Top positive review
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Edifying and saturated: HJ at his best.
on 3 April 2015
A dense novel without much action whose main attraction is the clarity of thought of the writer.
It is a portrait of the very peculiar trait of some people which reads as hope, potential, aspiration, and perhaps, by its very existence, the latent elevation of humanity. Henry James is great on noble feelings and rarefied human essence, and this novel is the prize example of such a story, told in a his typically lucid style.
As opposed to some of his other late novels, the story has sufficient rhythm and action (just enough and no more) to be coherent in the eyes of this reader.
The scenes are upper class, New England, London, Milano and Rome. The dynamics involve noble unrequited love and standing marriage proposals, friendship, admiration and manipulation, a young woman's independence, and most importantly: what to do with life when you don't have to work for a living.
It is no easy read and you have to give him time to grow on you. Henry James is much about what other writers would say between the lines. He does not bother the reader with much background story of the figures, it is here and now, what they think, what they expect, what they feel: consciousness in a practical context, I suppose is what it boils down to.
This and The American are the best of his mature novels I have read so far.