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The Golden Bowl

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  6,866 ratings  ·  225 reviews
'This story of the alliance between Italian aristocracy and American millionaires is "a work unique among all [James'] novels: it is [his] only novel in which things come out right for his characters ...he had finally resolved the questions, curious and passionate, that had kept him at his desk on his inquiries into the process of living. He could now make his peace with A ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 591 pages
Published May 7th 1985 by Penguin Books (first published November 10th 1904)
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Community Reviews

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Good Lord, do I hate this book.

This is very, very late Henry James, when he was hopped up on painkillers and "writing" his novels via dictaphone. Consequently, the entire book reads like a very, very long, barely edited transcript of a dying Victorian intellectual rambling incoherently for hours in turn of the century English, because that's exactly what it is. The narrative is simplistic, is buried underneath clouds of irrelevant and soporific detail, and frankly isn't very interesting to begi
Am still seeking words for the experience of reading The Golden Bowl. Less "fun" than Wings of the Dove, more serious in manner. Chilling. Yet, oddly, the one James novel that could be counted as having a "happy" ending. As often with James, there is the fascination of watching the movements of a complicated machine or curious contraption and feeling a sort of wonder as you follow, or try to, how the dang thing works. Also, as with Wings, I found the book an astounding psychological investigatio ...more
Christopher H.
For a man who was never married nor, to the best of my knowledge, was ever in a long-term relationship with a woman, Henry James has written a novel that drills down deep into the heart of the dynamics of marriage and relationships between the sexes. While a stoutly thick novel, it largely swings back and forth between the relationships of three married couples--just six people; and like most of James's fiction, The Golden Bowl is a psychological tour-de-force. This is a tale that allows the rea ...more
Although The Portrait of a Lady will no doubt always be Henry James' most read and most loved novel, I think The Golden Bowl is his masterpiece. Published in 1904, The Golden Bowl, along with The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, constitutes James' final, and most complex, phase as a novelist.

The Golden Bowl, set in England and in Italy during 1903 to 1906, is the story of four people, two men and two women, and two marriages. Two marriages whose core holds the same secret, the same unackno
I am re-reading the mature James right now and have found The Golden Bowl an ethereal experience. James' use of words as well as his deliberate failure to say things and still communicate epiphany after epiphany is staggering. The sentences fall into one's mind like honey and their sense is as gall. All within the formal right-acting of the drawing rooms of the very well to-do. I feel, reading these books as if I am under a spell. It hurts me that there is only one more of this period of his wri ...more
Carrie M.
Everytime one thinks of domestic tragedy, psychological studies and familiy issues, there are three authors I beleive must be paid attention to: Liev Tolstoi, Thomas Hardy and Henry James.

If you're looking for a wholesome study concerning the historic context of the plot, go for Tolstoi. In case you have a strong stomach to physical pain and human misery, Hardy is your pick. However, whenever you're searching for a detailed examination of the myriad of human feelings and behaviour, James is defi
Jan 30, 2011 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Rod Stewart is a Golden God
Recommended to Mariel by: the Rutles wouldn't have a hit record for another eight years
I didn't nod off into my bowl of Golden Crisp cereal even once. Honest Abe and Trustworthy Carl from down the street will vouch for me. (Those are not sarcastic nicknames.)
Anytime I`ve come across the name of Henry James, despite having not previously read any of his works, by the very intonation of his name it was conferred upon me a sense of a writer of english extraction, highly refined, a tad ponderous and droll.

I read turn of the screw.

I next came upon golden bowl. Or as I affectionately like to call it, 'the bowl' (toilet or otherwise; a point on which I willfully remain obscure).

What a revelation!!!

Stuffy nerdy english major material? I think not!

This is
Josh B.
This is possibly one of the most tedious, overwrought books I have ever read. On that negative note, I have enjoyed other books by Henry James, mainly The Portrait of a Lady, which was actually quite good. It appears that his late works, The Golden Bowl, Wings of the Dove etc, are in his most annoying, self-indulgent style, and most of them are practically unreadable.
And this book is indeed unreadable. Henry James style is overly wordy and verbose, his sentences go on for paragraphs. I found mys
Henry James - you are awful. I will spend no more of my life reading you. What is the point?
Jan 31, 2011 Veronica rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
The good news; this was the best James I’ve read thus far. The bad news; I cannot say that I enjoyed The Golden Bowl.

Obviously, I am no fan of Henry James, but I do believe I enter into each novel with hope and an open mind. This being the third James on the Modern Library list, I hoped for the best and while it was a tad easier to read than The Wings of the Dove and The Ambassadors, it was not much so.

What worked were the personal tidbits James feeds the reader allowing for a very intimate unde
The Golden Bowl was a fascinating book. The emphasis on subtle and indirect communication, family dynamics, sacrifice, judgement of character, and even the complexity of the main character's eventual solution impressed me once again with James' care for detail, and especially for his deep understanding of the intricacy of human relationships and interactions. Compared to his other novels, The Golden Bowl is direct in format and is thus easier to follow, as it is focused directly and indirectly o ...more
In this, the last of his final three major novels, James employs his characteristic inimitable and elliptical style, using long and complex syntax combined with nuanced half-thoughts and utterances that suggest rather than state, that allude to rather than demonstrate, that imply rather than assert, such that his characters and situations are built up gradually by the reader’s catching hints and making inferences, just as occurs in “real life” outside the pages of fiction. To follow the narrativ ...more
Much as Henry James was incapable of getting his point across in anything but extremes - extreme extended metaphor and simile, absolutes, and exaggerations, without ever actually COMING to the point, it is impossible to place the Golden Bowl in the center of the scale, and give it anything but a complete condemnation or total absolution.

I, for one, am incapable of redeeming this novel. There is a part of me that wants to believe that this book, for the extreme effort that obviously went into cre
What a tour-de-force this book is! In this, even more than in any of the other James' novels I read, there is the story on the surface and the story underneath -- or maybe even stories. Near the end I found the story underneath very chilling, though very subtle. The power of this one scene could change your thought process about what you thought was going on previously. How James gets into the heads of these individuals is amazing -- or should I say masterful, as he is in complete control, and a ...more
Periphrasis. Henry P. James. "P" is for periphrasis. Two roads diverged in a word wood. Henry P. took the road with a ridiculous amount of words to describe something that isn't important other than the amount of words HPJ has attached to it. What are you trying to represent with all your infernal run-ons? I spit in your golden bowl and I will recommend Edith Wharton to all my friends.
Will Miller
Obsessively self-analytic characters, half-innocent social gestures supersaturated with significance, self-mocking-yet-serious flashes of grotesque melodrama, architecturally ornate similes of the inner-life, and delphically weird, beautiful sentences -- who can say no?
Aug 03, 2012 Mary marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Henry James has bested me and I can't go on. I can't penetrate his long sentences -- none of them are straight lines. They all have a handful of little branches that confuse meaning rather than clarify. I gave it my level best and now I don't care.
this is the single most painful book i have ever encountered.
Jul 19, 2013 Martin added it
Shelves: literature
F**k Henry James. Never again.
Dec 13, 2014 Barbara marked it as to-read
Shelves: novels, classics, fiction
This is not a review, because I haven't finished the book yet. In fact, I haven't even been able to get past page 30 yet!! Yes, I'm a slow reader, and I really haven't had much time lately to read. BUT, I recently finished Washington Square, also by Henry James, and I absolutely loved it, which is the reason I downloaded four or five free samples (to my Nook) of other novels by James.

The description of the subject matter of The Golden Bowl seems fascinating, so why am I having such a difficult
Aug 18, 2008 Kathi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sandra Ottinger
Recommended to Kathi by: Bill Ottinger
This is a remarkable story written by Henry James. It is one of the most difficult reads I have ever finished, but well worth it. James' story revolves around a wealthy father, his daughter, her husband (an Italian prince from a former royal time in Italian history) and an old friend of the daughter's. The relationships that exist & new ones that develop are deep and throughout the novel are problematic. The father & his daughter are extremely close and spend most of their time together ...more
I'm pretty sure that Henry James does not like me. I'm pretty sure I do not like him, and the proof is in The Golden Bowl . There is a remarkably high verbiage-to-lucidity ratio in this novel, probably because James never read Elements of Style or followed its dictum to avoid unnecessary words. Of course, he died before that guide came out, and so it's hard - but not impossible - to blame him. As you trudge through the the desert of words in this novel and try to decipher who "she" or "he" refer ...more
Jee Koh
Heady Draught

In The Golden Bowl, James finds the perfect metaphor for his material and his method. The comforts of life, enjoyed by rich Americans Adam Verver and his daughter Maggie, are rounded and finished off by their collection of art. To this connoisseurship of life and art, they add the Italian Prince, immensely cultured, immensely poor, whose marriage to Maggie initiates the plot. The marriage also initiates a crack in the blessed cup since the Prince was intimately involved with Maggie'
Someone once said that reading Henry James is like watching a hippopotamous trying to pick up a pea. However, the overall effect is os beautiful. I am not surprised that the Rabelais Club wouldn't admit him because there wasn't enough sex in his novels. I suspect that this book was dripping with it but you'd never know. Happy to have read it. He is the soul of repression.
Joseph Nicolello
Apr 13, 2014 Joseph Nicolello marked it as to-read
This is the second time I've picked this one up, a great vintage Evergreen paperback, and cannot move past a page or two. Perhaps at some point I'll revisit a ton of early James, some letters and short fiction, and give this and Wings of the Dove another chance.
Cassandra Kay Silva
I know that this is a classic of literature. In general I place a huge emphasis on the ability to get into the mind of the characters. There is no doubt in my mind that James has done this, and done it well. Unfortunately for me I found the minds within these characters boring. Though the relationships between them were not, I found the narrative flitting and vastly irritating. Something really bothered me about the novel. I liked the subtleties of it all. I can appreciate the subtleties of lang ...more
Sep 09, 2008 Anastasia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Henry James and classic lit fans
Recommended to Anastasia by: Mairin
VERY interesting. It took me a little while to complete this book, it is like interval training, but with reading. There are pages of fascinating dialog, the subtleties of which require such focus and attention to appreciate, interspersed with reams of narrative description which require much focus and patience to disseminate. But I found the story fascinating. I made the fortuitous mistake of reading bits of the introduction first, which gave away the dénouement, but kept me glued to my seat un ...more
Laurel Hicks
Superb! At last I like Henry James.
Dec 07, 2011 Pperkins rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: avid readers
I read and enjoyed this a few years ago, and recently got it as an audiobook through Libravox. It was lovely to listen to it again, the reader was very good. The slow careful exploration of the evolving emotional drama is exquisite. Its James at his most wordy, the sentences can be torturous, but I find reading him delectable, like fine wine and rich gourmet food.
Listening to it was a different experience from reading of course, and at times I had to refer to the printed book just to refresh my
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All About Books: Week 36 - The Golden Bowl by Henry James 16 23 May 31, 2014 12:53PM  
What do you think? 7 37 May 09, 2014 10:17AM  
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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
More about Henry James...
The Portrait of a Lady The Turn of the Screw Daisy Miller The Wings of the Dove Washington Square

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