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The Spoils of Poynton

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  888 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Preparing to marry, Owen Gereth asks his widowed mother to move out of the family manse, leaving its glorious objects to him and his bride. Mrs Gereth disapproves of her would-be daughter-in-law and enlists a young friend named Fleda Vetch to save the collectibles and her son.
Paperback, 252 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Wildside Press (first published 1896)
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Paul Bryant
Apr 11, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Virginia Woolf in a letter to Violet Dickinson, 25 August 1907 :

"Well then, we went and had tea with Henry James today…and Henry James fixed me with his staring blank eye — it is like a childs marble — and said ‘My dear Virginia, they tell me — they tell me — they tell me — that you — as indeed being your fathers daughter - nay your grandfather's grandchild — the descendant I may say of a century — of a century — of quill pens and ink — ink — ink pots, yes, yes, yes, they tell me — ahm - mm — th
Feb 07, 2014 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Leon Edel sees in The Spoils of Poynton "James's first attempt to use his scenic method and his playwriting techniques." Unluckily for us James was an indifferent playwright and such techniques--along with a laughably puritanical conception of character--are responsible for this suffocatingly miniature novel.

There are no vistas beyond Poynton, the dowager cottage, and a few undifferentiated London streets and furnished rooms. The action, such as it is, takes place on the tensed communicatory wir
Duffy Pratt
Mar 16, 2012 Duffy Pratt rated it liked it
Shelves: classic
This book probably represents James at his most annoying. Looking at it generously, there are 5 characters (though I think one of them does not actually make an appearance). Their world is cramped and claustrophobic. Their concerns, for the most part, seem to be petty. This is debatable, because everything with James at this point in his writing, seems to be pointing elsewhere - to something ineffable. The only problem is that things wouldn't seem so profound, mysterious, and ineffable, if only ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Sketchbook rated it did not like it
Shelves: currently
Last night I dreamt I went to Poynton...50 years earlier it was Thornfield Hall and 40 years later it was Manderley. Those stately homes of England -- up in flames.

In this fatiguing short novel (1897), the compulsive and highly neurotic protagonist by name of Fleda Vetch (James in a campy mood ?) navigates between a mother who wants to preserve her "spoils" or treasures, collected over the years, for herself and a son who wants them for his soon-to-be-bride. In fact, his fiancée says the assorte
Oct 11, 2007 Jeff rated it it was ok
Even though the story isn't all that great, James uses lots of words in ways that make the book difficult to read. I'm not exaggerating. I've seem concrete examples that show how his revisions of sentences deliberately push the verb farther back and add pronouns that don't have an immediately identifiable object. If you can get beyond that, or enjoy it as some people seem to, maybe perversely, there's a finely knitted yarn in there. Widowed Mrs. Gareth must vacate her home, Poynton, filled with ...more
Dec 26, 2013 Dirk rated it liked it
There are no spoilers for The Spoils of Poynton in these comments, but there are spoilers for The Ambassadors and The Portrait of A Lady.

I have great respect and admiration for Henry James, but this is not one of his best efforts. A pretty good novel, but not one of his best efforts.

The plot is set in motion by the following events: a mother and father have spent their lives collecting beautiful objects, which are housed in their dwelling at Poynton. They have a son who is a kind of jolly, well
Robert Beveridge
Jan 24, 2008 Robert Beveridge rated it did not like it
Henry James, The Spoils of Poynton (Dell, 1897)

The Spoils of Ponyton is the first novel James wrote in his "later style," in other words, drawing-room satire that isn't really about much of anything at all. For some odd reason, later-era James is what's universally praised in lit classes around the globe, while the early stuff, which is actually worth reading, is largely ignored.

To be fair, James did get better at satire as time went on, but The Spoils of Ponyton has all the hallmarks of being a
Mar 14, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of bitchy aristocrats
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'm working on a theory that Fleda resists marriage to Owen because she doesn't want to end up another item in Mrs. Gereth's collection. Despite the fact that Fleda always comes when called, she certainly values her independence enough to make this plausible.

I don't know. I have trouble with Henry James. I'm going to start reading one of his novels a year just to prove he's not the boss of me.
Nicole Schrag
May 09, 2016 Nicole Schrag rated it really liked it
Shelves: london, field-exam
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 10, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: British Lit fans, Henry James fans
Shelves: classics
Successfully captures the painful contrast of appearing socially approporiate on the outside, and in painful anguish internally. Never before have I read a novel capturing a woman's torment as to whether or not to follow her heart, or what society deems necessary for her.

Mrs. Gereth is one of the frosiest villains I've come across in awhile. The bulk of the novel centers on the narrator providing readers with the internal thoughts of Fleda Vetch, in sharp contrast with how she reacts externally
Aug 03, 2007 Frederick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who enjoy clear delineation.
Shelves: fiction, james
This is, perhaps, the single most focused book I've ever read. Henry James can get very involved. (THE TURN OF THE SCREW is an example of that.) He can be obtuse ("The Great, Good Place," anyone? By the way, that story is beautiful. But what was he trying to convey?) He can be arch. (THE BOSTONIANS.)
But he understood the characters in THE SPOILS OF POYNTON. There is no murder, no adultery and no planning for either, but this is a deadly story anyway, depicting the warfare between a widow, her so
Lev Raphael
Aug 06, 2010 Lev Raphael rated it it was amazing
The world of art may seem above ordinary passions but they actually live there in not-so-rarified form. This brilliant short novel of James's is a study in obsession, and in fear to be oneself, contrasting several different women who stake out very different places in the world.

Here's my review on, a magazine every book lover should have an RSS feed to. :-)
Aug 26, 2012 Corinna rated it it was ok

I need to stop trying to read James' later works with the hope of enjoying them.
Despite my considerable reading experience, this was my first attempt at tackling the American icon Henry James. Woe is me! Can I compare this novel to a game of Scrabble with liberated rules which allow back-to-front and down-up spellings? One continuously ponders the possibilities of untangling his prose to make the words fit sensibly in the labyrinthine maze of ponderous pronouncements. There are phrases and references whose meanings are lost in the quaintness of colloquially loquacious warps ...more
Etienne Mahieux
Sep 26, 2015 Etienne Mahieux rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mrs. Gereth, une quinquagénaire fort aisée, a consacré sa vie à donner à sa seigneuriale demeure de Poynton le lustre du goût le plus parfait. Veuve, elle voit son fils unique se rapprocher de Mona Brigstock, une jeune femme issue d'une famille où l'on confond beauté et surcharge de bibelots. À la pensée que celle-ci pourrait devenir la maîtresse de Poynton, le sang de Mrs. Gereth ne fait qu'un tour et elle décide de trouver une autre femme à son fils.
"Les Dépouilles de Poynton" est un roman de
Jun 29, 2007 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No, Henry James isn't exactly light summer reading. But after a dismal encounter with The Bostonians twenty years ago, I decided to give the Master another go (part of my mid-life project to read the classics I've missed to date). Good news: James has been much more rewarding this time around. Last summer, commuting on the Long Island Rail Road four hours a day, I ploughed through The Portrait of a Lady, which I utterly adored.

Now comes The Spoils of Poynton from 1897. I've been curious about i
Christopher Sutch
Oct 31, 2015 Christopher Sutch rated it liked it
This minor novel by James about a battle over a country house and the objets d'art it contains does have some interesting moments for someone interested in how James changed and evolved as a writer through the 1890s. While he had been playing with the idea of how some people mediate relationships between others for some time, this novel makes those musings explicit and gave James the space to work through some issues of psychology and narrative creation that would become increasingly important ...more
Anthea Ilpide
Feb 03, 2013 Anthea Ilpide rated it liked it
Not the best by James, but still worth reading, if only for the famous, unique Jamesian style. The main problem with this book is the main character whom I frankly could not stand. Fleda Vetch is supposed to represent this sort of pure morality and innate goodness, but throughout the entire book, she came across to me as self-righteous and downright selfish. The contrast between the way James wished us to perceive the protagonist and how she appears to me has been commented upon at length by ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Lynne rated it it was ok
I like Henry James, but this novella marks the beginning of his late period, when the prose grows more turgid. I remember absolutely LOVING this on Masterpiece Theater about 40 years ago, and it is a great story. It's just that he takes so long to get it out. This is not to deny that some scenes and expressions are wonderful. I loved the constant references to Fleda's father's "smutty maid." And I laughed out loud at the scene where Owen's fiancee's mother showed up (shown in by the smutty maid) ...more
Главной героине повезло, наследником имущества стал её родной сын, а не многоюродный племянник, коего Джеймс мог ввести в сюжет, подобно Джейн Остен. Проблема усугубилась пассией сына, ещё не женой, но ставящей ребром одно единственное условие — всё должно достаться её будущему мужу, иначе она найдёт себе другого ухажёра. Влияние подобных женщин на мужчин часто застилает глаза сильному полу, вынужденному искать золотую середину между свекровью и невесткой. И ладно бы дело касалось контроля над ...more
Mar 27, 2014 Myles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(2.7/5.0) "The great embarrassment was still immutably there, the odiousness of sacrificing the exquisite things one wouldn't take to the exquisite things one would. This immediately made the things one wouldn't take the very things one ought to, and, as Mrs. Gereth said, condemned one, in the whole business, to an eternal vicious circle."

Brought back some delightful memories of having to coax my senile grandmother from her home of sixty years: "I won't have it! Don't touch a thing! Not the lamp
Dec 16, 2009 Frederick rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who can pay attention to the printed word.
Shelves: novels, james
This is, perhaps, the single most focused book I've ever read. Henry James can get very involved. (THE TURN OF THE SCREW is an example of that.) He can be obtuse ("The Great, Good Place," anyone? By the way, that story is beautiful. But what was he trying to convey?) He can be arch. (THE BOSTONIANS.)
But he understood the characters in THE SPOILS OF POYNTON. There is no murder, no adultery and no planning for either, but this is a deadly story anyway, depicting the warfare between a widow, her so
Jul 09, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, audible
This was actually a re-read; I'd listened to it years ago, recalling only that I'd liked the narration. Maureen O'Brien does a great job in bringing the self-pitying Mrs Gareth to life, as well as handling the cameo appearances of dippy Owen and arrogant Mona. Fleda, however, is the Achilles' Heel of the story ... she's just so ... weak - even Mrs Gareth admits she underestimated how much so. I didn't dislike the book, as I did The Golden Bowl, but it was a slog to get all the way to the ending; ...more
Jul 28, 2009 Katherine rated it really liked it
"Knowing the church to be near she prepared in her room for the little rural walk, and on her way down again, passing through corridors and observing imbecilities of decoration, the aesthetic misery of the big commodious house, she felt a return of the tide of last night's irritation, a renewal of everything she could secretly suffer from ugliness and stupidity."

Learned great new (to me) French word:
"She would rather have perished than have looked endimanchée."
The word makes sense once you take
Jan 11, 2015 David rated it really liked it
Despite the commented upon turgid style, this did grow on me. The fluid nature of Fleda's character, one-minute obstinately principled, the next responding to the beck and call of each of the dysfunctional relatives is fascinating. You never know if you are dealing with the rocks or the tides. I came across this because I'd been researching another lady who is supposed to be a possible source for Mrs Gereth, which makes a lot of sense. Henry James seems to have had many minor society connections ...more
Sep 12, 2007 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, him
I actually read the New Classics edition with the beautiful Alvin Lustig cover and that's the one I would recommend. All of the Penguin James-es look alike and Poynton really ought to stand out. This is the darkest, most violent and relentless James I have read. I'm also pretty sure that this is the novel(la) that introduced sex into James work (The Turn of the Screw followed in a year or two and, of course, My Sexual Problem shortly thereafter).
Nigel Massey
Jan 12, 2015 Nigel Massey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Far from being 'a novel about furniture' as Ezra Pound claimed, I thought this was a great portrayal of two figures in particular: Mona "The massive maiden of Waterbath" and Fleda the fast-moving, romantically inclined and insightful rival for Owen's attentions. Mrs Gereth's discovery of the 'lively scene' in which a biscuit has fallen to the floor in a lover's altercation over afternoon tea is Henry James at his reserved best.
Susan Zinner
Mar 05, 2015 Susan Zinner rated it really liked it
How can a novel (ostensibly) about furniture be interesting? B/c it's about much more than that--it's about the people who own and want the furniture and the house where it belongs; this will require manipulation to see which woman will marry Owen. I found Fleda to be a bit too pure-minded, which forced her to choose an unhappy outcome (kind of like Catherine in Washington Square), the fate of many a Henry James female character. 'Glad I read this, but not one of my faves.
Jen Crichton
Feb 07, 2014 Jen Crichton rated it liked it
Started so beautifully, about a collector's obsessive love for her things. But rather than drill deep into the heart of that love and the objects of her love, the novel shifts over to a more mundane love story, albeit one with the ambiguity and ambivalence one would expect from James. If only the book really had been about the spoils and not Fleda Vetch. Do you believe that name? No, I didn't either -- a schematized peculiar figure James shifts around on his chessboard of a short novel.
Feb 28, 2015 Z rated it really liked it
Captures so much about the struggles of interpersonal relationships while weaving an intriguing tale of characters. The two female leads are the only ones really developed; I would like to have had a better sense of Owen Gereth at least. From what I understand this was also written by James because of his interest in homes and decor. Knowing that, thinking about the two places where Mrs G lives as characters, the story just gets better.
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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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