Daisy Miller is Henry James' examination of the personality and social bearing of a naive young American girl being exposed for the first time to the corruption of the old world in Rome and other areas of Italy. The young man who falls in love with her berates himself for loving someone who is so terribly gauch, but he can't help it - her naivity is what draws him in. The fact that she also encourages the attentions of men the main character despises and... Portrait of a Lady
Henry James' study of Isabel Archer and her seduction and betrayal by her false friend and husband is simply the finest psychological fiction ever written. His masterful examination of Isabel's thoughts as she realizes her situation and comes to grips with it and its meaning is most moving - maybe more moving than any other passage in English literature (outside of the KJV Bible and Shakespeare).... Roderick Hudson
Rowland Mallet thinks he's found an artistic prodigy in Roderick Hudson and uses his wealth to jumpstart the young sculptor's career; but while Roderick's talent is undeniable, he proves himself to be fickle, immature, and a general bane to Rowland's sanity and happiness. Rowland fancies himself a discerning art critic – despite having no real talent of his own – a pastime which his immense wealth allows him to indulge in. During a visit to his cousin Ce... The Ambassadors
Chad Newsome, a profligate son of a wealthy American family is having relations with an unacceptable woman in France. Lambert Strethers, a trusted old friend of the family, is sent off to talk some sense into the boy and bring him home, but he discovers that Chad is truly in love, that the woman, although perhaps not strictly socially acceptable, is charming. Moreover, he finds life in Europe very attractive. A new set of ambassadors is sent off, this...
Christopher Newman, a wealthy American, falls in love with a French aristocrat, Claire de Cintre, while visiting Paris. Her family objects very strongly to their engagement because Newman lacks European culture and social status.
When Newman learns that Claire's mother, the Marquise, had killed her husband, he threatens her with the evidence. Still she refuses to sanction the marriage. Claire renounces the engagement and determines to be a nun. Newma... The Aspern Papers
Another of the prolific Henry James' many masterpieces, The Aspern Papers is set in Venice and is the story of the struggle of a scholar of a poet named Aspern (Byron, in reality) with Aspern's old lover and her daughter over the ownership of Aspern's love letters. The scholar manipulates the lonely and sensitive daughter, professing love for her, to win influence with them so that he can access the coveted letters - the result is both sad and satisfying... The Awkward Age
A wealthy and vain couple introduce their sheltered eighteen-year-old daughter into "adult society" with the explicit aim of marrying her off to someone of their choosing, but their daughter, who is not without her own manipulative abilities, has different ideas for her future. At eighteen, Nanda Brookenham is, in the eyes of her parents, awkward and naïve and woefully unprepared for the social maneuverings required at the upper tiers of English society.... The Beast in the Jungle
In this short novella, James examines the relationship of a man who believes that he is slated by fate for some horrible disastrous thing to happen to him (he calls it the "beast crouching in the jungle" and waiting for him) and the woman who quite transparently loves him. He never even thinks of her in terms of love since his entire mental focus is on his "fate" and being able to recognize it when it arrives. The story follows their entire lives until s... The Bostonians
In the decade after the Civil War, a cynical southern lawyer gets sucked into a role-confused, quasi-love triangle with his liberal Bostonian cousin and a rising star in the burgeoning women's rights movement. It's 1875 and Basil Ransom, a young lawyer from Mississippi, receives an invitation from his free-thinking cousin, Olive Chancellor, to come visit her in Boston. He does not realize how much Olive has changed since he last saw her, or that she has ... The Golden Bowl
A deeply exhaustive examination of the stresses on a marriage, this novel depicts the complications between two sets of couples and the sacrifices and occasional moral compromises required to keep those relationships from collapsing. The novel opens on Prince Amerigo and Charlotte Stant out shopping for a wedding gift for Amerigo's soon-to-be-bride, Maggie Verver. Amerigo is a poor nobleman who has survived on his charm and looks, while Maggie is the sol...
Henry James list of books
The Other House
After the matriarch of a rich family dies soon after childbirth, the well-intentioned promise she extracts from her husband not to marry again so long as their daughter is alive leads to tragedy for everyone involved. Julia and Tony Bream are rich and in love. They are one of two wealthy families, along with the Beevers, whose estates lie side by side and who share ownership of a successful bank. But after giving birth to their daughter, Effie, Julia tak... The Spoils of Poynton
The Gereth residence at Poynton Park contains a priceless collection of art and furniture, most procured and maintained by Mrs. Gereth; but when Mr. Gereth dies and their son Owen inherits the estate, a subtle battle over the fate of these objects is waged between mother and son. Adela Gereth dedicated her life to the acquisition and arrangement of beautiful art and artifacts, with which she has carefully decorated her grand estate at Poynton Park. Her m... The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw is one of the finest ghost stories ever written - but of course, since it is by Henry James, it would be. His steady building of psychological and physical pressure on the governess through the medium of the ghost and the children interacting with it is terrifying and lives up to the title as every new phase gives the story's pressure "another turn of the screw."... The Wings of the Dove
Henry James complained that people don't pay close enough attention when reading his books. He may not have realized what he was asking. Not only does one have to read this book closely; one has to read between the lines, as well. "The Wings of the Dove" is made up of characters so subtle and so intelligent that even a careful reader will be challenged to keep up. The story follows a young man, Densher, and woman, Kate Croy, who want to be together, but ... Washington Square
Washington Square describes the adult life of Catherine Sloper, daughter of a wealthy, intense, intelligent and sarcastic father and a brilliantly beautiful mother who died soon after childbirth. She is raised by her father and his sister, a meddling and overly romantic widow. Unfortunately for Catherine, she is neither clever nor beautiful and her father notes this, but little else about her.
The setting, 19th Century New York, finds Catherine unma... What Maisie Knew
This novel charts the moral and emotional development of Maisie Farange, from a neglected childhood bouncing around between the homes of her divorced parents, to a young adulthood where she finds herself faced with choices that will shape the rest of her life. Maisie is six when we first meet her. Her parents, Beale and Ida, are in the midst of a bitter divorce. Petty and callous, they care little for Maisie beyond how they can use her against the other ...