Sunday, February 22, 2015

Two Stories from the 1870's (part 1)

Several times in my adult life, I tried to read a novel by Henry James; for one reason or another all failed. I tried again with one of his earlier and shorter works, "The Europeans". My Mother and Grandmother before her enjoyed the various novels of James; now at 66 years old, I have the life experience finally to glide through his complex literary composition (and enjoy it, even). Frankly, such dramatic works as "Downton Abbey" have given me a somewhat better understanding of the social world of upper class society people of the 19th and early 20th century.   The story is in  the style of a "drawing room comedy"; a pair of European adventurers, 33year old Baroness Eugenia
(about to be put aside by the family of her German princeling husband so he will make a better match) and her younger brother Felix (a talented and personable painter, sure of his ability to survive on his attributes) have arrived in Boston in the 1840's to introduce themselves to their distant American cousins, the Wentworths (a wealthy but complicated New England family) in hopes of increasing their fortunes. Eugenia plans to seek a better marriage for herself, Felix plans to paint the portraits of the family's rich American contacts at $100.00 a pop. Naturally, it's not as simple as that, though Felix, with his calm, laid-back attitude and youth, performs better than Eugenia, who can't seem to calm down and accept a match that appears just what she wants. I enjoyed Henry James' long winded but melodious composition-sentences as long as paragraphs and crafted beautifully with just the right edge-better than the plot. Some characters, like Felix, jump out of the pages with life; others like the Charlotte Wentworth seem "stick figures". But I will try another James novel if the right one comes along.

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