- Series: Classics S
- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised ed. edition (June 2, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014043254X
- ISBN-13: 978-0140432541
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Princess Casamassima (Classics S) Revised ed. Edition
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From the Inside Flap
When Henry James chose to, as he did in The Princess Casamassima, he could write about the political turbulence of his era with astonishing excitement and directness. The London underworld of terrorist conspiracies that entangles his hero, Hyacinth Robinson, comes alive under his pen with a violence that seems, 100 years later, only too familiar. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
Brought up in poverty, Hyacinth has nevertheless developed aesthetic tastes that heighten his awareness of the sordid misery around him. He is drawn into the secret world of revolutionary politics and, in a moment of fervour, makes a vow that he will assassinate a major political figure. Soon after this he meets the beautiful Princess Casamassima. Captivated by her world of wealth and nobility, art and beauty, Hyacinth loses faith in radicalism, 'the beastly cause.' But tormented by his belief in honour, he must face an agonizing, and ultimately tragic, dilemma.
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Top customer reviews
The story could seem seriously dated and improbable, but only if you forget how really terrifying the anarchists of that time were. They were that era’s terrorists, and they struck with great violence and cruelty. Crude bomb-makers blew themselves up in crowded trains and cozy cafes in Paris, crackpots from obscure political sects took potshots at crowned heads and political figures. And more victims fell than just the Archduke and Archduchess of Austria at Sarajevo. William McKinley, the U.S. president, was assassinated, as was an Austrian empress, a French president, an Italian king and a Spanish prime minister. The crimes were vicious, shocking, and deadly, just like today. And they fascinated and appalled the aristocracy.
This novel is James’ attempt to give them a thrilling glimpse into this murky world and to depart from his usual haunt of the drawing rooms and ballrooms of the rich and privileged. In this he was ill-advised and he should have stuck with the subjects and the class that he knew so well. This is an attempt to give a Dickensian peep into the seedy underworld of the London poor and the politicians and terrorists that were stirring the pot of civil unrest there, and James simply does not pull it off very well. The great central plot device of the novel—the impending assassination attempt—hangs over the novel for 600 pages, but in the end it is what the English call a damp squib, a firework that fails to go off. And 600 pages of that is far too much, leaving one feeling like the Emperor Joseph II, who supposedly said to Mozart on hearing “The Abduction from the Seraglio” for the first time: “That is too fine for my ears–there are too many notes!” There are too many words in this novel for the scant plot it seeks to advance, the characterizations of working class people are neither convincing nor sympathetic, and are not even particularly interesting. James should have left this world to Dickens and stuck to the world he knew so well and which adorns his other, much better, novels.