The Wings of the Dove

The Wings of the Dove

Book - 1997
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Random House, Inc.

Of the three late masterpieces that crown the extraordinary literary achievement of Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (1902) is at once the most personal and the most elemental.

James drew on the memory of a beloved cousin who died young to create one of the three central characters, Milly Theale, an heiress with a short time to live and a passion for experiencing life to its fullest. To the creation of the other two, Merton Densher and the magnificent, predatory Kate Croy, who conspire in an act of deceit and betrayal, he brought a lifetime's distilled wisdom about the frailty of the human soul when it is trapped in the depths of need and desire. And he brought to the drama that unites these three characters, in the drawing rooms of London and on the storm-lit piazzas of Venice, a starkness and classical purity almost unprecedented in his work.

Under its brilliant, coruscating surfaces, beyond the scrim of its marvelous rhetorical and psychological devices, The Wings of the Dove offers an unfettered vision of our civilization and its discontents. It represents a culmination of James's art and, as such, of the art of the novel itself.

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Baker & Taylor
Kate Croy and Merton Densher, poor and secretly engaged, try to encourage the interest of Milly Theale, a fatally ill young heiress

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c1997
ISBN: 9780679455127
Branch Call Number: F JAM
Characteristics: xxxvi, 508 p. ; 21 cm


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" One of the most characteristic traits of James's imagination is to see life in terms of mutually exclusive possibilities and negative alternatives. The typical problem faced by his characters is not so much a choice as a dilemma, in which any decision means some major sacrifice, capitulation,or surrender. For Kate, the dilemma rapidly becomes acute; she has accepted her position, even to the extent of questioning her own right to personal happiness, as the family pawn. at the same time it is only she who can or cares to preserve their collective dignity. To preserve means not to be abject, but not to be abject means in turn ' to prefer an ideal of behaviour--than which nothing ever was more selfish--to the possibility of stray crumbs for the four small creatures.' So that any way she turns, something, and something important, stands to be lost."

athompson10 Nov 22, 2015

This is Henry James at his most allusive and elusive. You have to read 200 pages before you even get five pages of uninterrupted dialogue between characters, and another 200 before anything happens (and this Modern Library version is 700 pages long). Is your patience rewarded? Somewhat, but I can't say that this was an enjoyable read at all.

Jan 20, 2014

As James's matured, his novels became denser and more difficult, favoring deep psychological insight, long, luxurious sentences and a complex, highly nuanced style. None of these elements make for easy reading exactly, but "The Wings of The Dove," often considered one of his greatest books, rewards those who stick with it, even if its 500 pages can exhaust the most intrepid reader. Also see "The Golden Bowl" and "The Ambassadors."


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