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The Awkward Age

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  629 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
The story of young Nanda Brookenham's struggle to preserve her honesty in the brilliant but corrupt world of her parents is a drama of innocence betrayed yet preserved. Written when James was recovering from the shock od failure as a playwright, THE AWKWARD AGE is one of his greatest masterpieces. Conceived like a play terms of scenes and conducted largely through witty di ...more
Published May 20th 1993 by Everyman (first published 1892)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 28, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She remained alone for ten minutes, at the end of which her reflections – they would have been seen to be deep – were interrupted by the entrance of her husband. The interruption was indeed not so great as if the couple had not met, as they almost invariably met, in silence: she took, at all events to begin with, no more account of his presence than to hand him a cup of tea accompanied with nothing but cream and sugar. Her having no word for him, however, committed her no more to implying that h ...more
May 11, 2013 Sketchbook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry James loosens the corset of convention in a comedy
of ambiguous desires and ambitions. Plenty of matrimonial
talk goes round in discreet, repetitive cicles; the tenor is
always tender. A vivid worldling of 'a certain age' ponders her daughter's future while manipulating a boring husby, protecting
her rotter of a son and managing a beau that the heroine-daughter fancies. Salonistas insist on keeping up appearances. Emotional resolution is offered by a passionate friend, known as 'the old man' -
Jan 28, 2013 NancyKay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago, but rereading it now, I see that I made nothing of it at the time. THIS time, going very carefully, making sure not to get lost in the intricate layers of the dialogue, I found an extraordinary, extraordinarily sad story, whose young heroine's coming of age consists not in moving into adulthood but in assuming moral and emotional responsibility for her own parents -- who never parented her and whose parent she herself becomes -- and the man she continues to love even when ...more
Nov 30, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aborted-efforts
Just kidding.
Sep 30, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Leon Chai
The Awkward Age is a truly interesting work of James', from a time when he was very involved with plays. It is a work of prose carefully crafted to read much like a play-script; it has very little narratorial voice and concerns itself mostly with dialogue. This was fascinating for me because, with nearly no narration, reading the novel was like being in the same room with these people, hearing what they say and seeing what they do, but nothing else. Thus, one must draw upon his own experiences i ...more
Camilla Tilly
Jan 22, 2016 Camilla Tilly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Donna Leon has "Commissario Brunetti's" wife "Paola" worship Henry James. So it was with great disappointment that I gave up on this book after 80 pages! My self confidence is completely shattered since I have started doubting my command of the English language!!! It feels like the characters are talking in a code that I am not privy to. The plot line no doubt wants to expose the double moral code of Victorian and Edwardian society, but does it in such a slow and boring way that at least I could ...more
Mark Stephenson
Jan 11, 2015 Mark Stephenson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps a clue to what perplexes some readers of The Awkward Age may be found in James' short story John Delavoy. This is a story about censorship in which James makes a case in FAVOR of censorship on the part of periodical editors who are acqainted with their readership. The Awkward Age first appeared in 1898 as a serialization in the prominent periodical Harper's Weekly. Two young English women, Aggie and Nanda, are portrayed as representatives of two opposed philosophies of preparing a girl f ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
I think Henry James must have had some issues with parents as he was growing up. Now I'm not saying that his parents were bad parents or bad people, but he sure has created some truly monstrous parental units in a good bit of his fiction, and the parents and adult guardians in The Awkward Age are certainly no exception and are right up there with 'Dr, Sloper' ("Washington Square"), 'Gilbert Osmond' ("The Portrait of a Lady"), or little Maisie's parents ("What Maisie Knew").

This is a novel that r
This is an extremely difficult and slow moving novel. It is a novel of transition, transition in several respects too, from the conventional novel to a novel of consciousness of the kind to be expected from say Virginia Wolf. It tells a story but one has the feeling that the stors is often the pretext, the line, on which to hang out the linen, some of it less than wholly clean of personal motivation and drive. Apparently it was written in reaction by the writer to his rebuff when his first play ...more
Jun 30, 2012 jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Damn you, Henry James. I remain a faithful apologist but your social nuance has stopped aging well. The wine's turning to vinegar or something. To be fair, it seems this one's just for the hardest of the hardcore, which makes sense because I didn't understand half of the subtle intrigue going on, or when people in conversations were being wildly controversial or spoiling secrets or just speaking off the cuff. In true Jamesian fashion, the heroine is neither beautiful nor plain but aesthetically ...more
Christopher Sutch
This novel marks yet one more qualitative shift upward in James's art. There is so much going on in this novel that it is really impossible to usefully describe in a review format like this (and ironically this novel began as an idea for a short story!). Suffice it to say, this is a deceptively difficult novel to fully comprehend. The prose is almost entirely a series of dialogues between the characters, and the lure for the reader of today is to allow yourself to be drawn into the interchange o ...more
Nick Jones
Feb 28, 2014 Nick Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was just finishing a book and was about to go to Paris for a few days so I wondered what to read when away. Henry James was the obvious answer...late Henry I took The Awkward Age off the bookshelf. Henry James is ideal to read in a Parisian cafe: you can slowly read a paragraph and then look out the window at the world passing in the street while slowly digesting what you have read, then turn back to the book...and if, after a couple of minutes, you realize you are re-reading the sa ...more
William Leight
Oct 08, 2014 William Leight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thing you notice about "The Awkward Age" is that it's basically all dialogue. My personal theory, backed up by exactly zero evidence, is that this is a manifestation of James' desire to be a successful playwright: some of the early chapters, in particular, consist largely of exchanges of witty badinage in drawing rooms in a very Oscar-Wilde-esque fashion. ("The Importance of Being Earnest" appeared three years before "The Awkward Age" began serialization.) The novel's structure is also ...more
Tony Mavilia
Feb 04, 2015 Tony Mavilia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Awkward Age James sets out to study the relations between men and women in a society that is in moral flux. A hard and glittering “modern” social set provides the cast and material which he forms into a sort of complex polyhedron or rose cut diamond. The principle facet is, of course, Nanda. Around this plane is arranged her mother Mrs. “Brook”, Mr. Vanderbank, Mr. Longdon, Mr. Mitchy and the Duchess. Distinctly subordinate facets in this sharp and opinioned set are the other members of N ...more
Jun 02, 2012 Melodee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
Ordinarily, I enjoy a good Henry James book. But this book left me so cold. Ostensibly, it is about a coming-of-age girl and the immoral influences she is surrounded by. The characters are a bit flat, but what irritated me most about the book was certain little catch-phrases the author used to death. Instead of saying, "he said," when a character expressed himself warmly, he always says "he ejaculated." After the third time on one page, it got very annoying. Another term he used, to describe th ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Lucy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Let's just say I'm extremely glad I didn't pay for this. I'd have wanted my money back. I've now read all but two of James's novels, and most of them I have awarded top marks - but this was just tosh. Absolute tosh. How the man who wrote 'Princess Casamassima' and 'Portrait of a Lady' could come up with this is beyond me. Did the man not have an editor?
Jul 04, 2015 Suzanne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to give up about page 90 - I could not figure out what was going on ..... Maybe I was trying to read it too late at night when I was tired. I might try it again in a few years - but for now I am done.
Apr 05, 2010 Eva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Using intricate London societal conversation, we understand the effects of the modernization of women in society a century ago. It's tragic in ways but liberating in others. His contrast of the two young ladies from different educations provides the sharp contrast in outcomes. What I love best about James' approach to his novels is that he allows the audience to discover with the protagonist, instead of warning the audience in advance of future consequences or actions by the protagonist.
Sep 05, 2010 Alissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very "talky" Henry James - almost exclusively drawing room conversation. The voice of the narrator rarely appears, and there is very little plot. Difficult to read (long, complex sentences - many, many, many dependent clauses!)but, like all of Henry James, enjoyable for it's style and use of language, as well as the issues it raises about class and marriage.
Jan 26, 2009 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So...this is not my favorite Henry James book, and I generally love Henry James.

It's not awful, but it's particularly difficult to follow (even for James, who is famously esoteric with his character's thoughts) and just...not terribly interesting.
Paul Jellinek
Nov 14, 2009 Paul Jellinek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James's first book following his disasterous experience with the theater. Written almost like a play with a lot of dense dialogue, the repartee can be a challenge at times, but like all late James, the book is ultimately well worth the effort.
Jan 14, 2016 kerrycat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The focus of my essay, "The Awkward Academic: Why Judith Reads James," published in Bearing Witness: Joyce Carol Oates Studies, in December 2015:

Nanda on Twitter: @missbrookenham
Jul 25, 2013 Kimi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i found this one hard to follow, as the 'action' is given completely through dialogue that the characters have. it was hard to feel like you were moving forward in the story. still, james is always lovely to read (of course).
I didn't enjoy this and I'm not sure what actually happened in this book. Too much dialogue. Perhaps it was my state of mind reading it, but I don't think I'll try and go back. I'm just glad to have finished it.
Mar 18, 2011 Megan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this one as a kindle book because it was inexpensive or free. so far I like hearing how the characters talk but I know very little about it and didn't think to look at how long it is until well into it. :)
Jenn McCollum
Oct 30, 2011 Jenn McCollum rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am a James fan. This book seemed like a study in dialogue -- and not always the interesting kind. Maybe I didn't read far enough, stopping around page 75. I couldn't go on.
A story that is predominantly discourse it leaves much to the imagination and leaves you with that wonderful Jamesian sense of tension and unsettlement.
Apr 07, 2009 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this in a cheap paperback edition purcchased at Meijer for $1.99. Best two bucks I ever spent.
Lauren Albert
Oct 12, 2009 Lauren Albert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Definitely not my favorite James novel. A group of decadents busy arranging their own and others' marriages.
Jul 27, 2009 Tom rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I love my Henry James but this one's a stinker. P.U.
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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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