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The Wings of the Dove

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  13,894 Ratings  ·  463 Reviews
An incomparable Henry Jamesas novel in a new edition
Featuring a new introduction, it is a brilliant and sophisticated satire of manners and morals in the best Jamesian tradition. "The Wings of the Dove" is an indelible take on the tragic love triangle in which two poor yet ardent lovers seduce a dying woman in the hope that she will leave them her fortune.
Paperback, 296 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by Book Jungle (first published 1901)
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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 a
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
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
peiman-mir5 rezakhani
دوستانِ گرانقدر، این داستان سخن از دوگانگی انسانهاست.. انسانهایی که خوی نیک دارند و انسانهایی که خوی زشت و انگل وار دارند و میخواهند دیگران را پلهٔ پیشرفتِ خود سازند و همچون انگل از میزبان خود بهره ببرند
دختری زیبا به نامِ <کیت> در خانهٔ عمهٔ ثروتمندش خانمِ <مود لاودر> در شهر لندن، زندگی میکند... کیت عاشقِ روزنامه نگاری به نامِ <مرتُن دنشر> میشود و عمه خانم که بسیار سختگیر است، مخالف ازدواج آنهاست. چراکه معتقد است که مرتُن شوهری مناسب ب
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: henry-james
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mary Anne
Oct 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookgroup
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
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 1900-1950
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.
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,
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Gary Inbinder
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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: classics, faves
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*

Jan 30, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am in love with Henry James. Every sentence makes you stop, pore, and muse! The book is 500 pages. I wish it were a million....
Nov 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 hav
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
This book is extremely demanding. It takes no prisoners so far as investment of time and energy is concerned. The plot is simple, its presentation convoluted and at first seems attenuated by its minimalisation. Minimilasation of what? Of pandering to the reader's need for action, for immediate comprehensibility. Just as the protagonists need time to understand one another, especially since all the charcaters tend to stop in mid sentence, hesitate, break off, hint instead of being overt, pause an ...more
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The prose of this book is almost impenetrable. Sometimes Shakespeare seems hard to figure out, but there are whole pages of this book that are almost written in a different language-- or at least a different syntax. Henry James has the ability to write 10 pages at a time using only 5 paragraphs, 10 periods, 50 semi-colons, no dialogue, and the only nouns are pronouns.

At best though, the sentences can be beautiful and intricate and reading them can be like unwinding a strand of DNA. There's a log
Sarah Anne
DNF for the second time. I need to try this again in 10 or 15 or 20 years. When I'm older and the rather ornate and complex language is less boring. I'm torturing myself simply because it's a challenge book. If it weren't for that I would have ditched it days ago.

Here is an example of the language:
"Merton Densher, who passed the best hours of each night at the office of his newspaper, had at times, during the day, to make up for it, a sense, or at least an appearance, of leisure, in accordance w
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.
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deep, complex, and challenging. James, perhaps somewhat of an acquired taste and never an easy read (especially in his late novels), is a master of nuance and the subtleties of relationships. This book is well worth the effort.
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My brother gave me this book to read because I liked the way The Ambassadors was written, but couldn't relate to the characters. Enter Kate Croy! I was poised to like her due to his endorsement and then she won me over on the second page "She tried to be sad so as not to be angry, but it made her angry that she couldn't be sad." I get you!

It took a while to read because, as others have mentioned in their reviews, it seems to take forever for anything to happen and at times I was drowning in word
Will Albers
Apr 06, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is not an easy read, believe me.
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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...
“The women one meets - what are they but books one has already read? You're a library of the unknown, the uncut. Upon my word I've a subscription.” 27 likes
“Her memory's your love. You want no other.” 21 likes
More quotes…