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Indian Summer (New York Review Books Classics) Main Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1590171097
ISBN-10: 1590171098
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Editorial Reviews


"…[a] delicious novel of romance in late 19th—century Italy."
— Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"Again and again in Indian Summer, the felicity of the writing makes us pause in admiration….A midlife crisis has rarely been sketched in fiction with better humor, with gentler comedy and more gracious acceptance of life’s irrevocability."
— John Updike

"A lesser—known entry in the Americans—in—Europe genre, the school of novels ruled by Edith Wharton and Henry James, William Dean Howells’ comedy of manners, Indian Summer, is as sublime as they come…Indian Summer is not, however, a tragic novel. Ultimately, it’s one of those rare works…about the deep, unexpected satisfactions to be found in compromise…Indian Summer is what we mean when we invoke irony that does not mean hollow attitude, when we say something is civilized without meaning rarefied, when subtlety does not preclude accessibility, when optimism is earned. It’s exquisite."

About the Author

William Dean Howells (1837–1920), the author of thirty-six novels, twelve books of travel, and many short stories, articles, essays, and poems, grew up in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, the son of a printer with strong antislavery and egalitarian beliefs. Largely self-taught, Howells began his writing career as a reporter and was soon publishing poetry, fiction, and criticism in national magazines. He wrote a campaign biography for Abraham Lincoln and was rewarded with an appointment as the US consul in Venice. In Europe Howells met Eleanor Mead, whom he married in 1862, and for the rest of his life he would rely on what he called her “unerring artistic taste.” In 1866, Howells became the assistant editor of the Atlantic Monthly, which led to close friendships with other American writers, among them Henry James, Samuel Clemens, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell. He championed the work of Emily Dickinson, Stephen Crane, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, and was one of the only prominent Americans to protest execution of four Anarchists after the 1886 Haymarket Bombings. In 1881, Howells resigned his editorship to concentrate on writing fiction—among his best-known novels are The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), Indian Summer (1886), and A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890)—and in 1908 he was elected the first president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Wendy Lesser is the founding editor of The Threepenny Review and the author of six books of nonfiction. Her reviews and essays have appeared in periodicals around the country, and she has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Arts Jouranlism Program, and the American Academy in Berlin. She lives in Berkeley, California.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Main edition (September 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171098
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171097
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This excellent novel by Howells is a May-December love story. Middle-aged Theodore Colville falls in love with young and pretty Imogene Graham. The relationship borders on the ridiculous, but it's only when Imogene falls for a younger man that Colville calls it all off. One wonders what took him so long. The dialogue, especially when Colville is involved, crackles with wit. This is Howells's own favorite of his novels. It is extremely entertaining, one of Howells's very best books, and one of the best novels on the American bookshelf, regardless of time period.
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Format: Paperback
An American middle-aged man returns to Florence, Italy - the scene of a heartbreaking romance twenty years earlier. There he meets an old friend from those days, her daughter, and her twenty year old female protege. Slowly a surprising romantic relationship develops; but is it really what both people want? Great dialogue, wonderful character development, and a happy ending.
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Format: Paperback
When you think of chroniclers of love, life and American society during the Gilded Age, you automatically think of Henry James and Edith Wharton.

But while W.D. Howells never quite reached their levels of prominence, his similar works are full of quiet introspection and evocative, vivid prose reminiscent of Wharton at her best. And "Indian Summer" is one of his better works -- a lush, colorful exploration of 19th-century Florence, and a love triangle of Americans who are taking a prolonged vacation there.

After a disastrous career loss, Theodore Colville is vacationing in Florence, and promptly begins a massive midlife crisis. But he perks up after encountering Lina Bowen, a widowed ex-flame of his who is also staying in Florence with her young daughter Effie. And at a party that evening, Lina introduces him to the young, vivacious Imogene Graham.

Soon Colville is squiring Effie and Imogene around Florence, and even taking all three women out to the carnival. Naturally, Imogene develops a crush on the kind, cynical Colville -- but her innocent liking alarms Lina, who still is carrying a flame for him, and Imogene's well-intentioned errors tie her in society's web. Noow Colville must decide what he wants most, and which woman truly loves him.

At heart, "Indian Summer" is basically an exploration of a love triangle between an older man, a slightly younger woman, and a girl young enough to be his daughter. That's a delicate situation at the best of times, but this was also the Gilded Age -- codes of conduct were strict, and feelings were expressed in a dance of words and gestures rather than outward displays.

But to frame the story, Howells creates an elaborate portrait of how wealthy Americans lived and saw Europe.
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Format: Hardcover
Theodore Colville, a 40-year-old retired newspaperman from Des Vaches, Indiana, disenchanted with American politics, has returned to Florence, the scene of a failed youthful romance. Here he re-encounters Mrs. Lina Bowen, an enchanting American hostess and her beautiful young protégé Miss Imogene Graham. Miss Graham is 20 years old, beautiful, fascinated by literature and the arts, and considered a bit of an intellectual by the mindless young men who pursue her. Colville finds her utterly charming but extremely naïve, and not nearly as bright as she imagines herself to be. For her part, she is fascinated by the older man's knowledge and experience, and is greatly moved by his romantic history. Colville's behavior is scrupulously correct, even refined, but Imogene's fondness for him breaks through his reserve and they reach an understanding, after which things begin to unravel. Having had his heart broken in Italy decades earlier, will Colville allow history to repeat itself?

Howells is very fine writer, perhaps admired more than he is actually appreciated. He has Henry James' knack for intimate character study, without the run-on interior monologues that frustrate some of James' readers. Howells himself even makes the comparison, and wittily points out through one of his characters that if this were a Howells novel, "nothing would have happened". Certainly little enough actually happens considering just how long this novel is, and the dearth of action will not set well with many. Further, any book of the 19th century has an other-worldly quality to it that makes it challenging to relate to on a personal level. Still, Howells' characters are pleasant and engaging people to spend some time with, and the exquisite descriptions of Italy are an added bonus. But if you don't feel you can identify with the plight of a middle-aged man entranced by a much younger woman, this book probably isn't for you.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In his novel Indian Summer, William Dean Howells presents a mellow but realistic story that has the complete feel of that delightful time of the year, although the plot actually spans several seasons. The Indian summer aspect applies to a sophisticated gentleman, Theodore Colville, who has just entered his middle years as he returns to a scene, Florence, Italy, that played an important part in his early manhood. It was here twenty years earlier that he first fell in love, seemingly successfully until a sudden and harsh rejection. Now, after a once profitable career as a newspaper editor has ended, he is barely ensconced in the Italian city when he meets a lady from his past, a close friend of his lost love. Lina Bowen, now a widow with a young daughter, is an attractive and charming socialite among the American and English residents of Florence. Also living with her at this time as a temporary ward is a beautiful young girl just blossoming into womanhood, Imogene Graham.
Colville, although he still hides a shy nature, has become an exceedingly witty and entertaining conversationalist. He quickly becomes a favorite with young Effie Bowen and Imogene Graham. Miss Graham indicates a disdain for the shallow young men that she has met and is highly attracted to the urbane, intelligent Mr. Colville. Mrs. Bowen invites Colville to become a regular guest in her home, and for a time the little coterie is delightfully congenial, but then an emotional triangle begins to develop. Imogene seems to be too devoted to this older gentleman, and Colville does not discourage her. Mrs. Bowen, who apparently is captivated by his charm as well, begins to feel overshadowed by her lovely young ward. This is the core of the intriguing plot.
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