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10 Of The Best Henry James Novels

Take a look below for our list of 10 of the best Henry James novels.

1. The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan’s Magazine in 1880–81 and then as a book in 1881. It is one of James’s most popular novels and is regarded by critics as one of his finest.

2. Washington Square

Washington Square is a short novel written in 1880 by Henry James about a father’s attempts to thwart a romance between his naive daughter and the man he believes wishes to marry her for her money.

3. The Bostonians

The Bostonians is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Century Magazine in 1885–1886 and then as a book in 1886.

4. The Europeans

The Europeans: A sketch is a short novel by Henry James, published in 1878. It is essentially a comedy contrasting the behaviour and attitudes of two visitors from Europe with those of their relatives living in the ‘new’ world of New England. The novel first appeared as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly for July–October 1878. James made numerous minor revisions for the first book publication.

5. The Golden Bowl

The Golden Bowl is a 1904 novel by Henry James. Set in England, this complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some critics have called the “major phase” of James’s career. The Golden Bowl explores the tangle of interrelationships between a father and daughter and their respective spouses. The novel focuses deeply and almost exclusively on the consciousness of the central characters, with sometimes obsessive detail but also with powerful insight.

6. The Wings of the Dove

The Wings of the Dove is a 1902 novel by Henry James. It tells the story of Milly Theale, an American heiress stricken with a serious disease, and her effect on the people around her. Some of these people befriend Milly with honourable motives, while others are more self-interested.

7. Daisy Miller

Daisy Miller is a novella by Henry James that first appeared in The Cornhill Magazine in June–July 1878, and in book form the following year. It portrays the courtship of the beautiful American girl Daisy Miller by Winterbourne, a sophisticated compatriot of hers. His pursuit of her is hampered by her own flirtatiousness, which is frowned upon by the other expatriates when they meet in Switzerland and Italy.

8. What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Chap-Book and (revised and abridged) in the New Review in 1897 and then as a book later that year. It tells the story of the sensitive daughter of divorced, irresponsible and narcissistic parents. The book follows the title character from earliest childhood to precocious maturity.

9. The Apsern Papers

The Aspern Papers is a novella by American writer Henry James, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1888, with its first book publication later in the same year. One of James’s best-known and most acclaimed longer tales, The Aspern Papers is based on the letters Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Mary Shelley’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who saved them until she died. Set in Venice, The Aspern Papers demonstrates James’s ability to generate suspense while never neglecting the development of his characters.

10. The Tragic Muse

The Tragic Muse is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly in 1889-1890 and then as a book in 1890. This wide, cheerful panorama of English life follows the fortunes of two would-be artists: Nick Dormer, who throws over a political career in his efforts to become a painter, and Miriam Rooth, an actress striving for artistic and commercial success. A cast of supporting characters help and hinder their pursuits.

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