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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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3,856423,014 (3.74)215
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 215 mentions

English (41)  Italian (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
I can't concentrate this hard, at least now. Got about 5% into the book. Ran across a one hundred and sixteen word sentence, just a page or two after another 100 word sentence. It's not that I can't comprehend them, but it's too much work. Maybe someday?
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
Protagonist Lewis Lambert Strether agrees to travel to Paris to attempt to convince his fiancée’s wayward son, Chad, to return to the US to run the family business. What he finds in Paris is different than expected. Chad is a pleasant young man who has been positively influenced by his associations with a woman and her daughter. Strether meets the two and comes to enjoy their company. A new set of “ambassadors” is sent by his fiancée when Strether fails to obtain the desired action. Over the course of the story, Strether gradually changes his point of view, which in turn, changes what he values in life.

“His greatest uneasiness seemed to peep at him out of the imminent impression that almost any acceptance of Paris might give one’s authority away. It hung before him this morning, the vast bright Babylon, like some huge iridescent object, a jewel brilliant and hard, in which parts were not to be discriminated nor difference comfortably marked. It twinkled and trembled and melted together, and what seemed all surface one moment seemed all depth the next.”

Published in 1903, it was originally written as a serial in the North American Review. I think I may have appreciated it more if I had read it in its original form. As a novel, the primary drawback is that it does not flow very well, and there are many lengthy circuitous sentences. I did not enjoy it quite as much as James’s Portrait of a Lady, which I recommend reading ahead of this one, but overall, I enjoyed it and found it worth my time.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
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 |
  laplantelibrary | Apr 26, 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (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
Chancer, JohnNarratorsecondary 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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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

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