I have a hit and miss relationship with Henry James, but looking over his novella, Daisy Miller, I knew I could struggle through it long enough to finish should that be the case. Such was certainly the case when I read The Turn of the Screw. While Screw was a great premise, it made me want to pluck out every last fingernail.
I can happily report that Daisy Miller wasn't a struggle at all! And in the grand tradition of reading classics for weird and/or shallow reasons (like Pride and Prejudice because it played a key role in You've Got Mail) I had to read it because I inadvertently named my dog Daisy Miller. When we got her I struggled and waxed poetic about my reasons to want to name the dog something literary. At the end of the day I couldn't think of anything, and she looked like her name should be Daisy. Little did I realize at the time, I did name her something literary.
The Daisy Miller of the book is an uncultivated, flirty American girl. She's beautiful, she's charming, and she longs to be a part of high society even though her mother is a little "off," her brother is a snotty little brat, and American society living in Europe tends to think Daisy a little too big for her britches. When Winterbourne--an American man who runs in the same circles--meets her he can't decide if she knowingly balks at social conventions or if she's just clueless.
This book sort of reminded me of the beginning of all relationships. The way the simplest word or action can throw off one's internal balance and leave you reeling. Winterbourne is truly charmed by Daisy and chooses to overlook her unconventional approach to society--both polite female society and her seemingly kamikaze approach to relationships with men. Her naivety both attracts and repels Winterbourne right up until the novella's conclusion. I can't tell you much about that conclusion for fear of ruining the whole darn thing for potential readers, but it is quite the thoughtful ending.
So I'm 1/1 with Henry James. I really enjoyed this slim little volume. It certainly packs a punch for such a wee tiny little book. A good way to start 2009 I'd say!
Oh, and now that I've finished, my dog's name is doubly fitting. Sometimes I can't tell if she's really naive and clueless or just leading me on and playing me for treats.