Preskoči na glavni sadržaj

Daisy Miller, a novella by Henry James (book recommendation and review)


Daisy Miller saw its first publication in a magazine in 1878. One year later, in 1879 it was published in a book form. I first read Daisy Miller when I was a student and I took an instant liking to it. I would say that Daisy Miller is a great introduction to Henry James. This book is not only shorter, but also less complex than other works of his that I have read. However, it bears a close resemblance to his novels and explores similar themes. Having previously read The Portrait of a Lady, I found it hard not to compare the two.  Moreover, while I was reading Daisy Miller I experienced, perhaps predictably, a feeling of déjà vu.  


Annie Miller aka Daisy is, just like Isabelle the heroine of his novel The Portrait of a Lady, an American girl visiting Europe for the first time. We could say that both girls are ‘discovering’ not only Europe but themselves for isn’t there something about travel that can make us open our eyes? One could argue that travel always makes us compare and revaluate things, and while we are about it, perhaps we could also add that travelling can make us learn something about ourselves? Youth is all about trying to discover who we are.  In addition, when one is young, everything can feel like a discovery.


If one wants to write a novel that comments on society, a young woman always makes for a good protagonist. Why? Because society is especially diligent when it comes to paying attention to young ladies. This attention is not always a positive one, indeed, our society can be quite judgmental when it comes to young women. Young ladies are the ones who have to keep ‘their reputation intact’. They are expected to behave accordingly to certain society rules, and while the society rules of this novel may seem ‘archaic’ to a modern reader, one can still appreciate the sharp contrast between personal desires and social norms.



 The description of pressure that society can put on an individual is often a part of James’ writing. The relationship between our social and individual identity is always an interesting subject. Henry James excels at portraying the society and emphasizing the social pressure on individual. James’ dialogues are always well written and natural sounding, but at the same time they capture the social norms with finesse. In this novel James compares and contrasts American and European society on more levels than one.



The novel opens up in Switzerland with Daisy meeting a fellow American Fredrick, who falls in love with her shortly. Daisy is not approved of by his aunt. Fredrick seems to be uncertain of his views of Daisy, but remains attracted to her. They socialize and spend some time together, but eventually Fredrick has to leave Daisy who invites him to visit her in Rome. They do meet in Rome, but there Daisy has made a new friend, a young Italian man nobody seems to approve of.





I would lie if I said that I cared deeply about what happened to Daisy. I cared, but not that much, it was more a feeling of detachment than indifference. Naturally, I was sad to see Daisy treated unfairly but I couldn’t relate to her fully, because I found it hard to figure out who Daisy really was. Was Daisy provocative or was she just stubborn? Was she daring or was she just a flirt? Henry James is ever the master of ambiguity and while I usually enjoy the elusiveness of his writing, in this case I think there just wasn’t enough space for proper character development. With this book James manages to capture our attention, create a credible character and build a tragic story around her, but the writer doesn’t attempt a complex character study. Perhaps this decision only makes sense considering the length and the organization of the book. Speaking of the plot and the narrative, the ending was somewhat abrupt, but perhaps only more powerful because of that.





James' prose flows as beautifully as ever. His sentences are elegant and well crafted, his social observations clever and to the point. Is it enough? Quite frankly, for me it is. This novella was a wonderful read. It lacked the depth and the complexity of A Portrait Of a lady, but it makes for a lovely read. The story is somewhat predictable, yet by the time I finished reading this novella, I was glad I read it. It sure wasn't a wasted effort. It wasn’t much of an effort at all. Daisy Miller was easy to read, an enjoyable book with enough food for the thought. I would recommend it to all fans of Henry James as well as those who want to read more of him but lack the time or the motivation to tackle his longer works.











Popularni postovi s ovog bloga

Lontano dal mio paese, Lorenza Cozzolino (recensione libro)

Ciao tutti! Oggi  sul blog vi parlo del un libro molto rilevante e importante per i nostri tempi. Lontano dal mio paese è stata una lettura molto piacevole.A me questo libro è piaciuto molto.Vi chiedo pardon per i errori grammaticali nella mia recesione (la mia prima recensione scritta in italiano!), sto ancora imparando l'italiano. 


Sul sito Amazon ho trovato questa descrizione di Lontano dal mio paese: La storia di Anna e’ la storia di tutti i giovani italiani, che in questi anni sbattono la testa per vedere realizzati i propri sogni e resi concreti quelli che sono i loro diritti. Poi, se come lei sei nato a Napoli, la situazione è ancora più complicata, perché non solo devi combattere con la società, ma anche con tutto il marcio che ci gira intorno. (link)
Lontano Dal Mio Paese è un romanzo amaro, ma bellissimo. Ho letto con piacere e con una sensazione che ascolto un racconto di una amica. Questo romanzo, con la sua struttura narrativa tradizionale (cronologica) è molto facile d…

Invisible cities by Italo Calvino (book review and recommendation)

Invisible Cities is a novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. Originally published in  1972, this novel remains popular with modern readers. Before I get to the review, I have a confession to make. I'm actually using a few photographs from another book (written in Italian) because I have listened to an audio version of this book. I could find and repost a photograph of this book, but what would be the point? I prefer to use my own book photography, because it feels more authentic.





I listened to an audio version of this book twice (which technically puts it into a 'reread' category), for two days in a row, while I was working on a new painting. The painting turned out pretty much perfect, should I thank Calvino for that? I'm not kidding, perhaps the beauty of his prose really helped (or somehow improved) my painting process. It is not such a far fetched idea as it might seem at first. The first time I listened to this book, I was mostly focused on the form that is to say…

Book review and recommendation: Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is an author that never fails to impress me. Her magical writing style always captures my attention, while her characters capture my heart. Still what I'm enamoured the most (when it comes to Allende's writing) are her poetical passages and meditations on life. Allende's an unique writing gift. 
Having previously read four of her novels ( The House of the Spirits , Of Love and Shadows , Daughter of Fortune and Zorro ) , I can't deny having certain expectations when it came to this author. Sometimes we dive into book blissfully unaware of where it might take us. Other times, we have expectations (not to say prejudice). Being already familiar with the writer is both a blessing and a course. Having been (already) accustomed to someone's writing style might make the reading easier. Similar like with friends, we're ready to pardon things to writers we love. On another hand, if our expectations are high, we might end up disappointed.

At this point, I t…