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The Golden Bowl

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  9,438 Ratings  ·  313 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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  • The Golden Bowl by Henry James
    The Golden Bowl
    Release date: Dec 15, 2017
    Win one of 10 copies! Shy Maggie Verver, a young American heiress, shares an uncommonly close bond with her father. Widower Adam Verver, a financier a ...more

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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,…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)

    Community Reviews

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    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.

    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
    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 -- confused an
    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
    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
    Dear Henry James,

    after all these years I still cannot decide if it's just me or you or the both of us (aka the fault in our stars).


    Maybe we met in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Maybe there will come a time when a possible reunion ends in desperate hugs and tears & the question of "why did we waste all those precious years?" arises.

    I don't know ... Let's give our relationship another try in 2018.

    Yours in obfuscation,

    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    Nov 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    In this, the last of his final three major novels, James employs his characteristic inimitable and elliptical style, using long and complex syntax combined with nuanced half-thoughts and utterances that suggest rather than state, that allude to rather than demonstrate, that imply rather than assert, such that his characters and situations are built up gradually by the reader’s catching hints and making inferences, just as occurs in “real life” outside the pages of fiction. To follow the narrativ ...more
    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.
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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!
    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.)
    Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: powys-100
    Unquestionably one of the great masterpieces of literature, this incredible book is in many ways James’ supreme expression of his impressionistic style. Brilliance and genius throughout, with many unforgettable scenes and great, subtle psychological insight. A fitting end to James’ “major” period.

    Beyond that, not much to say - I liked the first half of the book much better than the second, as the first part focused on a variety of characters (and I couldn't get enough of Charlotte, with the scen
    Aug 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
    Much as Henry James was incapable of getting his point across in anything but extremes - extreme extended metaphor and simile, absolutes, and exaggerations, without ever actually COMING to the point, it is impossible to place the Golden Bowl in the center of the scale, and give it anything but a complete condemnation or total absolution.

    I, for one, am incapable of redeeming this novel. There is a part of me that wants to believe that this book, for the extreme effort that obviously went into cre
    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?
    Kathleen Maher
    Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

    The impulse to marvel at each magnificent sentence in THE GOLDEN BOWL led me to beg my weary husband, “Hey, listen to this.” For example:

    “It was all, at bottom, in him, the aesthetic principle, planted where it could burn with cold, still flame; where it fed almost wholly on the material directly involved, on the idea (followed by the appropriation) of plastic beauty, of the thing visibly perfect in its kind; where in short, in spite of the general tendency of the 'devouring element' to spread,
    Mike Moore
    Jul 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
    There are two techniques on display in this book. The first is immersive high-level introspection, a kind of interior monologue by characters that overwhelms the reader with the sheer volume of words that a mind can conjure related to a mental state, yet never gets into the meat of consciousness, preferring instead to sail upon a vast blue ocean of impression that goes on in every direction forever. The second technique is a style of dialogue that nobody is more committed to than James, which I' ...more
    Jan 24, 2011 rated it liked it
    Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
    The good news; this was the best James I’ve read thus far. The bad news; I cannot say that I enjoyed The Golden Bowl.

    Obviously, I am no fan of Henry James, but I do believe I enter into each novel with hope and an open mind. This being the third James on the Modern Library list, I hoped for the best and while it was a tad easier to read than The Wings of the Dove and The Ambassadors, it was not much so.

    What worked were the personal tidbits James feeds the reader allowing for a very intimate unde
    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
    Oct 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
    The Golden Bowl was a fascinating book. The emphasis on subtle and indirect communication, family dynamics, sacrifice, judgement of character, and even the complexity of the main character's eventual solution impressed me once again with James' care for detail, and especially for his deep understanding of the intricacy of human relationships and interactions. Compared to his other novels, The Golden Bowl is direct in format and is thus easier to follow, as it is focused directly and indirectly o ...more
    Dec 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
    Periphrasis. Henry P. James. "P" is for periphrasis. Two roads diverged in a word wood. Henry P. took the road with a ridiculous amount of words to describe something that isn't important other than the amount of words HPJ has attached to it. What are you trying to represent with all your infernal run-ons? I spit in your golden bowl and I will recommend Edith Wharton to all my friends.
    Will Miller
    Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
    Obsessively self-analytic characters, half-innocent social gestures supersaturated with significance, self-mocking-yet-serious flashes of grotesque melodrama, architecturally ornate similes of the inner-life, and delphically weird, beautiful sentences -- who can say no?
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    Goodreads Librari...: Change description 2 19 Jan 26, 2016 01:45PM  
    All About Books: Week 36 - The Golden Bowl by Henry James 16 29 May 31, 2014 12:53PM  
    What do you think? 7 57 May 09, 2014 10:17AM  
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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
    More about Henry James...
    “My idea is this, that when you only love a little you’re naturally not jealous-or are only jealous also a little, so that it doesn’t matter. But when you love in a deeper and intenser way, then you’re in the very same proportion jealous; your jealousy has intensity and, no doubt, ferocity. When however you love in the most abysmal and unutterable way of all – whey then you’re beyond everything, and nothing can pull you down.” 46 likes
    “It is no wonder he wins every game. He has never done a thing in his life exept play games” 13 likes
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