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Archive Member Fav Reads > 2020 September: The Ambassadors by Henry James

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message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (last edited Aug 30, 2020 05:28AM) (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
The Ambassadors is a 1903 novel by Henry James, originally published as a serial in the North American Review (NAR). The novel is a dark comedy which follows the trip of protagonist Lewis Lambert Strether to Europe in pursuit of Chad Newsome, his widowed fiancée's supposedly wayward son; he is to bring the young man back to the family business, but he encounters unexpected complications. (528 pages)


message 2: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 945 comments It will be a busy month, Lesle! This is another book I hope to read with the group.


message 3: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8411 comments Mod
I have just downloaded a free copy on my ipad, so I'm in. James is not a fast read, but I do hope to read it this month.


message 4: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 1219 comments I have been listening to this book already in August since there are many books I want to read from other threads too.


message 5: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "James is not a fast read, but I do hope to read it this month."

I didnt realize it is such a Husky read!


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 186 comments It is on Librivox, so I will try to listen to it.


message 7: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
Great Kelly glad you found it. Let us know what you think.


message 8: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)


message 9: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
Henry James got the central idea for The Ambassadors from an anecdote about his friend and fellow-novelist William Dean Howells, who, whilst visiting his son in Paris, was so impressed with the amenities of European culture that he wondered aloud if life hadn't passed him by.

Did you know that chapters 28 and 29 were reversed in an early edition of the novel, and the likely error repeated in later editions—and no one apparently noticed for more than forty years?


message 10: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8411 comments Mod
I was going to read this book over the course of the month because it does require a lot of concentration, since Henry James is so wordy.
But I have changed my tactics and am reading this book first, since it is a different kind of read, dealing with emotions, impressions, etc.
I have almost finished the book and really don't know what to think of it, but it has been an experience so far.
I really like Lewis Strether, the main character. Once I finish the book I will let you know if I'm happy at the outcome.


message 11: by Kathy (last edited Sep 06, 2020 01:04PM) (new)

Kathy | 1219 comments I finished this book a week ago and find myself thinking of the story still. I, too, liked Lambert Strether. I think he was (view spoiler) I thought Strether remained dignified throughout the story.

I listened to the book and am glad I did since I'm not sure I would have understood the sentences that James writes. And his conversations! If you miss who the speakers are talking about you have to go back and find out because the whole conversation will use he, she, they, for the rest of the conversation.

I enjoyed the book a lot. I've read two very short books of Henry James' - The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller and didn't care for either. Looking back on it, I'm sure I didn't understand The Turn of the Screw and plan on reading it again to see if I can understand it now!

I'll be reading more of Henry James after reading The Ambassadors. I'm not sure which I'll read next.


message 12: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8411 comments Mod
I own a copy of The Golden Bowl but won't get around to reading it until 2021.
I read The Europeans and found it an easier read than The Ambassadors and more straight-forward than Turn of the Screw.


message 13: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 1219 comments That's good to know, Rosemarie. Maybe I'll start with The Europeans.


message 14: by Gilbert (new)

Gilbert | 806 comments Starting The Ambassadors


message 15: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 1219 comments Enjoy, Gilbert!


message 16: by Gilbert (new)

Gilbert | 806 comments Kathy wrote: "I finished this book a week ago and find myself thinking of the story still. I, too, liked Lambert Strether. I think he was [spoilers removed] I thought Strether remained dignified throughout the s..."

Following is a listing of all of Henry James's novels. Perhaps it may be of use to you:
"Watch and Ward; Roderick Hudson; The Americans;
The Europeans; Confidence"
Washington Square; The Portrait of a Lady; The Bostonians
The Princess Casamassima; The Reverberator; The Tragic Muse
The Other House; The Spoils of Poynton; What Maisie Knew; The Awkward Age
The Sacred Fount; The Wings of the Dove
The Ambassadors; The Golden Bowl; The Outcry

This is in order of publication, and from the Library of America Henry James collection.


message 17: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 1219 comments Thanks, Gilbert!


message 18: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
I only have two of his...Washington Square and The Wings of the Dove


message 19: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8411 comments Mod
I have Washington Square as well, Lesle.


message 20: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
It looks like a interesting read of romance.


message 21: by Gilbert (last edited Sep 15, 2020 03:04PM) (new)

Gilbert | 806 comments James makes mention of Theophile Gautier in Part two, Chapter V.
Gautier was well thought of by James: see Literary Criticism, Vol 2: French Writers / Other European Writers / Prefaces to the New York Edition.
Gautier's Mademoiselle de Maupin
may have been the basis for the movie/musical "Victor/Victoria".


message 22: by Jacquie (new)

Jacquie | 98 comments Gilbert wrote: "Kathy wrote: "I finished this book a week ago and find myself thinking of the story still. I, too, liked Lambert Strether. I think he was [spoilers removed] I thought Strether remained dignified th..."

Thank you for the list Gilbert! have any of you read/most of them? I'm looking for The Princess Casamassima but the library did not have this. Just looking for ideas since i loved The Turn of The Screw.


message 23: by Gilbert (new)

Gilbert | 806 comments Yes, I've read all of Henry James with the exception of his autobiography and travel books. Hardly gets better than this.


message 24: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 945 comments I couldn’t get on with The Ambassadors at all & abandoned it. Instead, I tried to get used to his style by reading Some Short Stories. I completed this but didn’t enjoy it. Previously I have read Turn of the Screw & Washington Square. I think it’s time to admit Henry James’ books are not for me.


message 25: by Gilbert (new)

Gilbert | 806 comments Definitely an acquired taste.


message 26: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 945 comments Gilbert wrote: "Definitely an acquired taste."

Yes, Gilbert - it probably is. Disappointing though, as many people here enjoy his writing.


message 27: by Gilbert (new)

Gilbert | 806 comments Just finished. Most enjoyable, as always.


message 28: by Jacquie (new)

Jacquie | 98 comments Wonderful to hear! I just picked it up at the library.


message 29: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8411 comments Mod
I'm glad I read this book as well. I thought it ended well for the main character.


message 30: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
Jacquie wrote: "Wonderful to hear! I just picked it up at the library."

Hope you enjoy the read as well Jacquie!


message 31: by Brian (last edited Oct 19, 2020 09:44PM) (new)

Brian Reynolds | 3809 comments I read this novel along with The Wings of the Dove and the The Golden Bowl about 20 years ago. I considered The Ambassadors as one of James most critically praised novels and also as Henry James own favorite of his novels.
Maybe my expectations were too high, but my memory is that this was the most dry and uninteresting of any of the 5 novels and 3 novellas I've read of James. It was also the third James novel I read in a short period of time and I may have been burned out on James. I find that his style makes for a difficult read requiring effort and concentration.
Despite that I still enjoy reading James once in a while, and find his works usually worth the effort. But not this one. I did read Daisy Miller a few months ago and really enjoyed it, though.


message 32: by Christine PNW (new)

Christine PNW (moonlight_reader) | 207 comments I read this a number of years ago. I am interested in reading more Henry James, but I found this book to be obscure to the point of impenetrability. I strongly prefer his contemporary Edith Wharton.

You might be interested to know that The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith is a very dark retelling of this novel.


message 33: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 5666 comments Mod
Christine PNW wrote: "You might be interested to know that The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith is a very dark retelling of this novel...."

That is interesting, thank you for sharing Christine!


message 34: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 3809 comments If James had Lambert Strether approach his ambassadorial duties the way Tom Ripley did his, I would have enjoyed The Ambassadors a lot more.


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