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3.8 out of 5 stars10
3.8 out of 5 stars
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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 relationship, but a simple innocent one, not something sordid. They both get married, neither of them knowing about the relationships of their partners. When Maggie finds out she decides to take some kind of action. At the same time we have the Assinghams, husband and wife 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 quite charged look at marriage, and how people have to work hard to keep a marriage intact at times.
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on 2 March 2013
Wonderful, subtle, unsettling, brilliant Henry James. If you should happen to come to the book after seeing the Merchant Ivory film (which is extremely good considering the limitations of adaptations) you will be blown over by the intricacies of the plot, the rich metaphors, the twists of meaning and implication, the marvellous descriptions of people and places, and the development and surprising turns of character. The cover illustration on this edition was also very refreshing after the 'Dreams' painting I am accustomed to, and Nicola Bradbury's introduction and notes are both necessary and excellent.
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on 2 December 2008
When I started reading "The Golden Bowl" I wasn't sure if I would finish it, but I promised myself I would read at least a hundred pages, to give it a chance, and by the time I had got that far I was hooked. Yes, the enormous, convoluted sentences make Proust seem terse, and I'm pretty sure not all of those sentences actually parse, but I came to realise that this doesn't really matter, and stopped trying to disentangle them. It's almost as if James had dictated the entire book in a long-winded conversational style and never bothered to check if what he had said made grammatical sense.

So I took to reading the book when drowsy, often glass in hand, and contented myself with "getting the drift". And the drift is beautiful, seductive even. I found myself wanting to know what Charlotte and the Prince had been getting up to behind the scenes, and what Maggie would do to stop them doing whatever it was. A scene near the end, when Maggie lets Charlotte get away with claiming a victory, stunned me with its brilliance.

I'm glad I made the effort (and it certainly was an effort to begin with). The book is a flawed masterpiece (like the bowl itself - was that deliberate?). Give it a sympathetic go and you'll be rewarded.
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on 12 August 2008
As a Henry James lover, having read everything he's written, & waded through The Golden Bowl twice, I feel I've earnt the right to say it's not his best book.

The epicurean connoisseur at life's feast indulges himself in his last book with a fault to which he confessed himself prone: "to over-treat".

The writing is marred by endless empty sub-clauses, pointless repetition, rhetorical flourishes, & affected, stagey dialogue. The metaphors are forced and over-blown, the description of character hyperbolic, the drama suffocates under the weight of its own 'written-ness'. His late style marks a form of literary inflation: here he uses 50 words where in earlier work he used 5 to more powerful effect.

The 'Master' has, in short, run to fat.
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on 24 October 1999
Definitely the most demanding read I've had in a long time, Henry James' THE GOLDEN BOWL is not to be missed. In James' final novel, he has created a true masterpiece. Not only must the reader concentrate, but he/she must also actually participate and think in order to take anything away from the book. It's basic plot is quite straightforward: Adam Verver and his daughter, Maggie, are affluent art collectors living in Europe. Maggie marries Amerigo, an Italian prince in reduced circumstances, and Adam marries Maggie's longtime friend Charlotte. What father and daughter don't know is that Charlotte and Amerigo were formerly lovers, and that they have rekindled their affair.
Written in a beautifully ambiguous style, BOWL is full of ingenious symbolism, and must be experienced to be fully appreciated. James has decided to tell a story with a very unique voice, and it is likely that most readers will be scared off by the decidedly difficult prose. However, it is an absolute must for any serious reader who wants to challenge him/herself with what is arguably Henry James' best novel. It may take months to trudge through (as it did for me), but it is worth it!
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on 28 April 2008
If anyone had told me before I read this book that such a thing as death by sub clause existed I would have laughed in their face. I am not denying this book it's place in Literature, I am saying it is not an enjoyable read. I love beautiful prose as much as the next person, and i advise you to find it in D H Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. This novel tortures, wrapping an average plot in alot of flowery window dressing.
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on 27 June 2015
So posh and profound... words are sculpted with elegance and substance... banality becomes not trivial... London settings are wonderfully treated... splendorous James...
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on 19 December 2005
Who would have guessed that, despite his intrinsic, nay, atavistic desire (at least, that is how he characterized it to himself), to use when writing, as a matter of policy, the most long-winded and almost incomprehensibly tortured syntax, crawling through an infinity of sub-clauses, that he would one day, perhaps not during his lifetime but certainly in the near future, become acknowledged, by his own enemies no less, as one of the greatest and most tedious writers of the century, or indeed, of any other?
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on 7 October 2015
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on 22 December 2013
couldnt make head nor tale of it Ile buy the dvd and see what the experts make of it that i couldnt
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