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The Ambassadors by Henry James

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by Henry James

The Ambassadors is a novel by Henry James, originally published 1903 as a series. It follows one Lambert Strether to Europe as he searches for his wealthy fiancee's son Chad Newsome, who's gone AWOL in Paris. The boy is supposed to be at home participating in the family business, but has clearly legged it abroad to have some fun. Once in Paris, Strether finds the boy, who is doing fine and living well, and is shown around and introduced to various intriguing characters. Eventually Strether's impressions of Parisian life, and culture (aka women) get the better of him, and he starts to wonder whether he's frittered away his days. He doesn't return home as promised, and convinces the newly transformed Chad to stay, until the impatient Ms. Newsome sends new "ambassadors" to Europe to try to fetch her son. What ensues is a subtle and moving drama written by a master of realist fiction.

That said, Henry James is not for everyone. If you've read him and love him, carry on. Certain critics like E.M. Forster let him have it for his prudish avoidance of anything deemed controversial, and considered his style obscure and difficult, with extremely long sentences and overly latinate language. Thus The Ambassadors (and nearly all James) shouldn't be read by high-schoolers or even undergrads who are faint of heart. This book in particular might be reserved until one gains a goodly amount of life experience, say, like in ones fifties. If this hasn't scared you off, then have at this novel - it's brilliant, latter period work by a master of fiction.

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