“When I am wicked I am in high spirits.”
When it comes to Victorian Literature I have read my fair share and still have plenty more wonderful pieces to read in the future. This was my second experience of reading a Henry James novel and I must say once again it did not fall short of being a wonderful read. This book has been on my TBR ever since I read my first Henry James’ novel which was The Portrait of a Lady back in 2016. So I would like to thank Oxford University Press for being so kind and sending me a copy in exchange for an honest and fair review.
The Europeans was written by Henry James and was first published in 1878. The story centres on (Official Blurb): “Eugenia, an expatriated American, is the morganatic wife of a German prince, who is about to reject her in favour of a state marriage. With her artist brother Felix Young she travels to Boston to visit relatives she has never before seen, in hopes of making a wealthy marriage. The men of Boston soon realize her deceitfulness, and she returns to Europe, feeling that her fortune-hunting scheme is impractical in unsusceptible America.”
There are so many things that I loved about this book. To the point I honestly don’t know where to start.
So I’m going to start with quite a big statement but one I am sticking by and that is the fact that James really is a master at finding the right setting to stage a scene. Not only does James know how to find the right setting to stage a scene within this novel but he most definitely knows how to write characters and settings in general. This novel is an early Henry James novel but that doesn’t stop it from packing a punch that is full of complexity and resonating depths. You could say that this novel is almost a comedy on the social behaviour of European people vs. American people during the 1800s. Throughout this novel financial and social advantage play quite a major part.
“The Baroness found it amusing to go to tea; she dressed as if for dinner. The tea-table offered an anomalous and picturesque repast; and on leaving it they all sat and talked in the large piazza, or wandered about the garden in the starlight.”
This short novel has such a simple story to it but it definitely is a compelling read. It is/would be a delightful introduction into the works of Henry James if you have never read any of his work before or just want to read more of his work in general. This novel as a whole is well-written; Henry James has such a beautiful way of writing. He also manages to capture the beautiful New England landscape, from the bleak springtime rain of the Boston public gardens to the bright blue skies that run over fields in the countryside.
As I stated above, this was my second Henry James novel and I’m definitely not disappointed and I can’t wait to read more of his work in the near future.
“There were several ways of understanding her: there was what she said, and there was what she meant, and there was something between the two, that was neither.”
Overall, The Europeans by Henry James is very readable with such vivid descriptions about upper class, 19th century New England life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone especially being that this beautiful little novel can easily be read in one or two sittings.
The edition that I read was published by Oxford University Press (2009)
(Image is my own please do not copy/take without permission first)