"His life, his life! — Strether paused anew, on the last flight, at this final rather breathless sense of what Chad’s life was doing with Chad’s mother’s emissary. It was dragging him, at strange hours, up the staircases of the rich; it was keeping him out of bed at the end of long hot days; it was transforming beyond recognition the simple, subtle, conveniently uniform thing that had anciently passed with him for a life of his own."
My main issue with this novel is how psychological
it is; simply put, James makes 500+ pages out of a molehill (or so it seems for a large part of the novel), and expects us to enjoy protagonist's constant self-examination. At some point I even resorted to frantic googling to make sure no nuances of the situation, obviuos to the characters, eluded me (as far as I can tell, none did).
I can grasp the concept - thin plot being an excuse for presenting Strether's quiet drama, as he discovers, late in life (how old is he, by the way? probably in his fifties) that he prefers the Old World charm, understatedness, and sophistication to the New World's black and white perception of the world (at some point, he compares his Massachusetts fiancee to an iceberg).“That, you see, is my only logic. Not, out of the whole affair, to have got anything for myself.”
Finally, Strether makes a decision that will cost him a safe and affluent future, is disappointed in people whose lifestyle he chose to defend, and even rejects love and companionship of his charming female sidekick.
Still, if not for the fact that Strether had me at 'hello', and that the writing was superb, I think I could have abandoned this book. After a very good beginning, I did not care what would happen next for much of the second part of the novel, and kept reading only because I couldn't stop, and was rewarded; the last book is exquisite.
A piece of Woolett trivia: