Penguin, trade pb, 118 p.
Travelling in Europe with her family, Daisy Miller, an exquisitely beautiful young American woman, presents her fellow-countryman Winterbourne with a dilemma he cannot resolve. Is she deliberately flouting social conventions in the way she talks and acts, or is she simply ignorant of them? When she strikes up an intimate friendship with an urbane young Italian, her flat refusal to observe the codes of respectable behaviour leaves her perilously exposed. In Daisy Miller James created his first great portrait of an enigmatic and independent American woman, a figure who would come to dominate his later masterpieces.I haven’t read much by Henry James and I’ve had mixed results with what I have read. First was Washington Square, which I quite enjoyed, then a couple of years ago I read The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers but I really struggled with his prose in those. It turns out that this was a good choice to try more by James. It’s a novella, so it’s quite short, but it’s also one of his earlier works so it’s not bogged down in the dense, convoluted prose that he’s famous for later on. Even though short, the innocent, reckless Daisy becomes a very vivid character, especially in contrast to the proper Mr Winterbourne and the other representatives of society that so disapprove of her behaviour. This clash of American and European values is a theme that James apparently returned to again and again. Overall, this was very readable and a pleasant surprise. Someday I’ll actually have to attempt one of his longer novels.
Read Henry James online
My Rating: 3.5/5
(#37 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously, What’s in a Name Challenge)