novel and at the end - in the middle, I found myself rather lost.

Like many of James' novels, there's one rather simple idea or situation that is then drawn out for a novel-length story. In some cases, this is successful (in 'What Maisie Knew' for example, mainly because it's about half as long as 'The Golden Bowl') but not so much here, I don't think. The characters are not likeable and not particularly believable, and I found the relationships a little weird. Maggie and her father are astonishingly close and although it's not supposed to be incestuous you can't help but wonder. Then Maggie's father marries Maggie's best friend Charlotte. Maggie is delighted with the new arrangement and later calls Charlotte her 'step-mother'. Yuck.

There are, of course, some positives too. The writing is hard to follow but beautiful in places - it's not called his 'poetic masterpiece' for nothing. The symbolism and metaphors are interesting, and the introduction in this edition is very good. So all in all, I found this book hard-going when reading, but thought-provoking afterwards. I'm sure there must be many layers to this book - even though some of them seem to have been beyond me. I'm pleased to have read it, but have no intentions to re-read it in a hurry. I often found that I'd read a large chunk of text and have absolutely no idea what was going on.
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The Golden Bowl (Oxford World's Classics)
The Golden Bowl (Oxford World's Classics) by Henry James (Paperback - 29 Jan. 2009)
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