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July 30, 2010

Anatomy of a society

Henry James:
The Wings of the Dove
(1902)


It’s the good old story of the classic 19. European (not just only the English) upper-middle class society. There are two young people a man and a woman, they love each other, but the circumstances don’t allow them to marry and live together. Well "circumstances" means money mostly, but this is not the only one thing. The virtue of the novels by Henry James is, that they show us, this is a whole system of the circumstances and motivations, and sometimes people have really just a little freedom to decide what to do, because nobody is an island, people have influences on each other. Well, that’s life.

So, in the story Wings of the Dove the two young people are Kate McCoy and Merton Densher, they living in London. Kate is living by her aunt, Maud Lowder. The good old woman has “plans” with her niece, a good marriage, of course, but not with Merton, although he is also a gentleman, but not an important, influential and rich one.

Into their world comes a young and very rich American young woman, Milly Theale, who is suffering from a serious illness. Merton meets her first in the US. when her working as correspondent there. Kate and her aunt meets the American girl later in London. Well, soon there is a plan, what if Merton would marry Milly, and get her money. After Milly’s death he would be very rich and could marry Kate. A vicious and evil idea, which I think is not really suits Merton’s honest character.

He doesn’t marry Milly, but he gets a lot of money after the gilrs’s dead. So, there is a chance to live together with Kate, but thing will be no more the same, this love between Kate and Merton has it’s end after all.

Henry James’ novel shows us the anatomy of a very strong self-regulating society, where every little thing has it’s very important meanings, even how to send a letter to an unmarried woman, a society, which’s members know their degree of freedom, the edges of their life and they talking about a lot. For us , who living in the 21. century it’s sometimes too much.

But on the other hand we can learn about those good old days from James’s novels a lot.

I’ve seen several times the movie adaptation of this novel with Helena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache. Reading the book I realized after cca 100 pages, I really want to read only those 2 or 3 scenes which I really love in the movie. Unfortunately, the book is quite different to the film (which is normal, but in this case I’m a bit disappointed), so, I couldn’t find those nice and really emotional moments. On the other hand, I know for sure now, the last scene of the movie means Merton doesn’t love Kate anymore, and there is no hope to get the old feeling back.

This review was written for The books to read before I die 2010 challenge
You can see my list ofr this challenge here....

3 megjegyzés:

Brenda said...

This sounds like a really interesting story.
I love the classics. This is one I haven't read. I may check it out soon.

Marie said...

I loved that movie so much, but when I tried to read the book it just didn't hold my attention. PORTRAIT OF A LADY, on the other hand, was magnificent!

Anni said...

Thanks for the comments.
@Brenda, reading classic novels is always a great pleasure for me

@Marie, unfortunatelly, I felt something like you during reading this novel, and yes, the Portrait of a Lady was much more magnificent.

 
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