Monday, December 26, 2016

The Ambassadors - Henry James

The Ambassadors
Title: The Ambassadors
Author: Henry James
Publication Date: 1903
Pages: 528
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction 
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 12/20/16

Summary: Strether, an American widower, is engaged to Chad's mom. Chad's mom is not happy about the carousing her son is doing in Paris, so she sends Strether to bring him home. Turns out, Strether likes Paris and the lifestyle there.

What I Thought: Back when I read The Wings of the Dove, my first James novel, I marveled at how an interesting plot could come across so dry. I hoped it was a fluke. Then, I read The Golden Bowl and experienced the same befuddlement. In that second review, I labeled his work "wanting." Here now, we arrive at the third and final of James' work on the Modern Library list. Could it do what the others could not? Did it capture me?

In short, no. 

As with the others, I struggled to engage with James' writing style. Events and characters that should, by all rights, be fascinating and interesting left me wanting. Bland is a word that seems sadly appropriate.

As I said with The Golden Bowl, I can certainly see their contemporary appeal. To me, though, his work has not held up to the test of time. I mean, clearly it has on some level because so much of it made it onto this list (my ever-growing issues with the list being for another day). Still, I cannot see many readers of the twenty-first century being captivated by these stories. Thinking about James' work has me thinking about the Klosterman book I read last month which raised these same questions about classic literature and what makes it classic. 

Am I wrong? Are you a twenty-first century reader who loves James? If so - why? What is it about his work that appeals to you? Why do you prefer him to writers like Fitzgerald or Wharton? I'm genuinely curious.

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Doubtful
If You Liked This, Try: The House of Mirth Sons and Lovers A Handful of Dust
Other Books By Henry James: The Wings of the Dove / The Golden Bowl

A Reduced Review: After three Henry James works, I feel I have given him a fair shot. He never captivated me and The Ambassadors was no exception to that rule. 

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