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The Spoils of Poynton
 
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Henry James
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The Spoils of Poynton

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  959 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
"Mrs Gareth, widowed chatelaine of Poynton, is fighting to keep her house with its priceless objets d'art from her son Owen and his lovely, utterly philistine fiancee. When she discovers that her young friend and sympathizer Fleda Vetch is secretly in love with Owen, she thrusts her into the battle-line." "The power struggle that ensues between the three women leaves Owen ...more
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published by New Directions New Classics (first published 1896)
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Fionnuala
"My name is Fleda Vetch and I'm the main character of The Spoils of Poynton. That is to say, I appear to be the main character but the truth is, Mrs Gereth of Poynton Hall takes firm possession of that status early in the story. Mrs Gereth likes taking possession of things and I like giving them up. In fact, if my overly developed sense of humility didn't prevent it, I would claim my place as the most put-upon character in literary history, for not only has my main character status been usurped, ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Eric
Jul 14, 2009 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
...more
Duffy Pratt
May 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bruce
A quintessentially Henry James novel, this was a joy to read. The widowed Mrs. Gereth has spent her life furnishing her home, Poynton, with all manner of elegant furniture and art objects which are the focus of her attention and value. In the young Fleda Vetch she has found an impressionable appreciator of her efforts and objects. But her son Owen has determined to marry the rough and unappreciative Mona Brigstock who does not appreciate the furnishings of Poynton, which Owen will inherit on his ...more
Sketchbook
Nov 14, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jeff
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah
Feb 11, 2012 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.
Dirk
May 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Robert Beveridge
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
...more
Nicole Schrag
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london, field-exam
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Billie Pritchett
The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James is the story of a widowed woman name Mrs. Gereth who must give up her property to her son because the property is to be transferred to the son and his wife upon his marriage. Gereth is from Old Money, and she has meticulously collected all the fine pieces in her home, and so she does not want to part with them. Matters are complicated from the beginning when a woman, who is not wealthy, named Fleda becomes Mrs. Gereth's ally in her fight to preserve those ant ...more
Chris
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
This is an extraordinarily intense novella: intense in its use of language and intense in its unremitting focus on just two or three characters. First and foremost in the cast list is Fleda Vetch, a young woman whose superior quick-wittedness and taste are balanced by her apparent plainness and moral rectitude; next is the manipulative Mrs Adela Gereth, a widow to whom the unmarried Fleda becomes a companion. Owen Gereth, Mrs Gereth's son, has lately inherited Poynton Place, thereby becoming a m ...more
Sarah
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Frederick
Aug 03, 2007 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
...more
Lev Raphael
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Bilbiobuffet.com, a magazine every book lover should have an RSS feed to. :-)

http://bibliobuffet.com/book-brunch-c...
Corinna
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition


I need to stop trying to read James' later works with the hope of enjoying them.
Melody Nelson
Massive fan of Henry James, the later works do not scary me, but this story is simply insufferable. Fleda is prudish to the point of stupidity.
Sverre
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 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
...more
Klaas Roggeman
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a rather marvellous comedy of manners, if I'm using correct term. Probably my second James after The Turn of the Screw and the Aspern Papers, as I'm unsure if I already did get around to The Portrait of a Lady; for it has been in my possession for ages. This one does seem to me to be an excellent starting point. The sentences are long and the writing is very descriptive; both things for which he is known. But there is a very dramatic strength in the story, which inevitably made me think ...more
Tom
Jun 28, 2007 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
...more
Christopher Sutch
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 i ...more
Anthea Ilpide
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 man ...more
Lynne
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Trounin
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 к ...more
Myles
Jul 30, 2013 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
...more
Frederick
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
John
Jun 19, 2009 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
Katherine
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
...more
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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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