The American

The American - Henry James, William C. Spengemann

A hundred and however many years later, Newman is still an ideal American type. He's forthright, industrious, fair, and amiable - he doesn't understand, or care to, subtle intrigues and social niceties that exist only to please tradition. He does as he pleases and is above reproach - he's 'Daisy Miller' with a penis. His love, Claire de Bellegarde, is too good a creature to exist, all the more to glow against the backdrop of her cold and dissipated family. I wouldn't change the ending for anything. Henry James writes an atypical romance about this rich American man setting out to find a wife in the highest society of Paris.

When I was loaned the book I had been warned not to read the back cover of the book, because it gives away the large part of the plot. Of course, by the time I started reading it and was halfway through, I forgot and idly read the back cover. The 'decision' Newman must make comes about in the last 40 pages or so - but I'm not going to complain about spoilers to a 19th century novel. Reading is as much about the journey as it is about what happens. I enjoyed the time I had with the characters and the sly observations James made about the times.

James revised a lot of his work later in life, but I read the original 1877 edition. In fact I haven't read any of James' later work. Chronologically I stop at 'The Portrait of a Lady'. I like the elegant clarity of his style so much I suppose I'm wary of getting into his more impressionistic narratives. Dare I?