Henry James's story of a pair of adulterous lovers who are married, respectively, to a rich American collector of European art and to his inexperienced daughter, provides - beyond its expensive, burnished, beautifully appointed exteriors - an understanding of the risks and betrayals inherent in society that is unparalleled in literature. The Golden Bowl, his last published, novel written in the first years of the twentieth century, represents a culmination not only of its author's magnificent art, but also of the art of fiction itself.
The wealthy American widower Adam Verver and his shy daughter, Maggie, live in Europe, closely tied through their love of art and their mutual admiration. Maggie's future seems assured when she becomes the wife of a charming, though impoverished, Italian prince. But when Adam marries his daughter's friend Charlotte Stant, unaware that she is the prince's mistress, the stage is set for a complex and indirect battle between the two wives. The brilliant Charlotte is determined to keep her lover, while Maggie is determined to protect her beloved father from any knoweldge of their shared betrayal.
The acuity with which Henry James calibrates the four characters' delicately shifting alliances and documents the maturation of a naïve young woman marks this as a magnificent achievement. The Golden Bowl was not only James's last major work but also the novel in which his unparalleled gift for psychological drama reached its height.
Introduction by Denis Donoghue
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