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The Awkward Age

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  805 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
The story of young Nanda Brookenham's struggle to preserve her honesty in the brilliant but corrupt world of her parents is a drama of innocence betrayed yet preserved. Written when James was recovering from the shock od failure as a playwright, THE AWKWARD AGE is one of his greatest masterpieces. Conceived like a play terms of scenes and conducted largely through witty di ...more
Published May 20th 1993 by Everyman (first published 1892)
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In the previous Henry James book I read, the main character, Christopher Newman, visited the Louvre, and being a bit overwhelmed by the profusion of pictures, he simply sat on a bench in front of one of them for the whole afternoon.

Just as he'd been happy to ignore the rest of the paintings in the huge gallery, Newman was happy that day to ignore the major part of Veronese's 'The Marriage at Cana’, and simply focus on a little scene in the corner of the painting which satisfied his conception of
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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' -
Nov 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aborted-efforts
Just kidding.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Doreen Petersen
Aug 11, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I really hate giving any book a low rating but this one was really bad. I've tried other Henry James books and only found one I really liked. Not sure if it's the author or me.
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
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
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
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
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
Camilla Tilly
Jan 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Donna Leon has "Commissario Brunetti's" wife "Paola" worship Henry James. So it was with great disappointment that I gave up on this book after 80 pages! My self confidence is completely shattered since I have started doubting my command of the English language!!! It feels like the characters are talking in a code that I am not privy to. The plot line no doubt wants to expose the double moral code of Victorian and Edwardian society, but does it in such a slow and boring way that at least I could ...more
Mark Stephenson
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps a clue to what perplexes some readers of The Awkward Age may be found in James' short story John Delavoy. This is a story about censorship in which James makes a case in FAVOR of censorship on the part of periodical editors who are acqainted with their readership. The Awkward Age first appeared in 1898 as a serialization in the prominent periodical Harper's Weekly. Two young English women, Aggie and Nanda, are portrayed as representatives of two opposed philosophies of preparing a girl f ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
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
Jun 18, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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?
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tenía más expectativas sobre este texto de un joven Henry James y su descubrimiento de Londres en el siglo XIX. Al final, cierto desencanto. Largos párrafos discursivos y de reflexión, hacen que la lectura se vuelva complicada.
William Leight
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thing you notice about "The Awkward Age" is that it's basically all dialogue. My personal theory, backed up by exactly zero evidence, is that this is a manifestation of James' desire to be a successful playwright: some of the early chapters, in particular, consist largely of exchanges of witty badinage in drawing rooms in a very Oscar-Wilde-esque fashion. ("The Importance of Being Earnest" appeared three years before "The Awkward Age" began serialization.) The novel's structure is also ...more
Tony Mavilia
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Awkward Age James sets out to study the relations between men and women in a society that is in moral flux. A hard and glittering “modern” social set provides the cast and material which he forms into a sort of complex polyhedron or rose cut diamond. The principle facet is, of course, Nanda. Around this plane is arranged her mother Mrs. “Brook”, Mr. Vanderbank, Mr. Longdon, Mr. Mitchy and the Duchess. Distinctly subordinate facets in this sharp and opinioned set are the other members of N ...more
Oof, definitely going to have to go for something light-hearted after reading this, although, as far as Henry James novels go, this one wasn't quite so bleak. It basically ended somewhat in resignation for all the characters, but I would say there is a little room to hope for some of them going forward. Overall a good read, though if you're choosing this as your first taste of Henry James, you might start with something else. The dialogue is great, but it might be easier to follow if you're fami ...more
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Human relations where everyone just wants the best for the other, but not for himself, can be extremely destructive - as this book shows. See my review in German:
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of a group of Edwardian friends who challenge themselves to gradually eliminate everything but innuendo from their conversations. This book loses points for giving me a panic attack.
Alan Hall
Still baffled

Tried ever so hard with this book, and with hi more widely, but sorry I just don't get it.......what point is being's certainly not the story which is this. In the e treme
Judith Marie
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I would have enjoyed this even more if I had read it in a more consecutive manner, but due to me losing the book and stuff I didn't. Well. I think I'll reread this one day, and be able to understand a lot more, already knowing the characters and the basic story.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some little observational things were great. The bigger thing not so much.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this as an audible book. I've read/loved many classics that way, but this one not so much. There is no real plot and consists almost exclusively of dialogue. I really feel it was a waste of my attention.
Nick Jones
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-literary
In the introduction, Cynthia Ozick states that “the entanglements of human nature, buffeted by accident, contingency, mistaken judgement, the jarrings of the social web, the devisings of the sly or the cruel, are in any event finally transparent, rational.” She later states that, “The Awkward Age is ostensibly a comedy of manners, and resembles its populous closs in that it concerns itself with the marriageability of a young woman. Nearly a hundred years after James wrote, no theme may appear so ...more
Fernando Jimenez
Cuenta Henry James en 'The middle years' que cuando visitó Londres por primera vez sintió una honda emoción cuando pasó por Craven Street y creyó casi místicamente que estaba ante un auténtico escenario dickensiano. James pudo conocer en vida a Charles Dickens si hubiera viajado a Inglaterra antes, puesto que acababa de morir al llegar. No obstante, ya lo percibía como un clásico y no podía evitar ver Londres con los ojos del autor de 'Oliver Twist'. Hoy Craven Street parece una calle anodina, a ...more
Christopher Sutch
This novel marks yet one more qualitative shift upward in James's art. There is so much going on in this novel that it is really impossible to usefully describe in a review format like this (and ironically this novel began as an idea for a short story!). Suffice it to say, this is a deceptively difficult novel to fully comprehend. The prose is almost entirely a series of dialogues between the characters, and the lure for the reader of today is to allow yourself to be drawn into the interchange o ...more
classic reverie
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: henry-james
I am always amazed how Henry James has an effect on me after I have read one of his stories & this one sure left me feeling quite sad & in awe of his ability to create a story with characters so unique to the times he writes. In almost all his books that I have read thus far, I start out uncertain where the story is going & really more confused in this one, where whole attention is needed but feeling rewarded at the end but many lose ends & unexplained happenings are still appare ...more
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Reread and dying to discuss! LMK your thoughts/interpretations! 1 1 Mar 31, 2017 03:31PM  
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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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“I never really have believed in the existence of friendship in big societies - in great towns and great crowds. It's a plant that takes time and space and air; and London society is a huge "squash", as we elegantly call it - an elbowing, pushing, perspiring, chattering mob.” 0 likes
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