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The Golden Bowl

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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  10,720 ratings  ·  392 reviews
'A thing to marvel at, a thing to be grateful for.'A rich American art-collector and his daughter Maggie buy in for themselves and to their greater glory a beautiful young wife and noble husband. They do not know that Charlotte and Prince Amerigo were formerly lovers, nor that on the eve of the Prince's marriage they had discovered, in a Bloomsbury antique shop, a golden b ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 591 pages
Published May 7th 1985 by Penguin Books (first published 1904)
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Kate Schmidt It would be the rare young teen who could read this. Late James is at the level of Proust or Joyce or Faulkner in its abstruseness, circumlocution, an…moreIt would be the rare young teen who could read this. Late James is at the level of Proust or Joyce or Faulkner in its abstruseness, circumlocution, and indirection. When I was in high school, a prim old teacher of mine teaching American lit mentioned The Golden Bowl in passing, then remarked to the class, "But you wouldn't understand it." I was a bored, head-down-on-the-desk kid, but I took that as a challenge, and tried reading it several times over the next decade. I didn't get past the first couple pages till grad school—it's insufferable in many ways, just like the aforementioned modernists can be. But it is at its heart a deadly, creepy, absolutely chilling story, with unforgettable characters—once you can penetrate the verbiage. (less)

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Lizzy
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Golden Bowl is a wonderful novel. Through his usual beautiful but convoluted and sinuous prose that swims around itself again and again, Henry James tells us the story of four people, two men and two women, and two marriages. These two marriages, whose essence holds secrets and truths, is the heart of its plot. Yes, it seems a simple enough plot and it revolves around the most basic human shortcoming that is adultery; and the relationships that are instigated by these four individuals.

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Fionnuala
Henry James is funny.
I see already the raised eyebrows inspired by that statement. 'Fun' might well be the last quality that anyone has ever associated with Henry James, but as I read this book, I began to have the impression that the author had a lot of fun writing it. I certainly had fun reading it.

The fun was in the characters, who they were and how they spoke. It was in the shifting points of view, which revealed so many things to the reader and hid just as many more. It was in the constant
...more
James
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Book Review
It is difficult to give a low review to one of your favorite authors. And I've read this book twice. But it barely changed me upon a second read. Somewhere between a 2 and a 3, this book has many great moments; however, it's also very disconnected, almost as those there are several stories consolidated in a single book with at unmatched effort made to weave them together properly. The language -- great and consistent. The characters -- strong and memorable. The plot -- con
...more
Melindam
ETA:

Well, Henry James was either a freaking genius totally beyond the praise or criticism of lowly, unworthy readers, like yours truly
OR
a self-indulgent, pompous ass and I, for one, am still yearning for a chance to be able to travel back in time and throw this book at his self-indulgent, pompous head!


Even though I am presented with the subconscious of the characters to an almost painfully detailed degree, yet I feel totally detached from them. Whether it is the language or the literary te
...more
Nathaniel
Jun 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Suzanne
Dec 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Henry, I love you, but get to the freakin’ point!

I like a long, baroque, convoluted, labyrinthine sentence as much as the next guy and usually enjoy unpacking the types of twisty phrases and syntax James is known for, along with coaxing out the meaning of said sentences that illustrate complex characters and their even more complex relationships.

I've enjoyed several other Henry James novels quite a bit, especially The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove. But the writing in this one see
...more
David
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Lynne-marie
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
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
Roman Clodia
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
He tried, too clearly, to please her – to meet her in her own way; but with the result only that, close to her, her face kept before him, his hands holding her shoulders, his whole act enclosing her, he presently echoed: ‘ “See”? I see nothing but you.’

This late work (1904) of James is one replete with echoes: on the local level characters repeat each others’ words, giving significance to changes of emphasis within repetition; on a meta-textual level, this book replays themes and relationshi
...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
So far typical James plotting and manipulation
Even if James' opinion of women wasn't well know, it would easily be determined by the behavior of his female characters-conniving, meddling, shallower
The most enjoyable chapters include the discussions of the guilelessness of the couples between Colonel and Fannie Assingham. The ambiguous use of pronouns, the constant need for clarification and the backtracking makes for entertaining reading.
I'm really torn over the ending. I have strong feeling f
...more
Maria
Oct 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: hadtogiveup
Henry James - you are awful. I will spend no more of my life reading you. What is the point?
Flora
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Unbearably good, and almost impossible to read. How does that work? I have no idea. But I love it.
Josh B.
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
...more
TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
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
...more
Carolina Morales
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Tobias
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
A monster-truck of a novel. Review/summa of living with James for several months coming up.
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-brow
The Golden Bowl is James's last "major" novel, one of the three produced at the height of his artistic output. Like his other two novels in this period, The Ambassadors and The Wings of the Dove, it's another "difficult" but rewarding novel to get through. It follows the experience of two marriages of an American father and daughter to a pair of former lovers in Europe. It explores wealth, class, adultery and of course James's fascination of the clash between American and European cultures. Amer ...more
Teresa
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a tour-de-force this book is! Even more so than in any of the other James' novels I've 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 all ...more
May Skelton
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Golden Bowl is certainly characteristic of James’ oeuvre as a whole—stylistically, structurally, and thematically. In typical James fashion, the prose is very meandering. It can feel, at times, excessively, even insufferably so, particularly to readers who are accustomed to the clarity and succinctness that have become the hallmark of modern American literature. Many of us are used to evaluating writing based on its ability to convey the most amount of information in the fewest words possibl ...more
woodshadows
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Annie
Oct 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
I love Henry James. I do. Wings of the Dove and Portrait of a Lady are two of the coolest books ever, populated by some of the most memorable, complicated characters in literature. Kate Croy? Merton Densher? Isabel Archer? Madame Merle? GIMME. Gimme those long, languid afternoons in someone else's enigmatic mind, making unexpected choices, saying unexpected things in unexpected, lyrical ways. Take me back.

But this one? God. The characters are so boring. The plot is so... the kindest thing I can
...more
D Dyer
Aug 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
I spent almost a month reading this book and not because I was lingering over it in a state of pleasure. The language is dense, the characters are mostly flat, if you asked me to give personality traits for any of them I’m not really sure I could, and the sexual politics are extremely dated. This book is a classic but it is certainly one I would advise skipping.
Chris
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
As a good friend of mine once said, "Life is too short to read Henry James and although I did not listen and ploughed through to the end of this turgid and verbose tome I find that, improbably as it may seem to some, thatI must now concur!!!!
See what it has done to me!
Barns Howe
I’ve never resented yet respected a book so much. I’m more torn than Natalie Imbruglia. The prose is decked out with all the bells and whistles and on a close reading level it’s stunning. This depth of text, however, for 464 pages, becomes a slog through a quagmire of metaphor, hidden meaning and repetitive emotion. As Cheryl Cole tells us, “Too much of anything can make you sick, even the good can be a curse”. So while I respect James and this novel’s position as a classic of the early modern p ...more
David M
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Generally speaking Henry James was not a novelist of ideas. Later on, however, his prose style would grow into a philosophy unto itself. The Golden Bowl is the apotheosis of late James. In many ways this is a strange and off-putting book. For one thing, what kind of name is Fanny Assingham?

The characters seem to do nothing but endlessly circle and interpret each other, and it's not always clear where one ends and another begins. Evil does not emanate from some demented subjectivity, but rather
...more
Hannah
Jul 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
If you like unrelentingly lengthy sentences, heavy symbolism, adultery + voyeurism + love quadrangles, and a persistent aura of foreboding, then this is the novel of your dreams! I think this book, combined with the movie, which I watched shortly after, would be a great way to convince someone never to get married.
Mary
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.
Mariel
Nov 29, 2007 rated it liked it
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.)
Illiterate
Mar 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Late James. Affected characters. Stilted dialogue. Tortuous prose. No thanks.
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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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