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The American (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 17, 1981

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Editorial Reviews


''A masterpiece of American romanticism in which James shows us his profound grasp of what he was ultimately to call 'the Americo-European legend.' '' --Leon Edel, literary critic, biographer, and foremost authority on the works of Henry James --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 1 edition (August 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140390820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140390827
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Henry James (1843-1916), the son of the religious philosopher Henry James Sr. and brother of the psychologist and philosopher William James, published many important novels including Daisy Miller, The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl, and The Ambassadors.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mercy Bell on July 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is long, but only because that's how James tells the story. It's like a soup that needs to boil all day, so it's kept on low, but when it's done, it's perfect. The book stays at the pace of "our hero" the American Christopher Newman. A smart, educated, rich, yet easy going, simple, and humane veteran of the Civil War and a self made tycoon, who goes to Europe to see the "treasures and entertain" himself.
He becomes entangled in what he thinks is a simple plan for matrimony, but is really truly a great deal larger and more treacherous and terrible than that.
We spend a lot of time in Newman's mind, paragraphs of character analaysis are sprung upon us, but nothing seems plodding or slow, nothing feels useless. By the end of the book we find that we think like the character and can only agree with what he does. We react to seemingly big plot twists and events as he does, without reaction, and a logical, common sense train of thought.
But don't misunderstand that. For a book that is so polite and the essence of "slow-reaction", it is heartwrenching and tragic. You will cry, you will wonder, and you will ask yourself questions. Colorful, lifelike, and exuberant characters fight for your attention and your emotions, and we are intensely endeared to them. Emotional scenes speckle the book and are just enough. And the fact that something terrible and evil exists in this story hangs over your head from the beginning. It's hard to guess what happens because James doesn't give us many clues, and the ending may come as a surprise to some people. And without us knowing it, James is comparing American culture to European culture (of the day), and this in of itself is fulfilling.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By lisatheratgirl VINE VOICE on February 9, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have this friend who hates Henry James. I can't understand it. The style is dated, in that people dont write that way today, but as you get into the book you begin to enjoy the style, as well as the plot, characters, and French/American dual culture shock that still goes on today. (For an update on the theme, look at Le Divorce and Le Mariage by Diane Johnson). I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen to these characters and the description of Paris in the Second Empire were fascinating. If you watch the Masterpiece Theatre version without having read the book, you will be totally confused. They moved events out of sequence all over the place and after about ten minutes I shut off the tape and picked up the book. You have to know the whole story before you watch them throw characters and events at you in the first two scenes that only appear 2/3 of the way through the novel, after a foundation has been laid as to who they are and when and why things happened.
I couldnt recommend this more for a good read. The only caution I have is for readers who have never been to France. They may get an extremely negative impression of French people from many of the characters in this book. Go to Paris and you will find the city is wonderful, and so are the French people. These characters are not typical!! They belong to a certain class, and the book does take place 150 years ago. If this book doesnt get you hooked on James, I dont know what will. Try Washington Square and dont miss that movie, with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney and Maggie Smith.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jane Wilson on December 8, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is about a successful American businessman in his thirties who leaves the USA, having made his fortune in copper and railroads, to travel around Europe and to find a wife. He encounters an old friend in the Louvre who takes him home and introduces him to his own interesting wife. Mrs. Tristram takes Christopher happily under her wing, absorbs him into her circle of friends, and tells him of an old friend who'd be just the perfect wife for him - a young and beautiful widowed countess of unimpeachable descent. Christopher meets Claire de Cintré and from that moment his one obsession is to marry her.

An attractive hero, he possesses remarkable talents. In fact he has pretty well every virtue except exalted antecedents; he is, for example, tall, good-looking, urbane, well-mannered, forthright, intelligent, thoughtful, considerate, persistent, good-natured, generous and rich. At their first meeting he conquers Claire sufficiently to be allowed to continue to visit her, instead of being shown the door. Actually, his dogged audacity is pretty amazing; he simply asks her to marry him after about the fifth meeting, because he wants everything to be above-board. She says No and he promises not to mention the matter for another six months. He then succeeds in making a bargain with her mother and brother, the most rigid and narrow dyed-in-the-wool aristocrats, that they will not stand in his way or say anything against him until she accepts his hand. Marquise and marquis make no secret of their dislike of him ("a commercial person"), nor of their horror and disgust at the entire proposition. These are two different worlds. Christopher is aware of it but is confident that their differences can be overcome; after all he is very rich and he knows this is important to them.
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