Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Europeans by Henry James

The Europeans was James’s fourth novel which I enjoyed reading a good deal. It is easy going, short and fun to read without being over simplistic.

Felix and Eugenia are siblings from Europe who arrive in America to visit their relatives in the form of the New Englander Wentworth family. The Wentworth’s behave very graciously and welcome their foreign kin to live with them in one of the cottages on their property. What ensues is part romance, part comedy as the differences between the two cultures come to the fore.

The story is mostly set on the Wentworth estate which we rarely leave meaning the story is character driven with a lot of spoken dialogue which I always enjoy providing it’s done well (and Henry James does it well) the characters are developed thoroughly and drive the story along. There is also a good amount of humour.       

It certainly couldn’t be described as an exciting book but it isn’t boring either as the characters are interesting with a fair amount of tension in parts. My main criticism, which is small, is the occasional use of French without any provided translation (which is becoming a literary bugbear of mine) but other than that it was an enjoyable read.

I recommend it as a good introduction to Henry James novels

Final verdict 3/5



  1. I wasn't familiar with this James novel, but am adding it to my list now. Washington Square is still near the top of my tbr pile.

    1. Hi JoAnn, thanks for your comment :o)

      I enjoyed Washington Square more than The Europeans as it had a darker edge to it but it is worth picking it up

  2. I like what you said about it being short and fun but not overly simplistic.

    1. Thanks Ti, I hope you decide to read it :o)

  3. Hmm, the only Henry James I've read is Portrait of a Lady, which was utterly depressing but still solidly good. Not great, just good. The Europeans sounds similar, only perhaps less, well, not mediocre...Still, you don't exactly have me scrambling to read another of his works. But I'm sure I will read others. I believe his writing was sort of the end of realism, which places him on the frontier of American modernism--a period that thoroughly interests me. I think I prefer Edith Wharton, though. Good review, thank you for sharing!

  4. Jamie,

    Thanks for your comments, I've not read Portrait of a Lady but have read The Turn of the Screw which almost put me off James completely!

    I don't think The Europeans will ever be hailed as the best of his works but as a standalone book is was diverting enough. It isn't as good as Washington Square (another of his early efforts) which I recommend :o)