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The American
 
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Henry James
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The American

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  3,280 ratings  ·  207 reviews
In this classic collision of the New World with Old Europe, James weaves a fable of thwarted desire that shifts between comedy, tragedy, romance, and melodrama.
Published by Nelson's Library (first published 1877)
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Paul

THE AMERICAN : PLOT SYNOPSIS WITH SOUNDTRACK

On a lovely day in May, 1868, Christopher Newman, a wealthy American businessman, sits down in the Louvre with an aesthetic headache, having seen too many paintings.
A young Parisian copyist, Noémie Nioche, catches his eye, and he agrees to buy the painting she is working on for the extravagant price of 2,000 francs.

BARRET STRONG : MONEY

Money don't buy everything it's true
But what it don't buy, I can't use
Here's 2000 francs
(that's what I want)
For your p
...more
Cheryl
I wasn't sure I would like any of Henry James' work after reading the acclaimed The Portrait of a Lady and being unable to finish it. Even now, I pulled it off my shelf to give it another go and still, I can't just yet. Portrait of a Lady is a novel said to be one of the greatest 19th Century American realist novels. So pardon my reader obstinacy and humble opinion, James fans, when I say that no, I did not see Isabel as a "realistic invention of female psychology."

But now that James has given...more
Werner
May 25, 2012 Werner rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of 19th-century literature
Shelves: classics
In the most recent installment of my review of the short story anthology I'm currently reading, I couldn't resist being quite snarkily critical of the (to me) unreadable Henry James selection there, which I noted shows him at his worst. So I thought it only fair to offer a review of a work that shows him at his best (or as far as I can determine that, from my limited reading of his corpus). IMO, his ghost stories exhibit some of his best work; but this mainstream novel (which I read as a high sc...more
James
This is early James, not the exquisite, inimitable stylist of the later novels. What might prove particularly vexing to readers who, like me, are trying to get through all of James’ early novels, having already become enamoured with the glories of his post-Portrait period, and watched the Victorian novel rise to sublime heights as a prescient political oracle in both The Bostonians and The Princess Casamassima (two extraordinary masterpieces often overlooked by disciples), are the slightly pot-b...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Aug 13, 2011 Kurt Reichenbaugh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of classics
Shelves: high-brow
My first introduction to Henry James was having to read THE AMBASSADORS for a course in college. I wouldn't recommend starting his novels with that one. It's an exceedingly difficult book; thick prose with many clauses and asides, swimming in commas and dashes, to the point that one is easily frustrated and lost. You know it's supposed to be a classic, but who the hell cares anymore. Thankfully, years later, I decideded to give THE AMBASSADORS another read and actually enjoyed it. I then read TH...more
Ensiform
Christopher Newman, a wealthy, good-natured Western magnate, has retired to Europe in order to better himself. There he is introduced to Claire de Cintré as a representative of his ideal woman. He does prize her, and determines to marry her, though the nobility of her family, the Bellegardes, seems to preclude such a bond. His friendship with her brother and easy democratic feeling make Newman regard himself as “noble” as they, though of course he isn’t.

It’s quite a subtle and clever tale; it’s...more
William Leight
The most prominent difference between the early and the late works of Henry James is, I think, subtlety. Not only did his writing style become more subtle, to the point that some passages require multiple rereadings just to figure out what he's driving at, his characters and stories became subtler, with more nuance in the former and less open conflict in the latter. "The American" is a quite early Henry James novel (either his second or his third, depending on whether you refuse, as James did la...more
Susan
This was a reread, I think the third time, but I haven’t read it since the mid-Seventies at the latest. Rereading, I must say, was a huge enjoyment. This is James at the best of his earlier period, where he was exploring the naïve American in Europe, packing enormous meaning in every sentence, but before he began with the super subtle detail and very long and complex sentences that characterize his later masterpieces like A Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove and The Golde...more
Vivian
I enjoyed this book, and actually stayed up until 2 am one quiet night to read the last 100 pages. As the title indicates, the novel is about "The American," who, while immersing himself in European culture as a change from making millions in industry, has the audacity to set his sights on marriage with a noble women. But the woman in question is not just noble in her character, she is "noble" in the sense of having a title. Her mother is a marquise, her brother is a count, and the family is unh...more
Lisa
The American, not surprisingly, is a book about an American, who, having been successful in business all his life, goes to France to win over a wife. The hero is a good natured, self-made millionaire named Newman (get it?) who falls in love with the only daughter of a very old, aristocratic, half French have Anglo-saxon family. Initially, they are won over by his money, but, in the end, can not consent to let their daughter marry a business man of the nouveau riche. (This isn't a spoiler, it tel...more
Zöe Yu
I never thought Great tradition is such a big deal to Europe as well as to China. People (pinoners) are encouraging mobs to break rules, think out of boxes, and leave the tradition behinnd. But no one does it better than Americans. Well, no one understands the feeling of Americans. When you are considered too commercial, you are the first one to do it, no matter what you expected. People substains their tradition always scold people who are breaking rules. They contempt who can do what they will...more
Scott
The first half kept my interest but the second half totally lost it. The plot fell apart and all of the good things of the first half disappeared. The plot changes from revolving around a courtship between a man and a woman to revolving around a humorous revenge/19th century victorian era suspense novel, that never resolves itself. The first half had such great potential and I enjoyed the relationships that were forming between the characters, but that all became lost in the fog of the second ha...more
Justin Evans
I'd only read 'the Europeans' of the early James before this. That was good, but hey, it's really short, not much he could do. This is justly celebrated. Not one to read if you're after a black and white morality tale about the evils of American Commercialism - which does end up looking a bit empty - or the evils of European stuffiness - which does end up looking more than a bit evil; or the great goodness (both also look good in their own way) of either of them. And that's what the book is abou...more
Neil
Henry James writes beautifully and entertainingly. The book is very slow to unfold and at times tests one's patience, but is ultimately rewarding. It is, on the surface, a comedy of manners about the culture shock experienced by an American entrepreneur in Paris. At a deeper level, it is a sharp analysis of the American psyche - about boundless (and perhaps unmerited) optimism, about persistent egalitarianism in the face of rigid social structures, and ultimately about a folly of innocence and n...more
Christopher Sutch
In many ways this is an anomalous James novel: the "hero" (as James calls him several times) and title character is a businessman with no aesthetic sense (he likes buildings and art that, the subtext indicates, James and his contemporaries thought were of negligible interest); the plot wanders severely through the first half or so of the novel, before suddenly turning into a very melodramatic (indeed, in some aspects, Gothic) romance/revenge drama; and characters and situations are of the most s...more
Jim Leckband
"The American" is Henry James's Babbit written as if Sinclair Lewis actually liked Babbit. The titular American, Newman (for once in his life, James is NOT subtle, "new" "man", geesh), is a self-made kajillionaire in want of a wife, so he goes to Paris. Here his insufferable pride meets comical prejudice. You thought Darcy had some problems - he ain't got nothing on the (hiss) Bellegarde family. If you think of the dastardly villain in the "Perils of Pauline" film shorts who ties up maidens on t...more
Nicole
I am half half when it comes to James. However- this book was horrid in my mind. I had an earache when I read it and I felt like I was underwater. The fact that he includes page long preposterous sentences that make me forget what he was saying in the first place.

And...I know this is meaningful stuff, but to me? He hardly says anything and NOTHING HAPPENS in this book.

Oy.
Cathy
Christopher Newman, the title character in The American, doesn't seem to have a single negative bone in his body nor to have faced any significant, lasting hardships in his life. In this way, he seems rather dull and one-dimensional, but gradually over the course of the novel, that all changes and we see a very different man at the end.

Although I enjoyed reading it, my main issue with this novel is that nothing happens for the first 200 pages - nothing particularly dramatic, anyway. Newman meets...more
Seán
Has a very odd quality, a sort of pleasant drifting. There's a great ending and a number of witticisms. Plus, the cover of this edition has a picture of Matthew Modine (Christopher Newman, the titular American) looking quizzically at something out of the frame, and the severe mug of Diana Rigg (Madame de Bellegarde) glares off the spine.
Aneece
Surprisingly funny.

Update upon completion: If the question is whether to start with early or late James, the answer is "early".
Michael Neno
Recently read: The American, Henry James' 1877 novel of American capitalistic brashness clashing with unyielding Parisian aristocracy.

The novel, James' third (if you count his immature Watch and Ward - he didn't count it) is a transitional novel, more complex and arresting than his previous Roderick Hudson. In The American, James' protagonist is Christopher Newman, a self-made, uncultured American millionaire who travels to Paris to find (i.e. buy, with his freedom and wealth) culture and a wife...more
Jeri Massi
I never did finish this book. I even stopped caring if the American wins the lady by the end. While Henry James sets up an excellent stage for a great novel, the heaviness of his prose stopped me. Newman was well drawn, but I couldn't get past the stilted, cumbersome style to settle down and enjoy an American's depiction of a happy, optimistic, somewhat arrogant but good hearted American plummeting into the depths of old and corrupt French aristocracy. And then the plot lost its way. I never cou...more
Bob Offer-Westort
I couldn't care. I simply couldn't care about tediously sincere, up-by-his-bootstraps, tanned American financial success Christopher Newman, the tissue paper cutout noble Claire Bellegarde, Mme. de Cintré, or their unhappy-starred simulacrum of love. Newman's too dull to be worth a damn. Mme. de Cintré is an aspartame marzipan orchid. & love is for chumps.

There's a duel & some cloak-&-dagger shit in the final hundred pages, probably because James, too, got bored of his characters. In...more
Kristen
"You are different. You are a man; you will get over it. You have all kinds of consolation. You were born—you were trained, to changes."
Madame de Cintre to Newman

If any novel highlights the differences between old world European culture and American culture, The American by Henry James is it. Mr. Newman, a millionaire who worked his way from nothing to millions, arrives in France with all the easy American confidence and determination in the world, with the goal of marrying the most superior an...more
Katherine
"His eye was of a clear, cold grey, and save for the abundant droop of his moustache he spoke, as to cheek and chin, of the dry matutinal steel" (4).
"He was large, smooth and pink, with the air of a successfully potted plant" (14).
"A beauty has no faults in her face; the face of a beautiful woman may have faults that only deepen its charm" (37).
"M. de Bellegarde's good wishes seemed to flutter down onhim from the cold upper air with the soft scattered movement of a shower of snowflakes" (122).
"H...more
Ari
The author does a great job with character observations both from the narrator and from other characters, such as this one where he describes the ridiculous, bratty, ruthlessly amusing Noemie. "She is quite pretty enough for her purposes, and it is a face and figure in which everything tells. If she were prettier she would be less intelligent, and her intelligene is half her charm' Valentin then continues, 'She has taken the measure of life, and she has determined to be something-to succeed at a...more
Christopher H.
Whilst very glad that I read this novel, I think it a bit flawed even though it is actually a well written novel. My problem with this book is the structure of the plot. Let me see if I can articulate my point here.

The premise of this novel is Jamesian all of the way, i.e., the contrast between the young and over-achieving American expatriate in and among European Old World sensibilities and cultural values, and in The American James perhaps takes it to an extreme. His protagonist, Christopher N...more
Craig
Christopher Newman, a mid-30ish rags-to-riches bachelor American travels to France to escape the rigors of American business life and explore the enticements of Europe. A moral and good natured man, he encounters in Paris an old Civil War comrade (Tristram) and rekindles their friendship. Newman strikes up a platonic relationship with Tristram's wife and tells her he is interested in finding a wife, one who must be an exceptional woman. Mrs. Tristram names a widow, Claire, who is the sole daught...more
Remo
la mia amica anna dice che non ci crede che io leggo tutti questi libri.
la cosa in generale è falsa perché:
1.non sono affatto tanti
2.non scrivo di tutto quello che leggo

quest'ultima cosa in generale è vera perché:
1.non sempre c'è da scrivere di quello che si legge
2.a volte si può scrivere anche di quello che non si legge

quindi, con la complicità di un'altra fresca conoscenza, oggi si parla di

henry james

di cui tempo fa ho iniziato a leggere giro di vite

affascinatissimo dall'equivoco del titolo it...more
Francene Carroll
The American isn’t my favourite Henry James novel, but it’s a good read if you’re in the mood for a leisurely nineteenth century novel about the clash between old Europe and new America. The story opens as Christopher Newman, the American of the title who has made his fortune in manufacturing, comes to Paris to broaden his horizons and experience a bit of culture. He brings with him his very open, optimistic and straightforward approach to life which is completely at odds with the close-minded,...more
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Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the...more
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“Intelligent, unscrupulous, determined, and capable of seeing a man strangled without changing color.” 2 likes
“It had come back to him simply that what he had been looking at all summer was a very rich and beautiful world, and that it had not all been made by sharp railroad men and stock-brokers.” 1 likes
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