Editor reviews

For those who love Henry James, The Golden Bowl is often a favorite. For those who don’t, it may be better tolerated than some of the others. Whichever category is yours, this version is an ideal place to revisit your position on The Master. Katherine Kellgren does a miraculous job with James’s famously endless sentences. She keeps the rhythm and structure of each one clear without losing sight of its emotional content and its pace within the story - a feat something like running a hurdle course. Best of all, she creates vivid characters and makes the tensions among them truly absorbing as a sweet, rich American father and daughter find themselves in the toils of European sophisticates and in crisis everyone behaves beautifully.
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Summary

Published in 1904, The Golden Bowl is the last completed novel of Henry James. In it, the widowed American Adam Verver is in Europe with his daughter Maggie. They are rich, finely appreciative of European art and culture, and deeply attached to each other. Maggie has all the innocent charm of so many of James' young American heroines. She is engaged to Amerigo, an impoverished Italian prince; he must marry money, and as his name suggests, an American heiress is the perfect solution.
The golden bowl, first seen in a London curio shop, is used emblematically throughout the novel. Not solid gold but gilded crystal, the perfect surface conceals a flaw; it is symbolic of the relationship between the main characters and of the world in which they move.
Also in Europe is an old friend of Maggie's, Charlotte Stant, a girl of great charm and independence, and Maggie is blindly ignorant of the fact that she and the prince are lovers. Maggie and Amerigo are married and have a son, but Maggie remains dependent for real intimacy on her father, and she and Amerigo grow increasingly apart. Feeling that her father has suffered a loss through her marriage, Maggie decides to find him a wife, and her choice falls on Charlotte. Charlotte's affair with the prince continues, and Adam Verver seems to her to be a suitable and convenient match. When Maggie herself finally comes into possession of the golden bowl, the flaw is revealed to her, and, inadvertently, the truth about Amerigo and Charlotte.
Fanny Assingham (an older woman, aware of the truth from the beginning) deliberately breaks the bowl, and this marks the end of Maggie's innocence. She is no pathetic heroine-victim, however. Abstaining from outcry and outrage, she instead takes the reins and maneuvers people and events. She still wants to be with Amerigo, but he must continue to be worth having and they must all be saved further humiliations and indignities. To be a wife she must cease to be a daughter; Adam Verver and the unhappy Charlotte are banished forever to America, and the new Maggie will establish a real marriage with Amerigo.
Public Domain (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
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Critic reviews

“Katherine Kellgren does a miraculous job with James’s famously endless sentences. She keeps the rhythm and structure of each one clear without losing sight of its emotional content and its pace within the story—a feat something like running a hurdle course. Best of all, she creates vivid characters and makes the tensions among them truly absorbing as a sweet, rich American father and daughter find themselves in the toils of European sophisticates and in crisis everyone behaves beautifully.” ( AudioFile)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By CLR on 13-05-15

Wonderful story, poor reading

Would you be willing to try another one of Katherine Kellgren and Simon Prebble ’s performances?

Simon Prebble does a very good introduction.
I would not try another of Katherine Kellgren's readings.
The American characters sounded fine. The problem for me is that the Italian Prince is spoken with an accent which sounds east European and absolutely no similarity to a real Italian speaking English. The accent is so totally wrong that I found it impossible to continue listening. A shame as it is one of my favourite books.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Aquilina Christophorus on 25-04-17

Sticking to print, for now

What did you like best about The Golden Bowl? What did you like least?

Can't get beyond page 92.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Golden Bowl?

The shop scene, which I listened to three times, and read over twice. I believed it to be pivotal, but Katherine Kellgren failed to help me mark the moment.

Would you be willing to try another one of Katherine Kellgren and Simon Prebble ’s performances?

It probably depends on what Katherine is reading - a manual or sections from the encyclopedia perhaps? I never got to hear this Simon person at all.

Did The Golden Bowl inspire you to do anything?

Yes, I found a different audiobook company!

Any additional comments?

I am new to audiobooks and am still trying to figure out what works in audio and what seems not to work (any better) when read out loud. I was hoping, with the help of audio recordings, to get through my long list of must-read-classics a little faster, supported by the animation of a narrator. But the going has been slower than anticipated - for the Classics, at least. (At the same time, I have discovered more modern works, for which I would never have taken out the time to read in print.)

I am learning the difference between a text’s-text dependent on print and suited to scanning and a narrative-text that is best savoured by having it read out loud,. For now, for me, The Golden Bowl belongs to the former, which is not surprising, since here we have not much of a narrative flow. We have in James a writer who shows us he can write. What could be said flat out he prefers to work out in a round-about way. I believe there is a reason for this, but I failed to appreciate it in this recording. Katherine Kellgren's narration started to irritate me immensely (not just bore me). Why was that? I wondered long and hard.

How could I have expected anything different but steady, relentless ambling (if not beating around the bush) from this nineteenth century writer? It was no simpler to get a sense of going anywhere specific with Daisy Miller or What Masie Knew, or even The Turning of The Screw. But the Aspern Papers was a turning point for me: thanks to trying it in audio format. I was more than happy to amble along, listening to the narrator (a Librivox recording even!). I was sorry to return to my own century at the end of our walk. I am so eager to enjoy what is acclaimed as one of James’s best in the Bowl, that it frustrated me immensely when after two re-starts I threw in the towel. What was wrong with me?

The thing is we never ambled, Katherine and I: she put me on a trolley bus and drove me around the spots the Prince visited and I only sat up to pay attention when we sat down to listen in on the conversation in the salon between husband and wife, where she was forced to modulate for the (witty) dialogue. I then realised James was writing rather carefully, if without giving any pause, bombarding us with impressions you would have to cohese into a more tranquil whole at your own leisure. Katherine Kellgren had not suggested that to me.

I don’t want to give up, and I shan’t, but for now, I wish I could at least RETURN this audio narration and carry on with one of Jame’s other works (The Wings Of The Dove, perhaps, narrated by the always excellent Juliet Stevenson?) - but something about my account does not allow me to (too many returns already?). So for now an aborted attempt, although I aim to restart soon with an alternative narration I managed to find elsewhere - since Audible has no other options (Lee Ann Howlett, although probably also not my preferred narrator).

I think my personal preference would be a male narrator, with a not too overtly rhotic accent, maybe even British English to help ground us on British soil where the story takes place. I could definitely do without the Italian pastiche accent for the Prince that makes him sound a cliché of himself before he has even begun to define himself.

I am afraid I am going to write a similar review (with the same complaint regards the impossibility of return) for Lord Jim, by Conrad - but there I would have (plenty of) other narrators to choose from.

Even with the hard copy at hand for the Bowl, I was simply not managing to get beyond p. 92, which is nowhere yet, in light of the 464 pages. Yes, I returned to the print version all the time to help restore my attention, but to little avail. I never became involved and in the end the narrator irritated me with her stream of words.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with her voice, once you attune your ear to the American accent if you are a British-English speaker. Good diction, with a grasp of the text (if not the story), and you can tell from the sample, she sounds quite competent. Only I’d say she ultimately is not invisible enough to bring the characters alive. Perhaps, it is her lack of rhythm? I am afraid it is not a compliment for a narrator to say she seems to remain herself (little modulation) and after a while you realise you are listening to her and not the story she is telling.

For now, the printed version works better for me (but is slower going due to an eye complaint) but because so very little happens (it tries to set up a stream of consciousness and deliver marginal comments rather than objectively or directly narrate the character's experiences. The book form makes for a stage, rather than a film screen.) I would have liked to dream away on its musings and cadence and forgive the book its lack of dynamism thanks to an audio recording. I would not have minded a sense of tediousness or clautrophobia and stagnation, because apparently everybody feels trapped in this novel, somehow, in the vice of convention, tradition and circumstance - or the tension between that and the imminent socio-political changes (we know must take place at the turn of the century).

I am prepared to stroll very slowly through an Impressionistic painting but I don’t think the crisp patter of Ms. Kellgren is appropriate for me. Should I have grit my teeth for longer? And tried to find the male narrator mentioned; I am half intrigued.... But not enough for now.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Erez on 18-03-14

Collapses under the weight of its own brilliance

I have read several works by Henry James and usually like him very much. But something about The Golden Bowl didn't work for me. On the one hand, the mastery of the author is undeniable. On the other, I found the novel too indirect and ultimately unsatisfying. Though event do happen in the novel, James never references them directly; rather, he has the characters discuss in the vaguest possible terms their impressions of each other's musings on the reflections these events may have or would hypothetically have had on their elusive perceptions of some unspecified concepts.

What bothered me with this was not that it was hard to follow--I like difficult writing--but that, when you actually decode these infinitely intricate references you get characters that are not as deep or psychologically striking as the author seems to regard them. In other words, I felt that James had provided a brilliant analysis of characters not very convincing.

Consider this sentence, for example: "Her greatest danger, or at least her greatest motive for care, was the obsession of the thought that, if he actually did suspect [that she suspected he was unfaithful to her], the fruit of his attention to her couldn't help being a sense of the growth of her importance."

The narrator did an excellent job. Her characterizations are subtle but clear, and she uses a "Mid-Atlantic" accent which I think perfect for Henry James.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By ceelouise on 15-10-15

One of my top five novels

Would you listen to The Golden Bowl again? Why?

Yes! There is so much in every detail... I mean, it's James!

What other book might you compare The Golden Bowl to and why?

Only James can be compared to James. And only later James can be compared to the Golden Bowl. He is in a class on his own. However, George Eliot's Middlemarch was as inspiring, and Middlemarch's Dorothea is a heroine to me just as The Golden Bowl's Maggie is one. Maybe I could add Fanny from Jane Austen's Persuasion as another classic heroine, but really Dorothea and Maggie are most inspiring.

Oh, maybe Balzac is sort of a French Henry James. Lost Illusions was also very thick and dense in it's writing, but not quite as perfect.

Have you listened to any of Katherine Kellgren and Simon Prebble ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Katherine Kellgren was excellent! I wish she would read some more classic novels!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I don't know but I always think of the line that Maggie had "done all" when she rises above her situation and Charlotte's behavior. I read this with the Wall Street Journal Book Club and it was a joy to share with everyone.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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