Title: The Wings of the Dove
Author: Henry James
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics
Publication Date: 2009 (1901)
Source: Bought Copy
The Wings of the Dove
is a tale of desire and possession, of love and death. It is in essence a
simple story, but one that opens up the great subject of art: life
itself. To tackle this, James moves between fairytale storylines and the
startlingly modern techniques of his testing late style. An unspeakable
subtext lies beneath the silence. Distinct points of view and different
centres of consciousness betray the dislocation of the social facade
from the desolation beneath. For all the familiar signs, there is a gulf
between glamour and the underlying threat of loss.
triangle of romance is played out here like a game on an international
stage for the very highest stakes. It centres on 'the dying girl who
wants to live - to live and love.' But those closest to her are in
competition for what she can leave behind. Milly Theale, 'the heiress of
all the ages', is imaged as a dove, a princess, a Renaissance beauty,
but these symbols come at a dreadful cost. By the end of the novel we
know, 'We shall never be again as we were!' (Goodreads Synopsis)
Wings of the Dove, like most Henry James novels is both delightful and infuriating. It's delightful because the story and characters are wonderful, but infuriating because James' prose must be gone through with a fine-toothed comb. It's been a while since I last picked up one of his works and I'd forgotten about all those commas!
If you're deciding whether to read James' works, I can assure you they are worth the effort; however, it is an effort, as a definite dedication is required. This (and his other works) is not a book you can skim-read for ten minutes at a time and then set aside.