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The Ambassadors

Henry James

Book Overview: 

Henry James considered The Ambassadors his best, or perhaps his best-wrought, novel. It plays on the great Jamesian theme of Americans abroad, who finds themselves in an older, and some would say richer and more sophisticated, culture that that of the United States. The protagonist is Lambert Strether, a man in his fifties, editor of a small literary magazine in the manufacturing town of Woollett, Massachusetts, who arrives in Europe on a mission undertaken at the urging of his patron, Mrs. Newsome, to bring home her son Chadwick. That young man appears to be enjoying his time in Paris rather more than seems good for him, at least to those older and wiser. The novel, however, is really about Strether's education in this old world. One of his teachers is the city of Paris and its society, in which Chad Newsome has become so immersed. Yet for all its beauties and attractions, this is a real Paris, not an idealized one, a Paris with its own superficialities and dangers. From it Strether has much to learn, and its lessons are perhaps not always those that Chad himself has drawn, pleasant as they might at first seem.
Had Strether his life to live over again, knowing what he has now learned, how different would it be?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .P> Strether told Waymarsh all about it that very evening, on their dining together at the hotel; which needn't have happened, he was all the while aware, hadn't he chosen to sacrifice to this occasion a rarer opportunity. The mention to his companion of the sacrifice was moreover exactly what introduced his recital—or, as he would have called it with more confidence in his interlocutor, his confession. His confession was that he had been captured and that one of the features of the affair had just failed to be his engaging himself on the spot to dinner. As by such a freedom Waymarsh would have lost him he had obeyed his scruple; and he had likewise obeyed another scruple—which bore on the question of his himself bringing a guest.

Waymarsh looked gravely ardent, over the finished soup, at this array of scruples; Strether hadn't yet got quite used to being so unprepared for the consequences of the impression he produced. It was comparatively . . . Read More

Community Reviews

“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 posteri

A curious reading experience, and, in the end, a remarkable one. After banging my head against the first two hundred pages of this novel over several weeks, something suddenly clicked in. Was it James's bizarre, flourishing syntax? Or the sudden realization that this is a simple plot, presented comp

If I've figured the one thing about this novel for certain, that it is not a realistic novel. At least not in the sense of the 19th century. The people populating it are not real. Lets take the main character Lewis Lambert Strether (even the name is ridiculous). He arrives to Paris from Woollett, Ma

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: sl

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

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 b

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, i

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 Am

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