The Golden Bowl
By Henry James
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The Golden Bowl by Henry James ranked # 32 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
The Golden Bowl is a 1904 novel by Henry James. Set in England, this
complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some
critics have called the "major phase" of James' career. The Golden
Bowl explores the tangle of interrelationships between a father and
daughter and their respective spouses. The novel focuses deeply and
almost exclusively on the consciousness of the central characters,
with sometimes obsessive detail but also with powerful insight.
There's always been a fairly strong negative case against this novel,
beginning as far back as Rebecca West's assertion that "winter had
fallen on [James'] genius in The Golden Bowl." The naysayers have
criticized the heavy symbolism of the golden bowl, which is
eventually broken in a scene that may not quite come off effectively.
The favourable case asserts that the novel is a superb dramatization
of the stresses inherent in any marriage and the sometimes circuitous
methods required to overcome them. James' presentation of Maggie's
subdued but desperate struggle is much admired for its insight and
precision. The dialogue is often brilliant in its delicate
indirection, and many scenes are realized with the full impact of
James' most mature technique.
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