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The Ambassadors (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – September 28, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (September 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538546
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Henry James (1843-1916), son of Henry James Sr. and brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author and literary critic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He spent much of his life in Europe and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for novels, novellas and short stories based on themes of consciousness and morality.

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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Customer Reviews

No clever metaphors or turns of phrase.
J. Rodeck
Still, knowing James' style, I felt quite disappointed and I must confess I only read a couple of dozen pages.
Iuliana Isac
Still, this is an important book, absolutely worth the read.
Gordon R Cameron

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By The Baker Street Irregular on August 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
The prose is certainly difficult, but the extra attention it requires from the reader yields benefits: the slightest nuance in the narrative registers. And, as in all late James, these subtle hints and nuances are of the essence.
I was rather surprised as to how funny it often was. But, as with many great comedies - "Twelfth Night", "Don Quixote" - there is a profound sadness under the surface. There is a passage near the beginning where Strether looks back on the disappointments of his life, and, in particular, his failure to communicate with or understand his son, who is now dead. This passage affected me so deeply, that I had to read it a few times before progressing with the rest of the novel.
Strether becomes increasingly aware that life has passed him by, and that in the course of it all, he has missed something: but what it is he has missed he can not specify. He urges the young people around him to live, but his instructions on how to do so are necessarily vague. Eventually, he has to to reject the narrow puritanical code which has fettered his life, but remains to the end a quixotic figure, clinging on to his moral integrity even when all around him appear to lose theirs. The closing episodes of this novel are as moving as anything I have read.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Oksol VINE VOICE on February 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
High school students, and perhaps college students, should not be assigned to read some authors. Henry James is a case in point.

Henry James is an exquisite writer and perhaps serious college students should be exposed to Henry James' life, the subjects of his books, and his style of writing. But no one, not until they have had life experiences, should read Henry James.

I have read very little of Henry James; I have just completed four of his shorter works (I loved "The Beast in the Jungle"; and appreciated "Four Meetings," "The Pupil," and "The Turn of the Screw").

Today, I can say that I am very, very happy to have completed "The Ambassadors," the first Henry James novel I have read. One can read about the story line, the publishing history and analysis of this novel at wikipedia.

I group James Joyce (Irish), Virginia Woolf (English), and Henry James (American) in the same group, writing at the same time, and about similar subjects.

Some first impressions of "The Ambassadors":

1. It is autobiographical.

2. Henry James had moved (psychologically) from the US to Europe.

3. Henry James wondered if life had passed him by.

4. "The Ambassadors" has much in common with "The Beast in the Jungle"; both explore inner feelings about relationships and missed relationships.

5. Serious readers who have not read Henry James, but are interested, should read three works in this order: a) Leon Edel's biography of Henry James; b) "The Beast in the Jungle"; and, c) "The Ambassadors."

6. The more time one has spent in Paris, the more enjoyable is "The Ambassadors."

7. Henry James writing style is perfect for learning to diagram sentences (which I doubt anyone does any more).
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Gordon R Cameron on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Reading "The Ambassadors," I was awed by the subtletly of emotion and social gesture James was able to describe. Clearly here was a crafted that had been years in the honing, and I appreciate the book's liberation from the plot-heavy mechanics of earlier books like "The Portrait of a Lady" and "The American." Everything is only subtly insinuated; whole lives can hinge upon half-meant gestures or long-buried social prejudices. In this way, the book has some of the wistful tone of "The Age of Innocence," but more depth if less elegant prose.
The prose is the thing -- James was dictating by this time (how on Earth does one dictate a novel?), and it shows. His chewy ruminations and meandering, endlessly parenthetical sentences are hard to digest. I think James went too far in his late style, and "The Ambassadors" might have benefited from a sterner editor. Still, this is an important book, absolutely worth the read.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By SoWrite on January 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
Do not, under any circumstances, buy this edition of The Ambassadors. It's impossible to read and impossible to judge what the real book is like because the formatting - paragraphs, in particular - is completely messed up, making dialogue, in particular, virtually incomprehensible (I discovered this because I was having such a difficult time following the writing - and I adore Henry James - that I compared the Kindle edition to a "legitimate" edition). No wonder all the other reviews refer to the "complexity" of the prose, etc. This edition is an absolute rip-off and an insult to the author, one of the great masters of the English language. Amazon should be ashamed of itself, and this edition should be taken off the market immediately.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dabofthebrush on January 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I loved this novel, which was quintessential Henry James; an exhaustive exploration of the interior space of his characters which is even more rigorous than James's usual wont. A retired English teacher, I'm OK with running around barefoot in the interior space of characters, but those of you who don't care to may feel you're reading a novel in which nothing is happening. Well, a lot is happening, but only in the areas where human beings see the light, make decisions, and grow inwardly.
For those of you who are friends of James's and do like to run around barefoot, "The Ambassadors" is a real treat.
Lambert Strether, the focal character of the novel, is a profoundly ethical man in his fifties. He is sent (by a woman he wants to marry) to Paris to "rescue" her son Chad, whom she believes is squandering his young life in an "immoral" relationship with some foreign woman, and who needs to be brought back home to Woollett Massachusetts to take over the highly lucrative family business. The delicate understanding is that if Strether can do this, she will marry him.
Strether finds to his consternation that Chad has in fact matured into a graceful and substantial young manhood under the influence of the charming and exquisitely refined Madame de Vionnet, and gradually and somewhat unwillingly morphs into an ally of the two.
Enough said. I'll leave you to explore "Strether's struggle," and his seduction by the magnificent city of Paris in the early 1900s, and his friendship with the wise and charming Maria Gostrey. It's a great read for James lovers.
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