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The Ambassadors Hardcover – June 15, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 516 pages
  • Publisher: 1st World Library - Literary Society (June 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421826143
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421826141
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,659,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The Ambassadors, which Henry James considered his best work, is the most exquisite refinement of his favorite theme: the collision of American innocence with European experience. This time, James recounts the continental journey of Louis Lambert Strether--a fiftysomething man of the world who has been dispatched abroad by a rich widow, Mrs. Newsome. His mission: to save her son Chadwick from the clutches of a wicked (i.e., European) woman, and to convince the prodigal to return to Woollett, Massachusetts. Instead, this all-American envoy finds Europe growing on him. Strether also becomes involved in a very Jamesian "relation" with the fascinating Miss Maria Gostrey, a fellow American and informal Sacajawea to her compatriots. Clearly Paris has "improved" Chad beyond recognition, and convincing him to return to the U.S. is going to be a very, very hard sell. Suspense, of course, is hardly James's stock-in-trade. But there is no more meticulous mapper of tone and atmosphere, nuance and implication. His hyper-refined characters are at their best in dialogue, particularly when they're exchanging morsels of gossip. Astute, funny, and relentlessly intelligent, James amply fulfills his own description of the novelist as a person upon whom nothing is lost. --Rhian Ellis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“He is as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare in the history of poetry.”<BR> —Graham Greene --Graham Greene --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By oh_pete on January 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
THE AMBASSADORS demands more effort and concentration from the reader than probably any other novel written by an American. But the payoff is worth the effort, however we may begrudge James' frustratingly and intentionally thick prose. James does indeed describe intense human situations in great depth and detail: duty, honor, nostalgia; the contrast between the starchy-collared stiffness of Brahmin Boston (read: America) contrasted with the joie de vivre of Paris (read: Europe); how difficult certain of life's choices can be. These are just a few themes that make this book worthwhile. James' America is young and trying to assert itself (and so takes itself too seriously); his Europe is old and satisfied (and perhaps doesn't take itself seriously enough).
Lambert Strether, a fiftysomething turn-of-the-20th-century bourgeois Bostonian gentleman on an aristocratic lady's errand--she will not marry him until he convinces her son Chad to return to Massachusetts. We see his struggle with his uncomfortable position when he realizes Chad is no longer a spoiled young prep-schooler, but a young gentleman of increasing refinement and self-awareness. And if Strether is anything, by the way, he is one of the most supremely self-aware characters in literary history. Once that Paris air starts to play its magic with Strether himself, we are off to the races. Keeping in mind, of course, that with James' prose we are racing with tortoises. James invites us to ponder how many chances a person truly gets in this life to reinvent his or her self? And if we get the chance, do we always take it? How much should we weigh the consequences before we decide? How much are we willing to accept them after we have chosen?
For similar themes with clearer, faster-paced, and wittier prose, try Edith Wharton's marvelous homage to James, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on December 6, 2000
Format: Library Binding
This is a novel about a man named Strether, who is as obviously an alter ego of Henry James as Ralph Touchett is of Mr. James in Portrait of A Lady or, to jump continents and switch authors, the main character in Remembrance of Things Past is of Proust. Strether is in Paris to retrieve his (hopefully?) future son-in-law Chad from the wiles of the City of Light and return him to New England so that Strether can marry, settle down and pass his waning years in Puritan New England (New England was still Puritan at the time.). At least, that's the plan. But once Strether arrives, something happens to him, and that mysterious something is what makes this work great. One could easily sum it up and say that Strether becomes enraptured by beauty, and one would be quite right. But to do so would be to miss the point....What is beauty? This is the question the novel essentially asks, all plotting and sub-plotting (and plenty of it) aside. Strether's paralysis because of his inability to grasp what is holding him there and why he becomes one of the greatest procrastinators in English literature (not excepting a certain Danish prince) is the great theme around which all else revolves. Strether is essentially a sensitive, cultured man with hyper-refined sensibilities. Alighting in Paris from the drab New England factory town awakens things in him that can only be perceived through the mind's eye of such a man. He is a sort of Geiger counter which registers things missed by others not so equipped (i.e., the rest of the characters.) "Strether had not for years so rich a consciousness of time-a bag of gold into which he constantly dipped for a handful." Ch.6 The beginning of Ch.Read more ›
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Martin Asiner on August 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
If one were to choose just one novel from Henry James and say that this one is the quintessential example of a work that combines theme and style, one could do worse than to choose THE AMBASSADORS. James had a fascination with yanking Americans from their new world padded cells of insulation and transporting them to Europe, an old world that simply reeked of style and long held cultural givens. Lambert Strether is the ambassador of the title, an American who has grown up with typical American values, most of which relate to the Jamesian belief (often incorrect and exaggerated) that Americans were a breed of money mad social cretins who would not recognize class if they bumped into it. At the beginning of the novel, Strether is depicted as a basically good-hearted man who exists--but does not live--at least in the sense that he later comes to understand. It is he who is sent to London to retrieve a wayward Chad Newsome, a fellow American, son of the immensely wealthy Mrs. Newsome, who is eager for her son to return to America to take his rightful place as heir to the family fortune. In Europe, Strether is the fish out of water--at first. His job is to convert Chad or at least retrieve him from what Mrs. Newsome considers the clutches of a dissipated anti-Puritan and lascivious culture. But the conversion works in reverse. Lambert is affected by the openness of the European lifestyle, which compares refreshingly favorably to an American lifestyle that he now views as ponderous and stifling. He is further affected by a growing closeness with the target of his journey, Chad, a man that his mother assured Strether needed saving, but the only saving that Chad needs is to be saved from having to return to an America that will surely destroy Chad's new-found soul just as surely as it had stifled Strether's.Read more ›
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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.

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