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The American
Henry James
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The American

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  4,911 Ratings  ·  275 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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  • The American by Henry James
    The American
    Release date: May 16, 2017
    Enter to win one of 10 copies. A nouveau riche American falls in love with a beautiful Frenchwoman but is rejected by her aristocratic family in this ...more

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    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30)
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    Are you the kind of person who enjoys fast-paced melodrama? Fortified castles where dreadful deeds are carried out at midnight? A beautiful heroine who is destined to be buried alive? Evil villains straight out of a gothic romance? No?

    Perhaps you are instead the kind of reader who prefers a more sedate narrative full of realistic depictions of everyday life. If you are, you share a trait with Christopher Newman, the American of the title. Though his story is set in the 1860s, Newman is a modern
    Henry Avila
    Oct 20, 2015 Henry Avila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    An American millionaire businessman arrives in Paris, Christopher Newman, in 1868, to get "Culture," and find the perfect wife, after all he's 36 and lonely, and while walking through the gigantic Louvre museum, the tired man sits down, he views the magnificent paintings surrounding him on the walls. Newman notices too, young, pretty girls, copying these exquisite works, particularly the highly ambitious Noemie Nioche efforts, making an offer to buy the picture, and does, for a greatly inflated ...more
    Paul Bryant
    Sep 27, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: novels


    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.


    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
    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
    Jun 16, 2017 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    A ‘connection’: I chose this book to take with me on travels not too long ago, not realizing I would see the real-life version of its cover near the end of my trip:

    A connection: If I hadn't recently reread Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, I wouldn't have noted this novel’s obvious debt to it. And I do mean obvious, though James employs a different setting and different nationalities to create another theme (“I’ve never met an American before” is a literal
    Feb 13, 2008 Werner rated it really liked it  ·  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
    the gift
    i decided to read henry james one summer a few years ago (decades...) and decided to approach him with one book from each ‘era’: early, middle, and late. this was the early. 'middle': portrait of a lady, 'late: the ambassadors actually an easier read than i thought, i understand it is an early version, a draft, of james’ architectonic and archetypal story: contrasting the innocent, honest, open american, with vario ...more
    Kurt Reichenbaugh
    Aug 13, 2011 Kurt Reichenbaugh rated it it was amazing  ·  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
    Jan 01, 2017 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    The novel summary does not capture this: of course it is CLASS that divides the New-Man from his aristocratic innamorata and her 800 year French family. Bellegarde confides that occasionally the men in the family descended to marrying down, bourgeoisie--"lawyers' daughters." Newman offers, "that's very bad, is it?"(Buccaneer, 99)
    And now we are trying to institute class in America, with money = class. But it assuredly does not. Many European aristocrats are now, as they were a century ago in Jam
    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
    Dec 23, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: fiction
    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
    Aug 21, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    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
    Paula Gonzalez
    Aug 18, 2014 Paula Gonzalez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    When I started reading this book, my expectations were not set very high. It started as a slow paced classic that I was not very interested in. At this point, I had read several other books by this author and I was ready to give up on the tragic touch he usually gives his stories. Luckily, as the stubborn reader that I am, I decided to finish this book and give the author another chance. After all, there are some aspects of his writing that I like.... And I was not disappointed this time. I'm so ...more
    Oct 15, 2011 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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
    Robin Friedman
    Apr 08, 2015 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Christopher Newman, 36, an American who has become wealthy in commerce and manufacturing following the Civil War, is the hero, in "The American", an early novel by Henry James. Most of the story is set in France in the late 1860s as Newman, vaguely dissatisfied with his life of making money, wants to learn what Europe has to teach. Newman is also lonely and in search of a wife; but the "bar", as he puts it, for a prospective wife is high. Through American friends in Paris, Newman is introduced t ...more
    Northumberland Public Library
    On occasion, devoted readers of contemporary fiction ought to consider taking a short break from Patterson or Cornwell or Grafton or Penny. It couldn't hurt to brush up on some of the older writers. Take Henry James for instance. His is one of those names everyone has heard. And perhaps many are even familiar with one or two of his titles. Usually it's his Gothic novella "The Turn of the Screw" that comes first to mind or perhaps one of his better known novels such as PORTRAIT OF A LADY or DAISY ...more
    Aug 08, 2009 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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
    Jul 07, 2013 Ari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: france, read-in-2013
    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
    Oct 19, 2010 Vivian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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
    Grig O'
    Nov 22, 2014 Grig O' rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: kindle
    Clearly the most humorous Henry James book I've read so far. Even when the melodrama kicks into high gear, Newman the eponymous protagonist is a consistently silly character.

    You can follow the book on two levels: one is Newman's story, and the other is James himself finding his way as an American in Paris. Every now and then the two strands intermingle, for example in this description of Newman's friend Valentin:

    "... he formed a character to which Newman was as capable of doing justice when he h
    Zöe Yu
    Jul 22, 2012 Zöe Yu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: american
    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
    Apr 18, 2014 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    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
    Apr 09, 2013 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
    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
    May 26, 2010 Justin Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: fiction
    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
    Jun 05, 2016 natura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Es muy bueno describiendo caracteres morales, sobre todo de los personajes que mejor conoce: un hombre norteamericano sano, de ideas liberales, que se ha hecho a sí mismo y es, intrínsecamente, bueno. Los caracteres europeos de alta aristocracia o burguesía también se le dan bien, pero los juzga más duramente y resultan, casi todos, antipáticos e injustificables en su mezquindad.

    Buena novela donde la trama es la excusa para desarrollar a fondo una galería de caracteres amplia y curiosa.
    Nov 25, 2009 Seán rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 2009
    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.
    Mar 28, 2008 Nicole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
    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.

    May 05, 2012 Aneece rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: novel
    Surprisingly funny.

    Update upon completion: If the question is whether to start with early or late James, the answer is "early".
    Jul 23, 2016 Joanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Diverting to read but with an unsatisfying ending.
    Liliana Pulbere
    Nov 04, 2016 Liliana Pulbere rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    I love James's writing style - his art of using words is genuinely distinct. It does require certain patience and love of English language in order to persist in reading his novels, considering the usually rather monotonous development of plot and the unexpected ending.
    I felt this way when I read "The Portrait of a Lady " and I undoubtedly felt the same when I read "The American."
    There is the kind of enthralling books that you just can't stop reading for you are so interested in how the things
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    2017 Reading Chal...: 1877 / 1879 1 15 Apr 16, 2015 09:18AM  
    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.” 5 likes
    “One's theories, after all, matter little, it is one's humor that is the great thing.” 0 likes
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