Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Daisy Miller, by Henry James

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.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one! :)

  2. Glad that your 2009 reads are off to a good start. I think it's actually really cute that your dog is named after a book! :)

  3. This sounds interesting. And how cute that your dog fits the name :)

  4. After trying The Wings of the Dove, I'm quite sure I will not be reading anymore Henry James!!

    Glad you liked this one though!

  5. "I had to read it because I inadvertently named my dog Daisy Miller."

    lol! Best reason ever. And you so made me want to read this.

  6. i love when books help us sort out the meanings in our lives...the book/dog comparison is awesome! :-)

  7. Awesome! I love animals with literary names! My cat is a gay southern male (or maybe he is just a dandy) and his name is Beauregard Fitzgerald Capote. It seems to fit him. Now if I could just find him a linen suit.....

  8. You've almost made me want to try James again...almost.

  9. I really liked Daisy Miller and Washington Square, but Wings of a Dove made me want to pluck my eyes out! I still can't believe that I finished it.

  10. Eva, thanks!

    Lena, I think it's cute, too. I just wish I could say it was intentional in this case. lol

    Samantha, she's alllll Daisy Miller.

    Stephanie, thanks for the warning!

    LOL, read it, Nymeth! It won't take you any time.

    Thanks, Julie! I couldn't help myself. They're so alike!

    Amanda, your cat's name is dandy indeed! I love me a gay man, so why not a gay cat?

    LOL, Chris. It's short!

    KnittingReader, I can't believe you finished it either. Your poor eyes!! I'll have to try Washington Square. It's probably around here somewhere too.

  11. I just finished this book two days ago and haven't written my review yet. I'm with you, though. It was a lot of fun. I really liked Mr. Winterbourne's Aunt. She was a crack-up.

    You may want to go to his short stories next. That's where I started. I'm still afraid of trying his novels at this point, but I may do Washington Square next.

  12. I've never read any Henry James. I may have to try this one. I'm trying to intersperse small doses of Ye Olde Serious And Respected Literature in amongst all my other reading this year, so this may be a good fit.

  13. C.B., short stories are a good idea. I can definitely slog through those even if I'm not particularly entertained. And yes, I agree with you completely about Winterbourne's aunt. She was a hoot!

    LOL, Ali! I do the same thing with Ye Olde Serious And Respected Literature. I hope this one works for you!

  14. I'm glad you ended up liking this one, especially since it's unintentionally Daisy's namesake. Like you I really didn't like The Turn of the Screw. But Daisy Miller made me have hope that maybe I can read something else by James someday. Sounds like Wings of the Dove is one to avoid though.

  15. One of these days I will read this book! :)

    I've heard so many people say Henry James is a bit hit or miss too.

  16. I liked this one too, Andi, although I think Turn of the Screw sticks out more in my memory.


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