Henry James' fascination with Americans abroad began with masterworks Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady and continued with 1904's The Golden Bowl. The truth-challenged and financially strapped American, Charlotte Stant, has fallen in love with the unscrupulous Italian Prince Amerigo, who is engaged to Charlotte's life-long friend, the fabulously wealthy Maggie Verver. Maggie's widowed father, Adam, is a financier and art collector, who travels around Europe buying up treasures for a museum he plans to build. Maggie marries her prince then convinces her father, whom she worries will be lonely, to marry Charlotte, but the bizarre tangle of relationships - and Charlotte's and Amerigo's affair - sets the quartet on the road to heartbreak.
While Katherine Kellgren is the principal narrator, the listener is treated to 50 minutes of the imitable Simon Prebble, who reads Henry James' preface in his strong, authoritative voice that sets the mood for the tale that follows. Kellgren - American born, but British trained - narrates in a rich, aristocratic voice that suits the intense drama. For Maggie, Kellgren softens her voice into a sweeter innocent tone, and an affable, slightly gruff one for her father. James' ornate language and mannered style never trips Kellgren up, and she reads with great forward momentum, easily navigating the talky and complex inner dialogue of the characters that dominate the novel.
Part of James' brilliance was creating flawed characters and challenging the reader to choose the hero or heroine to root for, but, as usual, it's hard to choose an allegiance in The Golden Bowl. While Charlotte and Amerigo's adultery is morally wrong, it's easy to see how their relationship intensifies as Maggie and her father's almost incestuous self-absorption leaves no room for their spouses. Kellgren's interpretation of Maggie becomes the heart of the story, and as the character sheds her naivete and moves to save her marriage, a new maturity and self-awareness emerges to avert tragedy. Collin Kelley
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)
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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.
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!
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.
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