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.
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.
“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)
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.
Yes! There is so much in every detail... I mean, it's James!
Only James can be compared to James. And only later James can be compared to the Golden Bowl. He is in a class on his own. However, George Eliot's Middlemarch was as inspiring, and Middlemarch's Dorothea is a heroine to me just as The Golden Bowl's Maggie is one. Maybe I could add Fanny from Jane Austen's Persuasion as another classic heroine, but really Dorothea and Maggie are most inspiring.
Oh, maybe Balzac is sort of a French Henry James. Lost Illusions was also very thick and dense in it's writing, but not quite as perfect.
Katherine Kellgren was excellent! I wish she would read some more classic novels!
I don't know but I always think of the line that Maggie had "done all" when she rises above her situation and Charlotte's behavior. I read this with the Wall Street Journal Book Club and it was a joy to share with everyone.
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.
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.
Irritating, very irritating
I hope I can return this book.
dont believe the haters just get this audiobook and read the book along with it and just chill out with some henry james for a while!! i promise its like a warm bath w wine esp if u just also have a warm bath + wine
Story: A classic but I will say it was interesting unfolding of events and emotions. A nice exploration of marriage, adultery, and family fidelity.
Production: Very good.
This is only the second book by Henry James that I have read.
I did not finish the book because it was hard for me to comprehend the book.
Could not comprehend.
I can usually understand books pretty well, but this one was not one of them. I did not finish this book. The first one was Daisy Miller by Henry James, and I did comprehend that one pretty well. In fact, I talk to other people about it.
Story told by Nuance and innuendo appropriate to age and class of Henry James. Meant to be psycological study but seems fuddy-duddy and endless in the 21st century. For Henry James fans.
Say something about yourself!
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.
OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!
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!
"Sticking to print, for now"
Can't get beyond page 92.
The shop scene, which I listened to three times, and read over twice. I believed it to be pivotal, but Katherine Kellgren failed to help me mark the moment.
It probably depends on what Katherine is reading - a manual or sections from the encyclopedia perhaps? I never got to hear this Simon person at all.
Yes, I found a different audiobook company!
I am new to audiobooks and am still trying to figure out what works in audio and what seems not to work (any better) when read out loud. I was hoping, with the help of audio recordings, to get through my long list of must-read-classics a little faster, supported by the animation of a narrator. But the going has been slower than anticipated - for the Classics, at least. (At the same time, I have discovered more modern works, for which I would never have taken out the time to read in print.)
I am learning the difference between a text’s-text dependent on print and suited to scanning and a narrative-text that is best savoured by having it read out loud,. For now, for me, The Golden Bowl belongs to the former, which is not surprising, since here we have not much of a narrative flow. We have in James a writer who shows us he can write. What could be said flat out he prefers to work out in a round-about way. I believe there is a reason for this, but I failed to appreciate it in this recording. Katherine Kellgren's narration started to irritate me immensely (not just bore me). Why was that? I wondered long and hard.
How could I have expected anything different but steady, relentless ambling (if not beating around the bush) from this nineteenth century writer? It was no simpler to get a sense of going anywhere specific with Daisy Miller or What Masie Knew, or even The Turning of The Screw. But the Aspern Papers was a turning point for me: thanks to trying it in audio format. I was more than happy to amble along, listening to the narrator (a Librivox recording even!). I was sorry to return to my own century at the end of our walk. I am so eager to enjoy what is acclaimed as one of James’s best in the Bowl, that it frustrated me immensely when after two re-starts I threw in the towel. What was wrong with me?
The thing is we never ambled, Katherine and I: she put me on a trolley bus and drove me around the spots the Prince visited and I only sat up to pay attention when we sat down to listen in on the conversation in the salon between husband and wife, where she was forced to modulate for the (witty) dialogue. I then realised James was writing rather carefully, if without giving any pause, bombarding us with impressions you would have to cohese into a more tranquil whole at your own leisure. Katherine Kellgren had not suggested that to me.
I don’t want to give up, and I shan’t, but for now, I wish I could at least RETURN this audio narration and carry on with one of Jame’s other works (The Wings Of The Dove, perhaps, narrated by the always excellent Juliet Stevenson?) - but something about my account does not allow me to (too many returns already?). So for now an aborted attempt, although I aim to restart soon with an alternative narration I managed to find elsewhere - since Audible has no other options (Lee Ann Howlett, although probably also not my preferred narrator).
I think my personal preference would be a male narrator, with a not too overtly rhotic accent, maybe even British English to help ground us on British soil where the story takes place. I could definitely do without the Italian pastiche accent for the Prince that makes him sound a cliché of himself before he has even begun to define himself.
I am afraid I am going to write a similar review (with the same complaint regards the impossibility of return) for Lord Jim, by Conrad - but there I would have (plenty of) other narrators to choose from.
Even with the hard copy at hand for the Bowl, I was simply not managing to get beyond p. 92, which is nowhere yet, in light of the 464 pages. Yes, I returned to the print version all the time to help restore my attention, but to little avail. I never became involved and in the end the narrator irritated me with her stream of words.
In principle, there is nothing wrong with her voice, once you attune your ear to the American accent if you are a British-English speaker. Good diction, with a grasp of the text (if not the story), and you can tell from the sample, she sounds quite competent. Only I’d say she ultimately is not invisible enough to bring the characters alive. Perhaps, it is her lack of rhythm? I am afraid it is not a compliment for a narrator to say she seems to remain herself (little modulation) and after a while you realise you are listening to her and not the story she is telling.
For now, the printed version works better for me (but is slower going due to an eye complaint) but because so very little happens (it tries to set up a stream of consciousness and deliver marginal comments rather than objectively or directly narrate the character's experiences. The book form makes for a stage, rather than a film screen.) I would have liked to dream away on its musings and cadence and forgive the book its lack of dynamism thanks to an audio recording. I would not have minded a sense of tediousness or clautrophobia and stagnation, because apparently everybody feels trapped in this novel, somehow, in the vice of convention, tradition and circumstance - or the tension between that and the imminent socio-political changes (we know must take place at the turn of the century).
I am prepared to stroll very slowly through an Impressionistic painting but I don’t think the crisp patter of Ms. Kellgren is appropriate for me. Should I have grit my teeth for longer? And tried to find the male narrator mentioned; I am half intrigued.... But not enough for now.
The narrator adopts a nonchalant style of reading which undermines the variety of voices and quickly turns out to be unbearable.
"Wonderful story, poor reading"
Simon Prebble does a very good introduction.
I would not try another of Katherine Kellgren's readings.
The American characters sounded fine. The problem for me is that the Italian Prince is spoken with an accent which sounds east European and absolutely no similarity to a real Italian speaking English. The accent is so totally wrong that I found it impossible to continue listening. A shame as it is one of my favourite books.
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