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The Ambassadors (Large Print Edition) Hardcover – Large Print, August 18, 2008
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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 the Paperback edition.
'... the Cambridge Edition reproduces James's fiction as it originally appeared to his contemporary book-buying public, collectively charting a half century of artistic development, stylistic invention, and cultural history. It gives readers options, and in the case of The Ambassadors the choice of the Cambridge Edition is a deeply satisfying one. ... One of the Cambridge Edition's many strengths is the attention the editors pay to textual history and the historical development of James's fiction within biographical, literary, and cultural contexts ... many will agree that the Cambridge Edition is 'quite the best, 'all round' edition ...' Sarah Wadsworth, Review of English Studies --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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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.
Although James writes seriously, my thoughts are the book is somewhat comedic, perhaps satirical. It's a spy novel that entertains. Perhaps Fleming got some of his ideas from this!