Lambert Strether, a mild, middle-aged American of no particular achievements, is dispatched to Paris from the manufacturing empire of Woollett, Massachusetts. The mission conferred on him by his august patron, Mrs. Newsome, is to discover what, or who, is keeping her son Chad in the notorious city of pleasure and to bring him home. But Strether finds Chad transformed by the influence of a remarkable woman. And as the Parisian spring advances, he himself succumbs to the allure of the "vast bright Babylon" and to the mysterious charm of Madame de Vionnet.
Public Domain ©1998 Henry James (P)2010 Tantor
With Henry James things move at a glacial pace. I happen to be a very fast reader and would be tempted to gobble up the plot and try to skip the delays, so having this read to me is much better as I get the full effect. For example, two people meet in a room and you are dying to know what they will say to each other, but James is slow to tell you - he meticulously describes the surroundings, the atmosphere, what the characters are thinking, etc. letting the tension build almost unbearably - and then they say almost nothing! The writing is exquisite - if painfully slow - and eventually I was just dying to know where this was going so I had to keep extending my walks so I could listen to more!
The plot involves a main character (the "ambassador") who has been sent from New England to London to bring back the family's son and heir to take up the family business back home. He slowly - and I mean slowly - discovers what the young man is up to. There are many other fascinating characters involved. A great deal of the action takes place in Paris. I won't give away any more. If you like Henry James or period pieces and have the patience to wait out a good story, you will enjoy it.
The reader does a beautiful job - no excessive acting, just beautiful reading with meaning. Perfect for this text. I'll look for more by Stephen Hoye.
Stephen Hoye is not cut out to read James' sentences. His delivery of each sentence is identical, in spite of distinct meanings. It feels as if Hoye experiences James' prose as a chore. I'm very disappointed, and will avoid this narrator.
Classic Jamesian intrigue and deft manipulation.
If Simon Prebble had read it, or someone who could contend with James' extraordinary syntax.
The reading sparked utter annoyance - pure exasperation. How is it that, hearing the first few chapters, the producers did not hire a different reader?
Take care when assigning a reader to James. His writing is rich but demanding.
An editor. Fewer run-on sentences. Being able to tell when the sentence is finally, dear god, over.
I didn't know excruciating was a genre.
I only speak ill of the dead.
Any sentence that uses the word "serenest" and the like. Any sentence ending in a preposition. Applying these two rules would turn this into a servicable short story.
I chose this book after finishing All the Great Prizes, the biography of John Hay. Hay was one of Lincoln's two secretaries and lived an astounding life. Henry James was one of his friends and Hay loved this book -- or claimed he did. If sincere, Hay gives bad literary advice.
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