Getting on a bit

24 03 2018

The Diary of a Man of 50 by Henry James

Returning to Florence after 25 years of military service, a man finds himself haunted by memories of a thwarted love affair that took place on the banks of the Arno during his youth. On inquiring after the erstwhile object of his affections, he encounters a young man in amorous pursuit of her daughter. Eager to spare his young friend the sorrow that has marred his own life, the man finds himself deliberating the morality of recounting his own story. This heartbreaking tale touches on themes that were to dominate Henry James’s later fiction, including the suggestibility of youth and the dubious morality of influence. With characteristic psychological insight and a youthful fluency of expression, even in his early work James demonstrates himself a master of the art of fiction.[From Goodreads]

It’s clear, short, lucid and an easy read, not very Henry James you might think. The Diary of a man of 50 is a well-crafted and melancholic musing on age and youth. Although more of a long short story than a novel, it does pack quite a lot in and, for those of a certain age, it really is thought provoking.

four stars


Give me your answer do

29 06 2013

Daisy Miller by Henry James


Entertaining-ish novella. Winterbourne is an American in Europe. Takes a fancy to young compatriot Daisy. She’s flirty, his aunt disapproves, things move on as does Winterbourne. To Geneva. Later on they meet in Rome. Daisy seems to be hanging out with lots of Italian chaps. Everyone disapproves. Daisy hooks up with Giovanelli and they visit the Colosseum together where they are spotted by Winterbourne. He berates her for running the risk of catching “Roman Fever”. She then does catch Roman Fever (whatever it actually is) and [spoiler alert] dies. Ah well. Short book. Short life. Some important lessons for Americans on tour.

3 star

Washington Squared

30 06 2012

Washington Square by Henry James

Washington Square marks the culmination of James’s apprentice period as a novelist. With sharply focused attention upon just four principal characters, James provides an acute analysis of middle-class manners and behaviour in the New York of the 1870’s, a period of great change in the life of the city. This change is explored through the device of setting the novel’s action during the 1840s, similarly a period of considerable turbulence as the United States experienced the onset of rapid commercial and industrial expansion. Through the relationships between Austin Sloper, a celebrated physician, and his sister Lavinia Penniman, his daughter Catherine, and Catherine’s suitor, Morris Townsend, James observes the contemporary scene as a site of competing styles and performances where authentic expression cannot be articulated or is subject to suppression.

In brief then, a widower is not terribly fond of his only daughter but disapproves of her suitor whom she eventually determines not to marry. So not a lot happens. At some length. I do really like Henry James and generally am hugely impressed by his writing but really found Washington Square to be terribly dull.

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