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The Wings of the Dove
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The Wings of the Dove

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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  9,702 ratings  ·  324 reviews
Of the three late masterpieces that crown the extraordinary literary achievement of Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (1902) is at once the most personal and the most elemental.

James drew on the memory of a beloved cousin who died young to create one of the three central characters, Milly Theale, an heiress with a short time to live and a passion for experiencing life to...more
Paperback, 768 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Modern Library (first published 1901)
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Ann
Soooo you guys, I think missed that day in English Lit 101 when we talked about Henry James, because to me he’s always been one of those authors you merely know OF, and who is important in some vague way but you couldn’t possibly say how, who is not really relevant in our 3G world except for the fact that Merchant Ivory makes mad bank off of this lace-petticoat-and-social-graces kind of thing. But for serious you guys, why did no one never tell me that Henry James is a GENIUS?! I mean, why is th...more
Sarah
Henry James is infuriating. His evasiveness is infuriating. His endless digressions, clause upon clause, are infuriating. Deciphering the text requires so much concentration, you'll ultimately feel that, rather than experiencing the story, you're floating along above it. He reinforces that impression in often forsaking description for reflective analysis. In effect, even that which isn't "spoken" somehow feels spoken. -- But don't let any of that dissuade you.

This is a work of genius. Henry Jame...more
Yulia
Well, I finished it and I didn't even skim one passage, though there were countless sentences that, no matter how many times I read them at whatever angle and no matter how sincere my desire to understand, had absolutely no meaning to them whatsoever. Often this was caused not by subtlety or for suspense, but but because of simple misuse of pronouns. (Who's thinking this of whom? Ah, never mind. I must have an inferior intellect to care for such details.)

Others are merely clotted arteries of met...more
David
In Henry James, we rarely if ever have a villain - a real, horrible blackguard character for whom we feel morally adequate enough to pass severe judgment. There are characters with evil intentions, who do evil thing: who lie and undermine the hero or heroine, Mme. Merle and Gilbert Osmond, of The Portrait of a Lady, may be among the most "evil" duos in the James canon, if only for the tenderness we feel toward the passionate Isabel, who they snare. What is perplexing in James, which frustrates u...more
Mary Anne
Unknown page:
"Did she know?"
"I think you know what she knew."
"I knew something, but not what you knew of what she knew. I still don't know."
"I know."
"So she knew something."
"Yes. We all knew something."

OK. We’ve established that everyone knows. But what do they know? James uses a very oblique writing style. This style seems to say so much without saying anything at all. Very little is crystal clear in this book, to the extent that when Kate actually directs Densher in her plot, the directness of...more
Michele
Feb 11, 2008 Michele rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a lot of time and a dictionary
I swear I will read Henry James before I die. It might take that long for me to finish this book, considering I have to read each sentence at least 3 times.

2/9/08 Just picked it back up from the library. Renewed twice and still only got to page 308.

2/10/08 Could he be any more verbose?

2/11/08 On page 375, and finally something is starting to happen. The man is a master of motive and character study, once you can figure out what he's actually saying.

2/18/08 I'm down with the system, and this bo...more
David
Gives new meaning to the expression "adventures in reading." The famous style of the late novels--the monster sentences with multiple subordinate elements that snake their way through paragraphs extending for page after page after page--will try your patience and reward your attentions--and yet frequently frustrate your best attempts at comprehension. I found the experience altogether fascinating, both in its challenges and its rewards--and there were wonderful rewards, passages and situations t...more
Rebecca
An utter fave novel and heroine. Love and betrayal with HJ motifs of victimised innocence and triumph without attainment. Gotta love the sex 'n' death symbiosis.

*likes 'em melodramatic*

HJ's liberality with commas does make the writing feel a bit like hyperventilation. But what's more romantic than being in love with a memory. ;)

*applauds etherealised gal's revenge*

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Patrick Karamazov
The prose of this book is almost impenetrable. Sometimes Shakespeare seems hard to figure out, but there are whole pages of this book that are almost written in a different language-- or at least a different syntax. Henry James has the ability to write 10 pages at a time using only 5 paragraphs, 10 periods, 50 semi-colons, no dialogue, and the only nouns are pronouns.

At best though, the sentences can be beautiful and intricate and reading them can be like unwinding a strand of DNA. There's a log...more
Esdaile
This book is extremely demanding. It takes no prisoners so far as investment of time and energy is concerned. The plot is simple, its presentation convoluted and at first seems attenuated by its minimalisation. Minimilasation of what? Of pandering to the reader's need for action, for immediate comprehensibility. Just as the protagonists need time to understand one another, especially since all the charcaters tend to stop in mid sentence, hesitate, break off, hint instead of being overt, pause an...more
Rachel
I have a thing for Henry James. When I read The Golden Bowl in grad school and loved it, my professor thought I was crazy. I suppose many students find him dense and confusing. But I love his style. I love the careful, layered characterizations, the detailed descriptions, and the way James' novels flow mostly from internal dialogue. His artistry is in telling the story through the consciousness of the characters. I simply love it!

p.s. I find it funny {and revealing} that his novels translated to...more
Kendall
I could not finish this book - I wanted to finish it so badly but I found myself dreading reading it on the train. I figured my commute is rough enough, why make it miserable? I wanted to like Henry James so badly, but I guess he is not for me. Basically I needed a translator in order to understand any of the sentences despite the fact that they are written in English!!! Oh my goodness, reading a sentence over and over again still did not get me anywhere. The plot is great, but really I wish I c...more
Laurele
Amazing book. I kept thinking, Why can't he just come out and tell us straight what he is talking about? Then I realized that James is reflecting his characters, who live in an underground world of plunder and plot, innuendo and insinuation. The last few chapters suddenly break into lucid writing, a sign that at least one character is starting to think and act straight. I need to read this book again. This book needs to be experienced.
Rebecca
I am in love with Henry James. Every sentence makes you stop, pore, and muse! The book is 500 pages. I wish it were a million....
Taylor Buffenbarger
What comes to mind when you think of a conventional female character of the 1900’s? Let me guess. She’s married, dedicated to her husband, housework and children? She’s dependent on the income of her husband and she definitely doesn’t keep dark secrets from the people she cares most about, right? Well let me introduce you to Milly Theale, an unconventional female character created by Henry James for the novel The Wings of the Dove. Milly is considered to be a princess by fellow characters but u...more
David
The Wings of the Dove Henry James (1902) #26

June 8, 2007

This has to be the worst book that I have ever read. Well, maybe not ever, but definitely the worst one yet on this list (and there have been some that have sucked mightily). How this book made the list, I have no idea, but it has rattled my already shaky faith in the validity of this list. I suspect that it has something to do with one Mr. Gore Vidal, who, judging from the little blurb on the back of the dust jacket of the copy that I hav...more
Trina
I sat down yesterday afternoon and finished Wings of the Dove, and ended up admiring it SO much. I didn't so much love it as admire it. I skimmed ahead to the Venice parts which is why I wanted to read it in the first place, and they were lovely, but then I got into the characters again and finished the whole thing. I knew the plot, which isn't complicated, but it was portrayed so much more subtly than I had imagined, with absolutely perfect word choices. There are only two men in the story, and...more
carl  theaker


HJ must have been paid by the comma as there are often 8 or so in
a sentence. This is a story of nuance, 50 or so pages dedicated
to dissecting a thought, or question of who knows who, or what
a simple gesture means at a party. Took some getting used
to the style, but believe it or not the last 100 pages were
a good read.

Maybe since it was written in 1902, Henry James, and has the classic
stamp, I didn't expect, and then I was impressed, at the conniving
plans of the women.
(See my Ambassadors review fo...more
Will Albers
unbelievably tedious....Henry James apparently never met a clause or a comma that he didn't like. turgid, bloated, pompous prose...it's impossible to think that people might have talked or thought like this...even 100 years ago. James takes dozens of pages with no apparent advancement of plot. A good editor could have easily whacked this down from 700 pages to about 250 and it would have been an infinitely easier read. I have to admit I couldn't finish and gave up after 200 pages. Maybe it's jus...more
Ashley
Henry James has beautiful people inside of his head, if only his verbal diarrhea didn't get in the way. Dear Jesus, I wish he knew how to write a short sentence.
Veronica
Dec 20, 2010 Veronica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cyril
I was intending to write a short and dismissive review of this lengthy book. The opacity of the writing is amazing considering the length of the book, and the lack of clarity arises not only from the interminable clause-filled sentences (often once the reader gets to the end of the sentence, he or she forgets where it began) but also from the lack of directness in depicting scenes. The author forces the reader to reach conclusions based on incomplete descriptions and terse conversations. There a...more
Lois
I tried, I really tried. I decided to start out the new year with a good, long book, a classic I've never read before. I've never read Henry James at all, but I knew the story and decided to plunge into reading it.

Well, much as I hate to give up on a book, after page 140 (of 545), I just can't go on. I wanted to quit several times already, but kept giving it a little longer, hoping the real story would start to show itself and grab me. I really wanted to have to stay up late into the night, una...more
John E. Branch Jr.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in December 1999.

Henry James is generally reckoned to have had a late burst of creativity out of which came The Wings of a Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl. This may be the case, but I suspect that his earlier works are more frequently read today.

The title, and a fair amount of imagery in the novel, comes from Psalm 55. That psalm speaks of the experience of terror, and the desire for wings to fly to the place of shelter. (This is, in the original,...more
Rebekah
Wings of the Dove, a novel by Henry James follows the story of two women in the early twentieth-century. Kate Croy, a handsome and bold Londoner, has been left penniless by her family and now lives with her opinionated Aunt. Secretly betrothed to marry a journalist named Merton Densher, her love, she seeks her Aunt’s approval and is denied. Enter Milly Theale, a beautiful heiress from America with all the goodness and intrigue to make her all anyone can talk about. The women become fast friends,...more
Barksdale Penick
I may be done with Henry James, even though I mostly enjoyed the Wings of the Dove. Elements of the plot are dated, as is to be expected from a time written at a time when moral strictures were so different and of such heightened, almost hysterical importance. In some books, such as Jude the Obscure, the gap between the moral setting of my world the 19th century is so wide that I can't enjoy any of the elements of the tale or Hardy's writing. That is not so with Wings of the Dove. There are many...more
Kate

Handsome Boyfriend and I are planning a two week respite on The Continent in October, moseying from Nice to Venice with stops in between. "Preparing for the trip' , HB has stocked up on new hiking and backpacking equipment appropriate for autumn weather and I on books set along our route, so as to 'work out the best itinerary.' Wings of the Dove topped all of the lists of books set in Venice, and I'd hoped to read about the scenery and learn of some interesting locales to visit in Venice while...more
David Beeson
The genius of Henry James is that he takes us deep into his characters, to dance through their emotions and their beliefs. It’s quite a dance since neither feelings nor views ever stand still for long, and what makes it still wilder is James’s use of the device of the unreliable narrator: the characters through whom James tells his story see the world as we all do, from a narrow, limited and often erroneous point of view.

So we have to dance through feelings that change, but also a reality that c...more
Grace
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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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“The women one meets - what are they but books one has already read? You're a library of the unknown, the uncut. Upon my word I've a subscription.” 24 likes
“Her memory's your love. You want no other.” 19 likes
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