The Awkward Age
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The Awkward Age

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  421 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Nanda Brookenham is 'coming out' in London society. Thrust suddenly into the vicious, immoral circle that has gathered round her mother, she even finds herself in competition with Mrs Brookenham for the affection of the man she admires. Light and ironic in its touch, The Awkward Age nevertheless analyzes the English character with great subtlety. The Awkward Age, which has...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 6th 1987 by Penguin Classics (first published 1892)
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Jeffrey Keeten
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
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' -...more
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
Christopher H.
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...more
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
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
Michael Piccoli
Sep 30, 2011 Michael Piccoli rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Nick Jones
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
I read this in a cheap paperback edition purcchased at Meijer for $1.99. Best two bucks I ever spent.
Lauren Albert
Definitely not my favorite James novel. A group of decadents busy arranging their own and others' marriages.
Lisa Alexa
Oct 21, 2013 Lisa Alexa marked it as to-read
Love Henry James' work! Modernist before his times.
I love my Henry James but this one's a stinker. P.U.
As good as the novel gets.
great read
Alexandra marked it as to-read
Jul 31, 2014
Marie marked it as to-read
Jul 31, 2014
Latoya marked it as to-read
Jul 30, 2014
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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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