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The Golden Bowl | [Henry James]

The Golden Bowl

Published in 1904, The Golden Bowl is the last completed novel of Henry James. In it, the widowed American Adam Verver is in Europe with his daughter Maggie. They are rich, finely appreciative of European art and culture, and deeply attached to each other. Maggie has all the innocent charm of so many of Jamess young American heroines. She is engaged to Amerigo, an impoverished Italian prince; he must marry money, and as his name suggests, an American heiress is the perfect solution.
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Audible Editor Reviews

For those who love Henry James, The Golden Bowl is often a favorite. For those who don’t, it may be better tolerated than some of the others. Whichever category is yours, this version is an ideal place to revisit your position on The Master. Katherine Kellgren does a miraculous job with James’s famously endless sentences. She keeps the rhythm and structure of each one clear without losing sight of its emotional content and its pace within the story - a feat something like running a hurdle course. Best of all, she creates vivid characters and makes the tensions among them truly absorbing as a sweet, rich American father and daughter find themselves in the toils of European sophisticates and in crisis everyone behaves beautifully.

Publisher's Summary

Published in 1904, The Golden Bowl is the last completed novel of Henry James. In it, the widowed American Adam Verver is in Europe with his daughter Maggie. They are rich, finely appreciative of European art and culture, and deeply attached to each other. Maggie has all the innocent charm of so many of James' young American heroines. She is engaged to Amerigo, an impoverished Italian prince; he must marry money, and as his name suggests, an American heiress is the perfect solution.

The golden bowl, first seen in a London curio shop, is used emblematically throughout the novel. Not solid gold but gilded crystal, the perfect surface conceals a flaw; it is symbolic of the relationship between the main characters and of the world in which they move.

Also in Europe is an old friend of Maggie's, Charlotte Stant, a girl of great charm and independence, and Maggie is blindly ignorant of the fact that she and the prince are lovers. Maggie and Amerigo are married and have a son, but Maggie remains dependent for real intimacy on her father, and she and Amerigo grow increasingly apart. Feeling that her father has suffered a loss through her marriage, Maggie decides to find him a wife, and her choice falls on Charlotte. Charlotte's affair with the prince continues, and Adam Verver seems to her to be a suitable and convenient match. When Maggie herself finally comes into possession of the golden bowl, the flaw is revealed to her, and, inadvertently, the truth about Amerigo and Charlotte.

Fanny Assingham (an older woman, aware of the truth from the beginning) deliberately breaks the bowl, and this marks the end of Maggie's innocence. She is no pathetic heroine-victim, however. Abstaining from outcry and outrage, she instead takes the reins and maneuvers people and events. She still wants to be with Amerigo, but he must continue to be worth having and they must all be saved further humiliations and indignities. To be a wife she must cease to be a daughter; Adam Verver and the unhappy Charlotte are banished forever to America, and the new Maggie will establish a real marriage with Amerigo.

Public Domain (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Katherine Kellgren does a miraculous job with James’s famously endless sentences. She keeps the rhythm and structure of each one clear without losing sight of its emotional content and its pace within the story—a feat something like running a hurdle course. Best of all, she creates vivid characters and makes the tensions among them truly absorbing as a sweet, rich American father and daughter find themselves in the toils of European sophisticates and in crisis everyone behaves beautifully.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.3 (43 )
5 star
 (11)
4 star
 (10)
3 star
 (11)
2 star
 (3)
1 star
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Overall
3.2 (35 )
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 (10)
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3.4 (35 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (7)
Performance
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  •  
    Erez Israel 03-18-14
    Erez Israel 03-18-14 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Collapses under the weight of its own brilliance"

    I have read several works by Henry James and usually like him very much. But something about The Golden Bowl didn't work for me. On the one hand, the mastery of the author is undeniable. On the other, I found the novel too indirect and ultimately unsatisfying. Though event do happen in the novel, James never references them directly; rather, he has the characters discuss in the vaguest possible terms their impressions of each other's musings on the reflections these events may have or would hypothetically have had on their elusive perceptions of some unspecified concepts.

    What bothered me with this was not that it was hard to follow--I like difficult writing--but that, when you actually decode these infinitely intricate references you get characters that are not as deep or psychologically striking as the author seems to regard them. In other words, I felt that James had provided a brilliant analysis of characters not very convincing.

    Consider this sentence, for example: "Her greatest danger, or at least her greatest motive for care, was the obsession of the thought that, if he actually did suspect [that she suspected he was unfaithful to her], the fruit of his attention to her couldn't help being a sense of the growth of her importance."

    The narrator did an excellent job. Her characterizations are subtle but clear, and she uses a "Mid-Atlantic" accent which I think perfect for Henry James.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John and Nadia Clifford 05-29-14 Member Since 2013
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    19
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    "Painful, both the story and the narrator."
    What could Henry James have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I tried hard to get through the book, as it's a classic and considered one of the best of Henry James' novels. James consistently uses an inordinate number of words in confusing sentences and succeeds at saying absolutely nothing. I kept tuning out many descriptions, as they were getting on my nerves as being superfluous and very hard to follow. The dialogues were not much better. They went on and on, most of the time it wasn't clear what the drama was about, as people seemed to not be saying anything of interest. I suspect that aristocracy had to speak in double tongue to be proper. But boy was it annoying to non-aristocratic me who could not figure out what they were talking about! I gave up after six chapters.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Katherine Kellgren and Simon Prebble ’s performances?

    I had to skip the introduction read by Simon Prebble, as it was just too wordly and hard to follow. Katherine Kellgren's performance seemed too affected, her voice kept modulating between high pitch and scratchy, guess trying to sound "high brow". I found it very annoying and overly theatrical.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Irritating, very irritating


    Any additional comments?

    I hope I can return this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Geoffrey Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 01-28-13
    Geoffrey Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 01-28-13 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Perfect-Complete-Henry James at it's Best!"

    I loved narrator and story from beginning to end. It is the first Henry James novel to keep me wanting more and then delivering. Katherine Kellgren's reading is as multi-layered as the characters' personality in time and place, each given with respect and understanding the long long long sentence structure of James, the constant conversation of characters and their thoughts and struggles.
    It is a dense novel, practically action less, so readers who enjoy discovering the person through the art of conversation, listening to thought, 'The Golden Bowl' is for them. The period of the time with it's restrictive social atmosphere, the vast separation of culture between the new world and the old and the living, breathing, warm blooded cast of characters finding love, discovering it's many meanings, plays lust against honour, dealing directly through their thinking minds and words.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 12-08-13
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 12-08-13 Member Since 2007

    Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton.  In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!! 

    HELPFUL VOTES
    910
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    "WARNING!!! Really Bad! Proceed At Your Own Risk!"

    This is singularly the worse book I've listened to EVER! I had to skip over the prologue read by Simon Prebble - one of Audible's best narrators - because I couldn't figure out what he was saying. Then it just got worse! Narrator Katherine Kellgren really tried to make sense of this over-blown work, to no avail. No wonder this was Henry James' last work - his publisher probably killed him for submitting this mess! Or he passed out from the weight of way to many flowery unnecessary words. I'd seen the movie of the book before yet I still couldn't figure out what the story was about here. I only bought it because it was one of those Audible $4.95 pop-up offers. I didn't see the written reviews, only the star-accumulated rating of 3.5 - acceptable to me for a sale item. However, after torturing myself trying to listen to the first chapter, I went back online to read the WRITTEN reviews. 3 of the 4 were totally negative - with only 1 star each - and the reviewers urged others not to bother in the review subject line. No wonder Audible.com is trying to palm this mess on us at 75% off the original price. I'm at a loss as to how this book got such a high (and misleading) overall high star rating. Is Audible factoring in the Amazon.com reviews of its hard copy formats (hardback, paperback, ebook, Kindle, etc.)? If so, that's really unfair since audiobooks rely heavily on the quality, talent and skills of the narrator.

    I've purchased almost 2,000 audiobooks in the past 5 years from various vendors - 300 thus far in 2013, 99% of the total from Audible.com alone. In my lifetime, I've read over 35,000 books in various formats. But this book stands out as the worse I've ever had the misfortune to "read". Henry James was a great writer for his time and several of his works are true classics. However, this is not the first of his books that I've found to be unreadable. I think his works just don't lend themselves well to audio format. His books should be first editions, bound in Moroccan leather, and gifted to people who don't care about the content - only the resale value in case of a major worldwide economic recession! 💵💣💸😟.

    Stay far away from this "toxic" mess. Readers without an up-to-date high level HazMat cleanup certification need not apply!

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine Stockton, Australia 07-03-11
    Christine Stockton, Australia 07-03-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "painfully boring"

    like pulling teeth, painful boring tedious, couldnt get to the end no matter how hard I tried

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George Boston, MA, United States 12-06-12
    George Boston, MA, United States 12-06-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Very affected and FAKE British accent narrator"

    If you enjoy Henry James as I do, but if you think that the novel being narrated by a D grade very affected and fake British accent would ruin the experience for you, then DON'T PURCHASE THIS audiobook!!! I love Henry James and the story of The Golden Bowl, but I simply cannot fathom why they would not hire a native British narrator to read this aloud, or if they are going to employ an American to do it, just read it in a clear and easy neutral American accent. Katherine Kellgren's voice is SO annoying - it sounds like Mary Poppins British English and really makes me regret the credit I spent on this book. You have been warned!

    2 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gondrezick Minneapolis, MN, United States 09-05-11
    Gondrezick Minneapolis, MN, United States 09-05-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worst book in 7 years of Audible"

    I am trying to remember why I bought this one. I tried 4 hours of listening, thinking something should get me into it, but between the terrible writing and the narrator's sing song rendition I gave up. I have been getting 2-3 books per month for 7 years and this one definitely wins the prize for the worst.

    3 of 10 people found this review helpful
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