John McDermott

AUTHORS! AUTHORS!

The Year of Henry James

By

Harvill Secker 320pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

I had intended to start with the old gag that you wait ages for a novel about Henry James, then along come four – all at once. But David Lodge got there before me, which is partly typical of the wry, self-deprecating humour that makes The Year of Henry James such a terrific read.

What is great, or even enjoyable, in Henry James has largely passed me by. Back me into a corner with a copy of The Princess Casamassima and I will mumble, ‘When is something going to happen?’; show me The Golden Bowl and you see a grown man weep.

On the other hand, people I like and whose judgement I respect (David Lodge among them) tell me that James is the bee’s knees. OK, the fault is mine, maybe, and the loss is mine, but still… Give me a bunch of impressionable undergraduates and

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