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Comment: Edition: 1st Edition; Good/No Jacket; original black boards are shelf rubbed, and the edges are knocked.the front end page has been removed. the half title page has darkened . there is a previous owner's signature under the front board. the binding is excellent.
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The Bishop's Wife Hardcover – 1928

3.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

''Mr. Nathan's method of approach is the way of the goldfinch with the thistledown, or of the unconcerned robin guilelessly cocking his head before the peck. Moreover, the words that he uses are as cobwebs that catch the dew of his thought -- delicately patterned filaments exactly adequate to the burden glistening upon them. In short, to say that The Bishop's Wife has beauty, charm, wit, and wisdom is not to over praise the book.'' --Saturday Review of Literature --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

ROBERT NATHAN (1894-1985) was born in New York City and educated at private schools in the United States and Switzerland. While attending Harvard, where he was a classmate of E.E. Cummings, he was an editor of the Harvard Monthly, in which his first stories and poems appeared. After becoming a full-time writer, Nathan's work strengthened his reputation with both the public and peers. F. Scott Fitzgerald once referred to Nathan as his favorite writer. Five of his novels have been made into films, including Portrait of Jennie and The Bishop's Wife. Nathan ultimately authored more than fifty volumes of novels, poetry, and plays, and from this body of distinguished work he acquired a reputation as a master of satiric fantasy. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: The Bobbs-Merrill Co; First Edition edition (1928)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00085T9KE
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,600,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is another winning novel from the pen of Robert Nathan. An angel by the name of Michael comes to fill a vacancy on the staff of a local bishop, a man who sees himself as pious but is more interested in the finances of the church and wishes to add another cathedral to the two he already controls. Whether Michael is heaven-sent is debatable for he develops a lusty interest in the bishop's wife. Her life with her husband is rather hum-drum and empty of love (not to mention passion), which Michael detects right away. He offers her a proposition: stay with your husband or come with me and experience carnal bliss. It's a test, of course, but it's probably not too hard to guess what she chooses. Nathan is careful not to portray Michael in a sleazy, deviant manner but rather pictures him to be, well, angelic. He writes in a simple prose style, often duplicating the style one might read in a fairy tale. It's probably not to everyone's taste, but I've found all the books of his I've read so far to be intriguing and thought-provoking.
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I have watched the original "The Bishop's Wife" movie starring Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young well over 500 times. There is very little about this movie that I did not know - except the novel upon which it was based. The two are worlds apart! And, now having read the novel, I think of them as two different stories. Honestly, I don't know which I prefer. But, I can say this truthfully: I am so grateful to be acquainted with Robert Nathan. F. Scott Fitzgerald heralded him as the greatest American writer for good reason. Do yourself an enormous favor and read this wonderful book - and more by the same author.
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This novella is a work by a master author and I would call it a philosophical query into beliefs and values. The various characters represent different viewpoints and a question and answer format allows the beliefs to be discussed in a detached way.

The ample and poetic descriptions showcase the brilliant writing and for that alone it is a five star book. The reason that I give it four stars is it has a mocking tone for certain beliefs and it was difficult to read these exchanges as a person of faith and I did not love the book for this reason.

As for the conclusions in this work, I found myself answering these arguments by thinking over the words of Christ to the woman at the well (John 4). Having said this, the novella does its duty to explore important questions that thinking individuals might ponder. So many beliefs are illustrated in a mocking tone in this satire that almost everyone is bound to find something to offend in it, and yet the extremely felt despair of the main character, Julia, leads a reader to feel that her choice at the end is a sane one.

The interesting device in this book is the exploration of themes by using the drama of play dates between Julia's four year old daughter and two small boys. There the author unleashes the undercurrent of truth he wants the reader to see. This is a marvelous trick and if a reader ignores that the children transform into a mature viewpoint, so much of the exploration takes on a urgency in this conflict which is an echo of the main character's own inner conflict.

As for the reasons to read this book, in my opinion, this author has so many literary gifts it is an important work to read, although it might be an uncomfortable read.
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At 88 pages, this is more of a novella than a novel. As others have commented, do not read this if you are expecting the story told in the two movie adaptations. This was not meant to be a charming, "feel-good" holiday tale with a happy ending. However, if you would like to read a well-written story that touches on questions regarding love in all its aspects and the role of religion in modern times (this was written in 1928), by all means, give this a try. It's not a long read, not a light read, but it is a good read.

My only complaint about this book was not the content, but the typos. It's bad enough to find them in the text, but to see obvious mistakes in the pop-up "About the Author" is just wrong. There wasn't enough of them for me to say don't buy this book, but enough to be annoying. Amazon, fix this!
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The tale of the repressed bishop, his loving wife and the angel that drops in on them is familiar through the annual Christmas showing of the film starring Cary Grant, luminous Loretta Young and David Niven. Not many people know that there was a book before the movie.

The story is darker, sadder and laden with the kind of paternalistic sexism that was prevalent in the world in which the book was written. David Niven's bishop is shown the light by Dudley, Grant's urbane angel. The Angel of the novel is almost an heavenly robot, caring deeply but unable to act much beyond his heavenly programming. He sits as assistant/facilitator/observer as the the bishop abuses his loving, loyal wife not with violence or words, but with cold, repressed indfference. Life for his wife is empty of love, romance or warmth except for the bubbly presence of their daughter, begotten quite by chance some five years earlier during a rare and painfully guilt-laden moment of passion on the bishop's part, so cold, so brief and so unsatisfactory his unhappy wife barely noticed.

This could have been a very fine story but for the author's own apparent prejudices From the beginning you hope that the wife will speak up, tell the bishop he's a fathead and a lousy husband, lover and father. You pray that the angel will fall off his divine pedestal and make a grab for her, or at least give her self-righteous spouse a good talking to. In the author's favor, nothing so crass as a bedroom scene passes thorugh his typewriter. He tells his story without naming a single body part. So removed are we from the hearts and souls of this lost couple that we almost never hear them referred to by name.
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