Friday, September 2, 2016

The Golden Bowl - Henry James

The Golden Bowl
Title: The Golden Bowl
Author: Henry James
Publication Date: 11/10/1904
Pages: 591
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 7/23/16

Summary: A daughter, a father, a husband, a wife, former lovers, and new marriages. The all converge in this twisted web of love and deceit. 

What I Thought: When I read James' The Wings of the Dove, I questioned how a novel with such an engaging premise could come across so dry. Here, I pose the same question.

By all accounts, the plot of this novel should be interesting. Just before marrying, Prince encounters an old love affair. Eventually, his new wife, the Princess, sets up this woman with her own widowed father. Thus, it's all in the family when Prince and his former love renew their affections covertly. 

It's a complicated web of relationships. Father and daughter are close and, upon discovering the betrayal, the Princess debates whether or not she should enlighten her father and break his heart as well. Each type of love overlaps with the others and things get increasingly messy as the novel goes on. All of this should make for really fascinating stuff, right? It's a fantastic soap opera premise.

Yet, as with the other James novel, I found it bland. I started the book enthusiastic and excited. It did not take long for those feelings to fade and the reading process to become a task, not a pleasure. Once again, I find myself frustrated with the monotony of these 100 Best Novels. So many seem to have been cut from the same mold. Perhaps that's what makes outliers such as Angle of Repose stand out so dramatically.

I really wanted to become a Henry James fan over the course of this challenge. I do have one of his works left (The Ambassadors). At this point, though, I'm left finding his work wanting. I can see how it would have been compelling upon original publication. Today, though, popular culture is plenty saturated with these dramatic plots and I find myself wanting James' turn-of-the-century literature to reach the same standard of excitement. Unfair, certainly, but a reality for me nonetheless. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe
Other Books By Henry James: The Wings of the Dove

A Reduced Review: Henry James has left me wanting twice now and I'm wondering whether to blame him or the overdramatic saturation of pop culture. 

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