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The Wings of the Dove

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  16,032 ratings  ·  605 reviews
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

Set amid the splendor of London drawing rooms and gilded Venetian palazzos, The Wings of the Dove is the story of Milly Theale, a naïve, doomed American heiress, and a pair of lovers, Kate Croy and Merton Densher, who conspire to obtain her fortune. In this witty tragedy of treachery, self-deception, a
Paperback, The Modern Library Classics , 741 pages
Published April 8th 2003 by The Modern Library/Random House, Inc. (first published 1902)
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Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


I have been a devotee of Henry James for a while now. But this novel has overflowed me. So far this is the most Jamesian writing I have read. May be The Ambassadors is of the same tone and texture, and I would like to immerse myself in it too.

Anyway, reading this was like listening to a lullaby that would drag you into a lethargic mood in the early hours of the afternoon. Not a sign of boredom, just a state of undefined bliss. Following James’ account one is pulled into
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Soooo you guys, I think missed that day in English Lit 101 when we talked about Henry James, because to me he’s always been one of those authors you merely know OF, and who is important in some vague way but you couldn’t possibly say how, who is not really relevant in our 3G world except for the fact that Merchant Ivory makes mad bank off of this lace-petticoat-and-social-graces kind of thing. But for serious you guys, why did no one never tell me that Henry James is a GENIUS?! I mean, why is th ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edwardian
”’The women one meets--what are they but books one has already read/ You’re a whole library of the unknown, the uncut.’ He almost moaned, he ached, from the depth of his content.

‘Upon my word I’ve a subscription.’”

 photo Wings of the Dove_zpswlczikax.jpg
There is a 1997 movie starring Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, and Alison Elliott.

Merton Densher is in love with Kate Croy. Their circumstances, though seemingly impossible, are not unusual in a class bound society like Edwardian England. Kate’s future is held hostage by her Aunt
Conversation continued from the updates…

Well hello again! So you work in reviews too?

Yes, sometimes I get assigned to reviews - but with 20000 characters to count down in the review boxes as opposed to 420 in the status update boxes, I avoid this posting whenever possible.

You'll not have much counting down to do today - I rarely use even half the characters available for reviews. I wish I could use the rest in the status updates though...

We've been through all that already. 420 characters is th
Steven Godin
My third Henry James, but only the second I managed to complete. He didn't set the world on fire for me with this either, more like a quivering flame. I was hoping for great things, somewhere along the lines of Edith Wharton's brilliant 'The Age of Innocence'. As classic fiction generally goes, it was written impeccably well, but my problems were with the characters, who seemed to drift in and out of my consciousness all too often. Well over one hundred pages in, wasn't doing anything for me. Sl ...more
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Well, I finished it and I didn't even skim one passage, though there were countless sentences that, no matter how many times I read them at whatever angle and no matter how sincere my desire to understand, had absolutely no meaning to them whatsoever. Often this was caused not by subtlety or for suspense, but but because of simple misuse of pronouns. (Who's thinking this of whom? Ah, never mind. I must have an inferior intellect to care for such details.)

Others are merely clotted arteries of met
Mar 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no-one
Nope, sorry.

I read a really enticing review of this, got all excited, drove across three suburbs and two villages to get to the library where it was mouldering on the shelf, got it home, opened the first page, and then I remembered.

Friends don't let friends read Henry James.

If you're thinking about reading this, then be warned. The sentences are constructed like algebraic equations, with nested parenthesis within nested parenthesis within nested parenthesis. It gets to the point you feel that,
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In Henry James, we rarely if ever have a villain - a real, horrible blackguard character for whom we feel morally adequate enough to pass severe judgment. There are characters with evil intentions, who do evil thing: who lie and undermine the hero or heroine, Mme. Merle and Gilbert Osmond, of The Portrait of a Lady, may be among the most "evil" duos in the James canon, if only for the tenderness we feel toward the passionate Isabel, who they snare. What is perplexing in James, which frustrates u ...more
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Henry James is infuriating. His evasiveness is infuriating. His endless digressions, clause upon clause, are infuriating. Deciphering the text requires so much concentration, you'll ultimately feel that, rather than experiencing the story, you're floating along above it. He reinforces that impression in often forsaking description for reflective analysis. In effect, even that which isn't "spoken" somehow feels spoken. -- But don't let any of that dissuade you.

This is a work of genius. Henry Jame
Katia N
Oh Henry James! It is the first book which i cannot possibly assign with any stars as it would not reflect my reading experience. It was probably the most hard book to read this year. And it took me ages. It was at the same time frustrating, but addictive experience. It was not the first Henry James I've read. In fact, I've started reading him this year and I loved my experience without reservation until this one. I think the master works for me better in a smaller doses. I absolutely loved his ...more
Henry James has beautiful people inside of his head, if only his verbal diarrhea didn't get in the way. Dear Jesus, I wish he knew how to write a short sentence. ...more
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extermely rewarding book, though James makes the reader work for it, to be sure. There is the general opacity of his writing (-- though never nearly so difficult as report tells of it --); the often maddening (but, no doubt, deliberate) ambiguity of his pronouns; the artificiality of much of the dialogue AND of the behavior and sentiments of the coddled rich -- especially the central plateau of the book, some 200+ pages in the center, where nothing seems to be happening -- the dead zo ...more
Dec 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People with a lot of time and a dictionary
I swear I will read Henry James before I die. It might take that long for me to finish this book, considering I have to read each sentence at least 3 times.

2/9/08 Just picked it back up from the library. Renewed twice and still only got to page 308.

2/10/08 Could he be any more verbose?

2/11/08 On page 375, and finally something is starting to happen. The man is a master of motive and character study, once you can figure out what he's actually saying.

2/18/08 I'm down with the system, and this bo
Roman Clodia
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

'How do you know,' she asked in reply to this, 'what I'm capable of?'

One of James' most notoriously 'difficult' novels, this is a tour de force of intrigue, deception, lies, conscience, love and money. In many ways, it's a return to the eroticised economic triangle of The Portrait of a Lady, but this time it's the European lovers with whom we're most aligned, complicating our responses to, and negotiation through, the book.

In lots of ways there's more 'action' than in many of James' no
Mary Anne
Oct 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Unknown page:
"Did she know?"
"I think you know what she knew."
"I knew something, but not what you knew of what she knew. I still don't know."
"I know."
"So she knew something."
"Yes. We all knew something."

OK. We’ve established that everyone knows. But what do they know? James uses a very oblique writing style. This style seems to say so much without saying anything at all. Very little is crystal clear in this book, to the extent that when Kate actually directs Densher in her plot, the directness of
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, audiobooks
I didn’t love this novel as I had hoped. So many others have praised Henry James that I expected to be overjoyed while reading “The Wings of the Dove,” but that didn’t happen.

I liked it enough, but I wasn’t blown away by the prose or breathlessly underlining quotes as I had anticipated. The story is one of greed, jealousy, heartbreak and grief. There is also love, but it is corrupted.

Maybe I didn’t like this novel much because the female protagonist, Kate Croy, is painted as cruel and calculat
Nov 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The Wings of the Dove Henry James (1902) #26

June 8, 2007

This has to be the worst book that I have ever read. Well, maybe not ever, but definitely the worst one yet on this list (and there have been some that have sucked mightily). How this book made the list, I have no idea, but it has rattled my already shaky faith in the validity of this list. I suspect that it has something to do with one Mr. Gore Vidal, who, judging from the little blurb on the back of the dust jacket of the copy that I h
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Gives new meaning to the expression "adventures in reading." The famous style of the late novels--the monster sentences with multiple subordinate elements that snake their way through paragraphs extending for page after page after page--will try your patience and reward your attentions--and yet frequently frustrate your best attempts at comprehension. I found the experience altogether fascinating, both in its challenges and its rewards--and there were wonderful rewards, passages and situations t ...more
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have a thing for Henry James. When I read The Golden Bowl in grad school and loved it, my professor thought I was crazy. I suppose many students find him dense and confusing. But I love his style. I love the careful, layered characterizations, the detailed descriptions, and the way James' novels flow mostly from internal dialogue. His artistry is in telling the story through the consciousness of the characters. I simply love it!

p.s. I find it funny {and revealing} that his novels translated to
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2017
This is probably not the best choice for an audio book - it is really quite intricate, and I struggled at times to find the referent in some of these Jamesian sentences, even as Juliet Stevenson did her usual remarkable job.

As with Portrait of the Lady, I managed to forget the exact contours of the plot since my first reading some 25 years ago or so. And as with Portrait of the Lady, I spent the early part of the book not really loving it. I found too little to get a grip on in the beginning. B
Jun 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves, classics
An utter fave novel and heroine. Love and betrayal with HJ motifs of victimised innocence and triumph without attainment. Gotta love the sex 'n' death symbiosis.

*likes 'em melodramatic*

HJ's liberality with commas does make the writing feel a bit like hyperventilation. But what's more romantic than being in love with a memory. ;)

*applauds etherealised gal's revenge*

Will Albers
Apr 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
unbelievably tedious....Henry James apparently never met a clause or a comma that he didn't like. turgid, bloated, pompous's impossible to think that people might have talked or thought like this...even 100 years ago. James takes dozens of pages with no apparent advancement of plot. A good editor could have easily whacked this down from 700 pages to about 250 and it would have been an infinitely easier read. I have to admit I couldn't finish and gave up after 200 pages. Maybe it's jus ...more
Laurel Hicks
Amazing book. I kept thinking, Why can't he just come out and tell us straight what he is talking about? Then I realized that James is reflecting his characters, who live in an underground world of plunder and plot, innuendo and insinuation. The last few chapters suddenly break into lucid writing, a sign that at least one character is starting to think and act straight. I need to read this book again. This book needs to be experienced. ...more
Simon Robs
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
But she turned to the door, and her headshake was now the end. "We shall never be again as we were!”

A brutally cold send off if ever there were that brings it all 'round' (my how he [HJ] loved this word using it all around this novel along with 'everything') to 'everything.'
Gary Inbinder
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antiquarian reverie
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Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
July 2014--This is my second time reading The Wings of the Dove in less than a year. It is a truly stunning novel and is becoming a another one of James's novels that I think is near perfection, like that of The Portrait of a Lady. I am finding on this second careful and thoughtful re-read that I am actually experiencing the novel rather than simply reading it.

Kate Croy and Merton Densher are 'a pair to draw to' for sure. As much as I love Kate the woman--fiercely independent, stubborn, intelli
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As usual, when it comes to a James novel, this one is filled with introspection, questions with unclear answers, assumptions, impressions, etc. Being perhaps, personally, the densest James novel I've read so far. I don't think it's my favorite (that would be The Ambassadors or The Golden Bowl) but it's still a great novel and one of my favorite books overall as I loved its pre-modernist tone; the characters' construction and development which was anything but plain; the way James blows the drama ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
I could not finish this book - I wanted to finish it so badly but I found myself dreading reading it on the train. I figured my commute is rough enough, why make it miserable? I wanted to like Henry James so badly, but I guess he is not for me. Basically I needed a translator in order to understand any of the sentences despite the fact that they are written in English!!! Oh my goodness, reading a sentence over and over again still did not get me anywhere. The plot is great, but really I wish I c ...more
3* for this audiobook edition; 2.5* for the book itself

I find Henry James a frustrating author - his topics and time period are those that I relish yet I don't like his books. This book, for example, had all the makings of a great story but it bored me when it didn't anger me. I thought up several possible ending for the story only to find that the actual conclusion was dull and predictable. I have heard James praised for his female characters but, to me, they were all objectionable in one way o
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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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