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Indian Summer

William Dean Howells

Book Overview: 

In his novel Indian Summer, William Dean Howells presents a mellow but realistic story that has the complete feel of that delightful time of the year, although the plot actually spans several seasons. The Indian summer aspect applies to a sophisticated gentleman, Theodore Colville, who has just entered his middle years as he returns to a scene, Florence, Italy, that played an important part in his early manhood. It was here twenty years earlier that he first fell in love, seemingly successfully until a sudden and harsh rejection. Now, after a once profitable career as a newspaper editor has ended, he is barely ensconced in the Italian city when he meets a lady from his past, a close friend of his lost love. Lina Bowen, now a widow with a young daughter, is an attractive and charming socialite among the American and English residents of Florence. Also living with her at this time as a temporary ward is a beautiful young girl just blossoming into womanhood, Imogene Graham.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Mrs. Bowen, taking his arm, with a patient arrangement first of her fan, her bouquet, and her train, and then moving along by his side with a delicate footed pace, which insinuated and deprecated her dependence upon him.

There were only a few people in the supper-room, and they had it practically to themselves. She took a cup of tea and a slice of buttered bread, with a little salad, which she excused herself from eating because it was the day after her headache. "I shouldn't have thought you were hungry, Mrs. Bowen," he said, "if you hadn't told me so," and he recalled that, as a young girl, her friend used to laugh at her for having such a butterfly appetite; she was in fact one of those women who go through life the marvels of such of our brutal sex as observe the ethereal nature of their diet. But in an illogical revulsion of feeling. Colville, who was again . . . Read More

Community Reviews

There are books that stand the test of time. This is not one of them. Despite what you may have heard, 40 is not the new 30 or it wasn’t in 1886 when this anemic little novel was written – 40 was 75. Against a Florentine backdrop, American protagonist Theodore Colville, an absolute fossil at 41,...more

Indian Summer is an old and polished gem. William Dean Howells was a star American novelist in his day (late 19th century), who has been overshadowed by the Jameses and Dickensons of the U.S. literary glitterati. So what a pleasure to find an American novelist I had never heard of and to be delig...more

Indian Summer is an 1886 novel by William Dean Howells. Though it was published after The Rise of Silas Lapham, it was written before The Rise of Silas Lapham. The setting for this novel was inspired by a trip Howells had recently taken with his family to Europe. In 1890 Howells called Indian Sum...more

Henry James with diabetes.
Lina, Effie, Imogene conflict a US bachelor abroad, 1880s. Why are the charming names wasted on diseases? Consider : Syphilis (Witherspoon), Catarrh (Taylor), Diptheria (Ford).

I wanted to like this book, but I didn't very much.

... SPOILERS ...


What can I say? It was ALMOST satisfactory. It came so close, but then at the final hour, it failed.

I didn't like the characters much, aside from Mrs. Bowen.

And I rejoiced for her strength I refusing Coleville's proposal d...more

William Dean Howells was way famous back in the day as a writer, magazine editor, literary critic, and best buddy of Mark Twain. He termed himself a realist, which as far as I can make out, means that he was against melodrama of the heaving bosom variety. This is a charming book (and actually doe...more

I would definitely call this a summer reading.
It is soft, and it is quiet, and it gives you time to know the characters, to like them. Not too many things happen, the action is not very dynamic, and every gesture, every though is so peacefully explained and analyzed.
All characters are " good per...more

Oh Mr. Coville, what will you do? William Dean Howells' beautifully written 'Indian Summer' makes me jealous that I never visited Florence in my 40's. Well, maybe not jealous but it sounds amazing. Howells places the reader in this setting and period with such ease and beauty that one is transfix...more

I've never read Henry James, and while I probably should be somewhat bashful about admitting that, I'm typically too busy discovering still more authors who I'd previously been insufficiently aware of to fully recognize that I should be ashamed of my myriad literary blind spots. As I understand i...more

I can see why people mention Henry James when reviewing this book - there is that similar setting down of the minute exchanges between characters, exchanges which seem to add to their misunderstandings rather than clarifying their positions. (I find it somewhat depressing. I'd like to think that...more

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