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The Ambassadors

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  11,106 ratings  ·  549 reviews
Graham Greene and E.M. Forster marvelled at it, but F.R. Leavis considered it to be 'not only not one of his great books, but to be a bad one.' As for the author, he held The Ambassadors as the favorite among all his novels.

Sent from Massachusetts by the formidable Mrs. Newsome to recall her son, Chad, from what she assumes to be a corrupt life in Paris, Strether finds his
Paperback, 528 pages
Published March 3rd 1987 by Penguin Classics (first published November 1st 1903)
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Reading The Ambassadors is like progressing through a circular maze. The reader roams around the edges at first, coming up frequently against dead ends. Why is Chad Newsome so difficult to figure out? What are the author’s intentions for Maria Gostrey? Will Mrs Newsome, or even her more formidable-sounding daughter, Mrs Pocock, ever make a physical appearance in the story? The enigmas in this early stage are such that if the reader found herself accidentally back at the start she might be ...more
Henry Avila
Lewis Lambert Strether,55, a prim widower, considers himself a failure, completely dependent on the kindness of wealthy widow, and still attractive, Mrs.Newsome, from fictional, Woollett, Massachusetts, his fiancee, for a living (set circa 1900) , he's the editor of a small magazine review, that is financed by her, owner of a company that manufactures.... it is never said, in the novel. Sent by Mrs. Newsome ( thus the title ,"The Ambassadors," there will be others), to get her son, the immature ...more
Violet wells
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A gay friend of mine once put Henry James’ tendency to play hide and seek with the reader down to the same trait within himself with regards to his sexuality. Apparently he was deeply suspicious of everything that gave him pleasure. “Nothing came to him simply.” And in this novel nothing comes to us simply either.

I think it took me longer to read this than War and Peace. And that’s because virtually every sentence is like trying to figure out a rubic cube. There’s a moment when a character feels
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Henry James has taken circumlocution and obfuscation to new heights in this novel. I don’t often rate a book an ungenerous two stars, but this novel was in many ways an impossible book for me. I appreciate the architecture of James’s novel: the beauty of Paris as a backdrop for temporarily exiled Americans to meet and discover, or not, the underlying theme: ‘knowing how to live’. But I never felt the intended drama, or the sudden discovery of self, partly because I nearly drowned in James’s ...more
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
“The Ambassadors”, by Henry James

This is Daisy Fuentes Miller, reporting to you live from the set of MTV’s “Real World Gay Paree”. Six strangers, from totally different backgrounds, thrown together, forced to live under the merciless glare of the Hankcam, which documents their every move for posterity. Let’s see what happens when the gloves come off, and things get real.

Strether: Hi. I’m Strether. I’m engaged to Chad’s mom. She’s pissed at him, and sent me over to bring him back to Connecticut
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Catching up with the classics # 20

I am not a fan, but I WILL finish

I hate this book. I'm never going to finish this

For god sake! I read this entire book with the main male character, Strether, making everything his business, for him only at the end to say that that none of it his his business. WTH was this book about then, James?????

You must have been paid by the prepositional phrase! And had no editor to tell you that most of your novel was extraneous. I finally threw up my hands when you
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It is important to remember that Henry James's later works (his "major phase") are very much the roots of "modern literature" (whatever that means), and should be read in the same way as Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, Joyce's Ulysses, Woolf's The Waves and Mrs. Dalloway: which is to say: slowly savored. James himself was cognizant of this and admonished his readers to read only five pages a day (a challenge which I found impossible, but rather read in small-ish bits over each day). In ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book asks a lot from the reader and offers precious little in return. Of course, those who gave it five stars must disagree and think this frustrating word salad was all worth it.

I could barely stand it. The neurotic prose, that seemed so unsure and self-conscious, constantly checking itself, in turn clarifying and contradicting almost drove me to insanity. When James gave voice to his characters it hardly got better as everyone talked to each other in Sphinx-like riddles.

Friends, I did
Elizabeth Urello
Jun 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I’m sure Henry James is a genius and all, but untangling his prose is like trying to talk to a verbose, over-educated person who’s drunk off his ass but refuses to pass out. For example, he might start off with “The effect of the man’s speech was as if he were a tippler who…” then meanders here, there, and over there to the other bar, and then wanders back toward you, but veering off at the last second, borrows several drinks (by which I mean to imply words) off surrounding tables (by which I ...more
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: henry-james

I have been reading quite a bit of James. Last year, I audio’d The Bostonians and Washington Square. I read The Aspen Papers, reread Beast in the Jungle, and read Turn of the Screw (which I disliked -- found it excruciating). And then this spring read a large collection of James’ stories (ed. Fadiman), then Wings of the Dove, and now The Ambassadors. I love the late James... Even though these books are long, and there is a certain degree of artificiality in the dialogue (much worse in Dove; much
Gary Inbinder
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Genia Lukin
Aug 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
That's it. I must accept this. I am chronically unable to understand what he's actually saying. It's as though he is writing in a language I haven't studied; some sort of pidgin that throws in a few words of English here and there. I freely admit defeat, and add James-lexia to my store of Kafkaphobia and Joyce-pathia.
Jee Koh
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Perched Privacy

I finish reading this novel feeling exalted and cowed by what a man may accomplish in a work of fiction. Human relationships, so various, so changing, so beautiful, are so variously, changeably and beautifully conceived here that they constitute a cause for moral uplift and terror. Flying from an apparent bedrock of ethical certainties, fine discriminations flutter in the air, and cannot find a sure place to land. All (a word that punctuates the novel like an orgasmic cry) is
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: currently
An eternal situation. When I lived in Paris the worried mum of an American girl arrived to get her back to the US. Her daughter, a close friend then, had developed, in one year, a style and manner -- a chic, if you will, far beyond her suburban Baltimore roots. She soon had a romcom with a visiting, married US pol that resulted in a Paris abortion, which we treated w hilarity, and, after a 3d year, returned to America and married. She now lives in the midwest. Is that Jamesian or not?

It's not,
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Yeah, so reading this novel is basically like driving through Indiana. That's the analogy I'm going to use. It's like driving through Indiana. You know, it's long, it's generally boring. You start drifting off. Instead of focusing on the road, you're mind begins to wander. You tell yourself to stay focused, but that doesn't work, because now you're just thinking about staying focused, you're still not paying attention to the road. But then once you get through it, once you're out of Indiana, ...more
Oct 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
What a tremendous load of over-articulated crap.
The only reason to write such shite in the era of early Picasso, Freud, Einstein and many other giants of early 20th century is to try to carve out some sort of semblance of a reason to exist...when there really is none. It's one idiot writing about his brethren and sisters for his brethren and sisters. It was published as a serial in The North American Review for minor (read: wannabe) intellectuals in New England in 1903.
Truly an example of the
Daniel Villines
Feb 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-completed
I can’t. Ok? I just can’t do this. I can’t spend hours reading through paragraphs that span pages filled with trivial contemplations. These paragraphs are comprised of sentences that second guess themselves before they end. Some may cheer this book as a literary accomplishment, but as a consumer of great stories, I can honestly say that this story is so overburdened by words that the story is hardly there.
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-lit
I read this in college, in a seminar on Dickens and James with Prof G Armour Craig (later interim Pres of Amherst College). I know I wrote one of my best papers on this novel, culminating in revelations at the ending: of course, Jamesian narrators are very surprised by sophisticated European affairs that more naive Americans are drawn into. Once home, I shall find my copy and look for my notes, to fill out a review.
I still haven't found my copy of the novel, though I did locate my essay on it
Bill Hammack
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love Henry James, but he is an acquired taste. I have read the Ambassadors three times, and parts of it many times. While working in DC - 2005 - I got two copies: One for home and one for my office - a few years ago I added a third copy to my office at home.. I followed James advice and read it five pages a day being careful "not to break the thread." I did break the thread twice - so I read it in three extended chunks. (I read five pages a day at the State Department -- if anyone saw me I was ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Whenever I think of Henry James (and that does not happen too often), the words obfuscating & convoluted come to mind besides WTF is this supposed to be all about?
Maybe I will give him another try in years to come ....
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us
"His life, his life! — Strether paused anew, on the last flight, at this final rather breathless sense of what Chad’s life was doing with Chad’s mother’s emissary. It was dragging him, at strange hours, up the staircases of the rich; it was keeping him out of bed at the end of long hot days; it was transforming beyond recognition the simple, subtle, conveniently uniform thing that had anciently passed with him for a life of his own."

My main issue with this novel is how psychological it is;
Jan 14, 2018 rated it liked it
[2.5 stars] Oy Henry James - you duped me! Because I loved Portrait of a Lady and liked The American, I stuck with The Ambassadors to the bitter end. I tried listening to both the audio and reading the print version of this novel, but still had trouble comprehending the convoluted prose.

Random sample sentence:
"If Strether had been sure at each juncture of what --with Bilham in especial -- she talked about, he might have traced others and winced at them and felt Waymarsh wince, but he was in
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC radio listeners
Classic Serial R4x

This novel was originally published as a serial in the North American Review.

BBC BLURB: THE AMBASSADORS, adapted by Graham White from the Henry James novel centres on the predicament of Lambert Strether, a fifty-something New Englander lately arrived in Paris. Henry Goodman stars as the hapless protagonist in a novel many critics find James' finest.

Lambert Strether - Henry Goodman

Directed by Peter Kavanagh.

On the theme of 'retrieving
Megan Baxter
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I just spent a review trying to figure out why I didn't like a book that was very similar to a "classic." It was kind of a relief to go from that to this book, which is undeniably by someone who is literary and wrote classics, and to be able to say that I really enjoyed The Ambassadors quite a lot. I think I enjoyed it more then A Portrait of a Lady, which had some aspects that grated on me. Phew! I'm not an entire Philistine, after all!

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the
I'm a big James fan. Have read and relished him early and late: "The Bostonians," "What Maisie Knew," "Portrait of a Lady," "The Spoils of Poynton," "The Europeans," "Washington Square," "Daisy Miller," "The Turn of the Screw," "The Aspern Papers," and also (late) "Wings of The Dove" and "The Golden Bowl." So was surprised how many times I had to restart "The Ambassadors," how many times I wanted to throw the book aside.

And was it worth it, finally? Only in exposing a crack in my
May 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
I didn't finish this book. I would have pushed on through it, but I was reading a collection of Henry James essays at the same time, and when I got to the point where he was criticizing Joseph Conrad (my beloved Joseph Conrad!!) for demanding too much concentration from "the common reader," I figured to heck with it. James demands WAY more concentration from readers of The Ambassadors than Conrad has ever asked of anyone, and with absolutely NO reward of a delicious plot or anything AT ALL ...more
Chris Chapman
I swam in the extraordinary wordplay of this book and almost drowned at times. Swmming, floating, sinking are metaphors that James uses throughout, the big question being, are you going to let yourself float in the atmosphere of culture, art and sophistication of Paris, or are you going to resist it, in favour of something more banale (like making money in Woollett, the imagined town in the US which many of the characters come from).

Initially I found this experience wonderful. But by the end I
Carla Remy
Look, I read 35% on my Kindle. I read this because the book is brought up in The Talented Mr. Ripley. And I totally get why from the chunk of it I read. "Our Friend" Strether goes to Europe to convince someones son to come back to America . Just like Tom Ripley does for Mr. Greenleaf, who first mentions this novel. Henry James has a sense of humour and good dialogue.
Nov 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The Ambassadors Henry James (1909) #27

January 25, 2008

If James were to get paid, say, a dime for every comma, and a quarter for every semicolon that he ever wrote, I’m sure that he would have made more money off this fictitious punctuation propriety than he ever got paid for all of his books. Check this out (form the second page of the novel):
“There were people on the ship with whom he had easily - so far as ease could, up to now, be imputed to him – consorted, and who for the most part
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Good Reading: 100 Significant Books
I'd read that Henry James had a very distinct split in styles, and that accordingly readers often differ greatly in which style they like. The only other book by Henry James I had read before this was Washington Square, one of his early novels, and it's a favorite--but that made me all the more reluctant to try one of his later novels and feel disappointed. I don't know if disappointment describes how I feel about The Ambassadors, one of his late and most celebrated novels. Bored and frustrated ...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
“Live all you can: it's a mistake not to. It doesn't matter what you do in particular, so long as you have had your life. If you haven't had that, what have you had?” 196 likes
“Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had? … I haven’t done so enough before—and now I'm too old; too old at any rate for what I see. … What one loses one loses; make no mistake about that. … Still, we have the illusion of freedom; therefore don't be, like me, without the memory of that illusion. I was either, at the right time, too stupid or too intelligent to have it; I don’t quite know which. Of course at present I'm a case of reaction against the mistake. … Do what you like so long as you don't make my mistake. For it was a mistake. Live!” 55 likes
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