The latest spin challenge by the Classics Club landed on number 13 which means I have ended up with Washington Square & Daisy Miller by Henry James.
This is not exactly welcome news since my last – actually my only – experience with him wasn’t a huge success. I read Portrait of a Lady for a literature course I took about three years ago. It was so S..L..O..W. We had about two pages in which the central character seemed to do nothing other than stand in a doorway and look onto a group of people in a garden. I think there may have been some action in the form of the opening of an umbrella but then, maybe that was just wishful thinking.
To be fair, I read it a second time and warmed to it rather more though I wouldn’t race to do another read. Another person taking the same course raved about James and kept insisting that I should give him another chance. She recommended The Ambassadors as the best example of his later works but I didn’t think I was up to a full blown novel right away so I opted for the novellas Washington Square and Daisy Miller.
Washington Square, based on a true story, was published originally in 1880 as a serial in Cornhill Magazine and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. It’s described as a structurally simple tragicomedy about the conflict between a dull but sweet daughter and her brilliant, unemotional father.
Daisy Miller dates from 1878 and it portrays the courtship of a beautiful American girl called Daisy Miller by Winterbourne, a sophisticated compatriot of hers. His pursuit of her is hampered by her own flirtatiousness, which is frowned upon by the other expatriates when they meet in Switzerland and Italy.
I’ll either become a fan of James by reading these or will have my feeling confirmed that he’s just not my kind of thing.