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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For serious readers only., February 21, 2010
This review is from: The Ambassadors (Oxford World's Classics) (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). His sentences are very, very long. Likewise, his passages are very long. James can take two pages to say that two people look alike.

8. I have found at least one occasion in which James uses a word that doesn't exist in the English language, but looks like it should. In context, one can almost figure out what James was saying but who knows for sure.

I am 58 years old. The protagonist in "The Ambassadors" is 55 years old. He and I are asking the same questions.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 1, 2011 2:47:31 PM PST
Kathryn says:
You sound far more serious than I think James was in relation to this story. I think he was very amused by the characters he described, loving and amused. Seems to me he had reached the point in life where he could see and forgive so many foibles and idiosyncracies of the many and varied people he met. He was indeed like Lambert Strether, and like Strether, he had great affection for the whole scene. I agree it's a book one can enjoy more deeply with the wisdom of age.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2011 8:49:26 AM PST
Bruce Oksol says:
You may be correct. Regardless, I am impressed that folks are still reading Henry James. He is difficult to read, but reading slowly, savoring every bit, is very, very rewarding. Thank you for commenting.

Posted on Feb 2, 2011 2:29:24 PM PST
StarSearcher says:
Nice thoughtful review. I liked your comment at the end.
Very helpful.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2011 2:49:34 PM PST
Bruce Oksol says:
Thank you for your kind comments.

Posted on Dec 6, 2012 2:11:22 PM PST
Mark says:
This is a very insightful and moving review.

As I will be teaching English and literature in the next 2 years I wholeheartedly agree with your comment that some authors should not be read by younger readers. For that matter, I think this results in some young minds avoiding so called "classics" for the better part of their adult life.

I'm a case in point-I vividly remember the pain and pointlessness of being required to read these types of novels at the age of 15, only to rediscover them later in life after marriage and children, traveling the world, military service, and the illusions of youth long gone-with an entire new appreciation for these great works.

Thanks again for your review.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2012 1:59:39 PM PST
Bruce Oksol says:
Hopefully you will have a few students that really enjoy literature and to to whom you can connect. I hope it's a rewarding experience for you.

My background was in science, but it was a tenth grade (high school sophomore) teacher who really got me excited about literature.

Except for one Brit Lit professor in college, I do not recall any one else who got me so interested in literature. One teacher can make all the difference.
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