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The American

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  3,971 ratings  ·  234 reviews
`You, you a nun; you with your beauty defaced and your nature wasted you behind locks and bars! Never, never, if I can prevent it!'

A wealthy American man of business descends on Europe in search of a wife to make his fortune complete. In Paris Christopher Newman is introduced to Claire de Cintre, daughter of the ancient House of Bellegarde, and to Valentin, her charming y
Paperback, (Penguin Popular Classics), 325 pages
Published October 3rd 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1877)
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Paul Bryant


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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Robin Friedman
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jo-Lynne Lockley
The story and the sentiments of The American leave something to be desired for modern sentiments - the ending while complete and well rounded felt to me a little too driven by Christian sentiments, but the book and it's insights into behavior, speech and culture clash is a prize.
The American, a bootstraps millionaire, stumbles on the love of his life on a trip meant to relieve him of th ennui of gaining great wealth in America and to immerse him in the culture and aesthetic pleasrues of Europe.
Lew Fulton
This is about my 4th James book, and the first of his "early" period. I liked it, it had his usual craftmanship and wonderful character analysis, with just enough plot to keep me interested. As others here have mentioned, it is another example of how well he describes the clash of cultures between old and new world, and the naivete of Americans first hitting Europe.

I do have one complaint, and it's something that I've felt in other of his books, including Portrait. (possible spoiler follows).

Grig O'
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
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
Kathy Kattenburg
Henry James did not know how to write a happy ending, and that makes his books sometimes hard to read. But if he had known how to do this, he would not have been Henry James. The man was a deeply sad and lonely person. He struggled all of his adult life to find the identity that was authentically his -- as an American writer who could not feel at home in his own country but always fell short (in his own estimation) of creating truly American novels; and also as an unacknowledged (to himself) hom ...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
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.

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
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.
Z Coonen
Initially, I was confused about which characters were the focus of the novel. At times, James would come back to a side story after what seemed like a long time but had apparently not been so long as it seemed. Perhaps because I listened to the audiobook some of the angst and pondering made it seem like more time had passed.

I won't spoil the ending Instead, I will say that all along I as the reader am agonizing with Newman as he suffers patiently and waits for an intolerable family to support h
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
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
alessandra falca
Si dice che questo "The American" tra i romanzi di H. James sia un minore. Bene. Se tutti i minori sono così, ne voglio leggere ancora. A me pare di aver letto un bel romanzo. Un bel romanzo di stampo "psicologico" come si usa dire. Allo stesso livello di "Ritratto di Signora" per capirci. Ora mi mancano i suoi libri della maturità. Ma sono difficili da trovare. E per tornare a questo: come? ancora non ne è stato fatto un film? Newman, l'americano protagonista del libro, è da Oscar.
Non me ne ca
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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
“He was "distinguished" to the tips of his polished nails, and there was not a movement of his fine perpendicular person that was not noble and majestic. Newman had never yet been confronted with such an incarnation of the art of taking oneself seriously; he felt a sort of impulse to step backward, as you do to get a view of a great facade.” 2 likes
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