The Ambassadors (Penguin Classics)

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9780140432336: The Ambassadors (Penguin Classics)

Concerned that her son Chad may have become involved with a woman of dubious reputation, the formidable Mrs. Newsome sends her 'ambassador' Strether from Massachusetts to Paris to extricate him. Strether's mission, however, is gradually undermined as he falls under the spell of the city and finds Chad refined rather than corrupted by its influence and that of his charming companion, the comtesse de Vionnet. As the summer wears on, Mrs. Newsome comes to the conclusion that she must send another envoy to Paris to confront the errant Chad, and a Strether whose view of the world has changed profoundly. James' favourite novel and one of the greatest of his late works, "The Ambassadors" is a subtle and often witty exploration of different American responses to a European environment.

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Review:

The Ambassadors, which Henry James considered his best work, is the most exquisite refinement of his favorite theme: the collision of American innocence with European experience. This time, James recounts the continental journey of Louis Lambert Strether--a fiftysomething man of the world who has been dispatched abroad by a rich widow, Mrs. Newsome. His mission: to save her son Chadwick from the clutches of a wicked (i.e., European) woman, and to convince the prodigal to return to Woollett, Massachusetts. Instead, this all-American envoy finds Europe growing on him. Strether also becomes involved in a very Jamesian "relation" with the fascinating Miss Maria Gostrey, a fellow American and informal Sacajawea to her compatriots. Clearly Paris has "improved" Chad beyond recognition, and convincing him to return to the U.S. is going to be a very, very hard sell. Suspense, of course, is hardly James's stock-in-trade. But there is no more meticulous mapper of tone and atmosphere, nuance and implication. His hyper-refined characters are at their best in dialogue, particularly when they're exchanging morsels of gossip. Astute, funny, and relentlessly intelligent, James amply fulfills his own description of the novelist as a person upon whom nothing is lost. --Rhian Ellis

Book Description:

Henry James considered his late novel The Ambassadors (1903) 'quite the best, 'all round'' of all his works. This volume based on the first book edition provides extensive annotations, a detailed textual history of the work and a full introduction exploring the novel's literary, cultural and historical contexts.

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Published by Penguin Classics (1987)
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