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The American

Henry James

Book Overview: 

One of James’s early novels, The American plunges right in to one of the writer’s most enduring subjects, that of the innocent, or at least inexperienced, American abroad, seeking to come to terms with the social customs and conventions of an old European aristocracy. The aptly named Christopher Newman, having made a small fortune from business in California, has come to the Old World for the first time, determined to enlarge his experience by learning all he can of it. In Paris he meets an old acquaintance, Tom Tristram, who (though he himself has little interest in educating himself about Europe) shows him around, and introduces him to the young widow Claire de Cintre, whose family – the aristocratic de Bellegardes – distrust his American brashness and commercialism. Claire, nonetheless, agrees to marry him, thus pulling Newman, rather more deeply than he is prepared for, into a society that closely guards its secrets, and forcing him to face new and quite unexpected questions.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .East, and keep rolling the names of Eastern cities under my tongue: Damascus and Bagdad, Medina and Mecca. I spent a week last month in the company of a returned missionary, who told me I ought to be ashamed to be loafing about Europe when there are such big things to be seen out there. I do want to explore, but I think I would rather explore over in the Rue de l'Universite. Do you ever hear from that pretty lady? If you can get her to promise she will be at home the next time I call, I will go back to Paris straight. I am more than ever in the state of mind I told you about that evening; I want a first-class wife. I have kept an eye on all the pretty girls I have come across this summer, but none of them came up to my notion, or anywhere near it. I should have enjoyed all this a thousand times more if I had had the lady just mentioned by my side. The nearest approach to her was a Unitarian minister from Boston, who very soon demanded a separation, for incompatibility of . . . Read More

Community Reviews

I wasn't sure I would like any of Henry James' work after reading the acclaimed The Portrait of a Lady and being unable to finish it. Even now, I pulled it off my shelf to give it another go and still, I can't just yet. Portrait of a Lady is a novel said to be one of the greatest 19th Century Am...more


On a lovely day in May, 1868, Christopher Newman, a wealthy American businessman, sits down in the Louvre with an aesthetic headache, having seen too many paintings.
A young Parisian copyist, Noémie Nioche, catches his eye, and he agrees to buy the paint...more

Es una novela que esta bien escrita, pero que me ha dejado algo indiferente. Quiero pensar que es porque este no era el momento para leer este libro.
Sin embargo me anima a leer más cosas de James, puesto que sé que esta no es de sus obras maestras.

I have felt with "The American" as if I had been watching a balloon inflating. As it gradually gained shape, as this shape expanded and expanded, and as its surface became more and more tense, I experienced a similar tension in my nerves. I was absolutely glued to the pages of this novel out of w...more

Prima di addentrarmi in una specificazione vorrei riassumere brevemente la trama di questo romanzo.
L’americano del titolo è Christopher Newman, un quarantenne di bell’aspetto, molto facoltoso. il quale va in Europa deciso a trovare la migliore delle mogli. Si innamora, ricambiato, di una donna i...more

The American was my second dip into early Henry James, after Roderick Hudson, his very first, published in 1875. The American is a little later; it appeared in 1877, although James seems to have rewritten it quite extensively in 1907 for the New York edition of his collected works. I read it in t...more

In the most recent installment of my review of the short story anthology I'm currently reading, I couldn't resist being quite snarkily critical of the (to me) unreadable Henry James selection there, which I noted shows him at his worst. So I thought it only fair to offer a review of a work that s...more

An American millionaire businessman arrives in Paris, Christopher Newman, in 1868, to get "Culture," and find the perfect wife, after all he's 36 and lonely, and while walking through the gigantic Louvre museum, the tired man sits down, he views the magnificent paintings surrounding him on the wa...more

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