Although Henry James collaborated with others on a novel after this one, and also started a few others, this is the last complete novel that he produced in his lifetime. In his last stage of writing and development he once again goes back to his theme of Old World knowledge, and New World innocence. If you have never read any of James' works before, then this is not an ideal place to start, the story is quite long because it arguably goes into too much detail in places. Ever since it was first published this book has always been given a very mixed reception by critics, with some saying that it is a let down considering what James had written before.
The main plot idea is pretty simple, as arguably are all James'. Maggie Verver and her father are both American and rely on each other to the exclusion of all others, in some ways a kind of incestuous relationship, but a simple innocent one, not something sordid. They both get married, neither of them knowing about the relationships of their partners. When Maggie finds out she decides to take some kind of action. At the same time we have the Assinghams, husband and wife looking on at what is happening, or rather we have the wife who reports everything to her husband.
Taking in how people can innocently contribute to problems, and due to ignorance don't realise what is going on under their noses, this book is a detailed and quite charged look at marriage, and how people have to work hard to keep a marriage intact at times.
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