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).... 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... The American
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 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
This is one book of Henry james' that has been slighted. It is a study of the conflict between a male and female cousin over the place of first standing in a mutual woman's affections. The female wants to use her for her social drive toward women's equal political/legal rights - the male wants her for his wife in an old-fashioned marriage. The male wins. A fantastic book.... 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...