The Wings of the Dove
Around 450 pages
When I am not following the List chronologically, I like to pick two authors and alternate between their works. Usually, a good guy/bad guy dynamic forms between the two writers dueling for my affections. Recently, I bounced between Iain Banks (the good guy) and Joseph Conrad (the bad guy). Before that, I was switching between Virginia Woolf (the good guy) and Henry "Why Won't This End" James.
Kate Croy and Merton Densher desperately want to marry, but lack the means to live the lifestyle Kate desires. Kate is stuck living with her bossy aunt Maud, while she plots a way to escape her circumstances. Enter Milly Theale, who is also in love with Densher, but is suffering from a deadly disease. Kate wants Merton to secure Theale's fortune before she passes, using that hot bod of his (Henry's words, not mine).
Doesn't that sound like an interesting story? Almost Shakespearean. And yet, James manages to sap all of the drama from his plot with his insufferable prose. I am not one of those people who think you should be charged by the syllable; sometimes there is a time and place for intricacy. But plenty of other authors do it better. I get the sense he just didn't know how to edit, and wasn't able to kill his darlings.
Not the worst James novel on the List, but entirely skippable.
Milly is based on James' cousin, who died of tuberculosis.
James was critical of the novel's structure. Omg same.
UP NEXT: The Immoralist by Andre Gide. A short read, so a short waiting time between posts!