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Daisy Miller (1878)
by Henry James
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A minor early Henry James but apparently a must-read for fans. Now that I've read it I can see why. ( )
This novella packs a huge punch for it's eighty pages!
Daisy Miller is a rebel. She does what she wants when she wants with whomever she wants. Winterbourne (how's that for a first name?!), part of 'the upper crust' is fascinated with her & to the horror of his relatives follows her across Europe. Alas though, in the end, Daisy Miller is a danger to herself.
I really enjoyed this book. It was an interesting study on the manners of The New World vs the old. At the start of the book I thought she & her brother were a pair of spoilt brats that totally took advantage of their sick Mother's unwillingness to create friction (& they were in the eyes of society). But at the same time, when you think about the social restrictions put on young ladies in that era, it's sort of understandable. Makes you wonder what inspired Henry James to write this. In a way though I disagree a bit on her being labelled common & 'uncultivated' (?!) as towards the end of the novel it turns out she was a bit uninformed of the customs. Granted she didn't care but still!
I really enjoyed the richness of the language of this story. Modern language doesn't have the same richness to it.
Ultimately, this story is about a young woman determined to live life by her own rules & not the rules & expectations forced on young ladies at the time.
In fairness this is my first work by Henry James, hence given his literary acclaim perhaps he is an acquired taste.
I found this novella surprisingly readable given its age. Unfortunately, the storyline was simplistic, with very shallow characters and a lack of any depth overall. None of the characters were interesting or particularly likable (or dislikable for that matter). As a result, the ending which I assume is meant to strike the reader as profound left me feeling completely unmoved.
Presumably James’ other works are higher quality.
In 2021 I read two major novels and several novellas by Henry James, after finishing an anthology of shorter fiction by James in September 2020. I have several volumes of tales or novellas of Henry James, and there is some overlap between them. Following my reading of four works earlier this year, I started in Tales of Henry James, that is the Norton Critical Edition. This volume comprises 9 novellas and short stories. The Norton Critical Edition also contains about 200 pages of literary criticism. I do not always enjoy reading that, but this edition contains Henry James long essay "The Art of Fiction" and his Prefaces and excerpt from the notebooks with introductions to his own novels.
At first I was determined only to read the short stories and novellas which I have not yet read, but reading the additional materials spurred me on to re-read some of the novellas. So although I first read Daisy Miller in September 2020, I reread it this year.
The rereading was just as fresh and just as enjoyable as the first-time reading, only a year ago. The Norton Critical Edition provides notes which the Penguin English Library lacks, which gave more depth and a better understanding of the story.
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Henry James: Daisy Miller * Washington Square * Portrait of a Lady * The Bostonians * The Aspern Papers by Henry James (indirect)
Daisy Miller, The Aspern Papers, The Turn of the Screw, The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James (indirect)
Four Selected Novels of Henry James by Henry James (indirect)
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Wikipedia in English (1)
Originally published in The Cornhill Magazine in 1878 and in book form in 1879, Daisy Miller brought Henry James his first widespread commercial and critical success. The young Daisy Miller, an American on holiday with her mother on the shores of Switzerland’s Lac Leman, is one of James’s most vivid and tragic characters. Daisy’s friendship with an American gentleman, Mr. Winterbourne, and her subsequent infatuation with a passionate but impoverished Italian bring to life the great Jamesian themes of Americans abroad, innocence versus experience, and the grip of fate. As Elizabeth Hardwick writes in her Introduction, Daisy Miller “lives on, a figure out of literature who has entered history as a name, a vision.”
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.4 — Literature English (North America) American fiction Later 19th Century 1861-1900
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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.
2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.
Editions: 190917579X, 1909175803
An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.