Henry James
The Ambassadors
There is no James like late James.  This author reaches the highest
peak of art in three final large-scale fictions:  
The Wings of the Dove,
The Golden Bowl and The Ambassadors (as well as shorter and unfairly
The Spoils of Poynton written shortly before these more
celebrated big novels).   These late works have a justified reputation
for dense prose and slow pacing -- for many years,
The Ambassadors
was published in various editions that reversed two of the chapters,
and it took decades before anyone noticed!   But these books repay
the effort they demand from the reader.   

While other novelists skate over the surface of things, James probes
deeply into the psychology of his characters.  In his hands, even
apparently innocent conversations are revealed to contain more
hidden agendas, strategies and tactical feints than a general's battle
plan.  Yet James's brilliance comes from the indirect way in which he
reveals these many layers.  His brother William may have written the
great textbook on psychology, but Henry is far more subtle.  His
characters' very souls are revealed, but only to the careful reader who
picks up the hints and clues that James embeds in the depths of his

The surface story of
The Ambassadors is a straight-forward one:  
Lambert Strether is sent to Paris to retrieve his fiancée's son Chad
Newsome, an American youth who has become
too fond of European
ways.   But, as always with late James, much more is going on below
the surface, and it soon becomes clear that the ambassador himself
may be the one who needs to be retrieved.  This rich novel brings
together all of the elements that James had spent decades probing,
especially the uneasy relationship between Old World ways and New
World practicality.  Yet here, in this first great novel of the twentieth
century, the author takes his familiar themes and develops them in
surprising new ways.