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The Ambassadors (1903)

by Henry James

Other authors: Francis Wilson (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,584392,861 (3.72)214
This complex tale of self-discovery -- considered by the author to be his best work -- traces the path of an aging idealist, Lambert Strether. Arriving in Paris with the intention of persuading his young charge to abandon an obsession with a French woman and return home, Strether reaches unexpected conclusions.… (more)
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» See also 214 mentions

English (38)  Italian (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Maybe a little bit too subtle; I sometimes felt I was drowning in obscure idioms, euphemisms, and circumlocution. Still, few authors handle entrapment as brilliantly as Henry James. ( )
  gtross | May 15, 2022 |
I am nearly now at the end of the marathon Henry James readathon that a I began two years ago. Only two books of tales and two novels to go.

The Ambassadors marks the halfway point of James’s final great trilogy of novels, bookended by Wings of a Dove and The Golden Bowl. It tells the tale of Lambert Strether, a middle-aged Bostonian of unclear means (but probably meagre ones) who is despatched to Paris to bring back the son of Mrs. Newsome, his sort-of fiancée - it is never quite clear whether a betrothal has taken place, but then it’s never quite clear with Strether what has taken place. He’s one of James’s great late portraits of middle age - insecure, unhappy, uncertain, finding contentment at part in Paris, its streets and its art but most of all its sensibilities. In this he is like Mrs Newsome’s errant son Chad, who he finds an apparently more likeable and more grounded and rounded person than he remembered, made rich by the example of Paris and more specifically of Madame de Vionnet, an exquisite woman with a grown daughter, whose marital status is uncertain.

And that’s the point of the project for James, I think. Everything in this book is uncertain, contingent, ambiguous. Every single character is unreliable - or at least their motives are murky. It’s actually a triumph of sustained control but it does make it hard to relate, to anyone - at least until towards the end, when Strether decides to return to America and give up all he has gained. I feel the ending is meant to be tragic - but I’m not even sure about that. ( )
  lloydshep | Nov 4, 2021 |
Paris and illicit love good or bad?
  ritaer | Jan 7, 2021 |
My second time through, and I'm happy to find that I still love the thing to bits, and for the reasons I love all James: it's not about what happens, it's about coming to understand why it happens. Were I being over the top and polemical, I would say: all novels worth reading, since this one, have done precisely that. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
There are long stretches of crushing dullness, but the amount of detail, the sense James has for the most subtle feelings/moods/"situations"/"types" are breathtaking. Something about the book is monstrous.
1 vote slplst | Jun 23, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (43 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wilson, FrancisIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bannister, PhilipIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edel, LeonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edel, LeonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levin, HarryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poole, AdrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stallman, R.W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Strether's first question, when he reached the hotel, was about his friend; yet on his learning that Waymarsh was apparently not to arrive till evening he was not wholly disconcerted.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This complex tale of self-discovery -- considered by the author to be his best work -- traces the path of an aging idealist, Lambert Strether. Arriving in Paris with the intention of persuading his young charge to abandon an obsession with a French woman and return home, Strether reaches unexpected conclusions.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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