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The American

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,397 Ratings  ·  253 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.
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 4th 2005 by Signet (first published 1877)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Henry Avila
Dec 30, 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
Jan 23, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
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
May 25, 2012 Werner rated it really liked it
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 it was amazing
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
Mar 14, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Doreen Petersen
Apr 12, 2016 Doreen Petersen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
To be honest this is the first Henry James book I have ever liked. To me most of his books fall kind of flat and dry. This one was different. I found myself getting into the story and was really surprised at the ending. This one I would recommend.
William Leight
Feb 02, 2014 William Leight rated it liked it
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
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
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
the gift
i decided to read henry james one summer a few years ago and decided to approach him with one book from each ‘era’: early, middle, and late. this was the early. 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 various layers of corruption of the old world, of europe. some readers really like this motor for the plot and find james as an engaging storyteller, for ...more
Paula Gonzalez
May 11, 2016 Paula Gonzalez rated it it was amazing
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
Robin Friedman
Apr 08, 2015 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
Sep 19, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
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
Jun 06, 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.
Zöe Yu
Aug 13, 2012 Zöe Yu rated it liked it
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 21, 2014 Cathy rated it liked it
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
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
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
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
1877, one of his early novels, written in 1876 when he was living in Paris.

Not long ago I read Colm Toibin's fictional reconstruction of Henry James's life [The Master] so this gave me something to go on in reading The American. I liked the book more than I expected to and found the language more accessible that I had expected. It seems that his sentences got more and more complicated in his later years.

This book is a lovely description of the life of idle, well-to-do Americans living in Paris,
Jo-Lynne Lockley
Feb 20, 2015 Jo-Lynne Lockley rated it liked it
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
Jan 19, 2015 Lew Fulton rated it really liked it
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).

Christopher Sutch
Mar 31, 2014 Christopher Sutch rated it liked it
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
Jul 30, 2016 Joanna rated it liked it
Diverting to read but with an unsatisfying ending.
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
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2016 Reading Chal...: 1877 / 1879 1 14 Apr 16, 2015 09:18AM  
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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.” 3 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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