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The Wings of the Dove [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Henry, Jr. James , William Hope
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 6 2007 9626343907 978-9626343906 Abridged edition
When Milly, a beautiful and fabulously wealthy American meets the equally beautiful, but impoverished Kate, materialism, romance, self-delusion and ultimately fatal illness, contaminate their glamorous social whirl.

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The Wings of the Dove is a classic example of Henry James's morality tales that play off the naiveté of an American protagonist abroad. In early-20th-century London, Kate Croy and Merton Densher are engaged in a passionate, clandestine love affair. Croy is desperately in love with Densher, who has all the qualities of a potentially excellent husband: he's handsome, witty, and idealistic--the one thing he lacks is money, which ultimately renders him unsuitable as a mate. By chance, Croy befriends a young American heiress, Milly Theale. When Croy discovers that Theale suffers from a mysterious and fatal malady, she hatches a plan that can give all three characters something that they want--at a price. Croy and Densher plan to accompany the young woman to Venice where Densher, according to Croy's design, will seduce the ailing heiress. The two hope that Theale will find love and happiness in her last days and--when she dies--will leave her fortune to Densher, so that he and Croy can live happily ever after. The scheme that at first develops as planned begins to founder when Theale discovers the pair's true motives shortly before her death. Densher struggles with unanticipated feelings of love for his new paramour, and his guilt may obstruct his ability to avail himself of Theale's gift. James deftly navigates the complexities and irony of such moral treachery in this stirring novel. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


The Wings of the Dove represents the pinnacle of James’s prose.”—Louis Auchincloss

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it if you work for it Jan. 22 2004
You really have to work for what you get out of this book. The thick prose is difficult, and the long, rambling sentences and page-and-a-half paragraphs require the whole of the reader's attention. This is certainly not a book that I would be able to read on a trip, in a public place, or when I'm tired. That having been said, this is a great piece of literature that demonstrates an interesting contrast in European and American society. The story revolves around a conspiracy by two individuals, Kate Croy and Merton Densher (both Londoners), against a young, rich American girl named Milly. The ultimate goal of these two is to get the dying Milly's vast fortune for themselves when she dies. Densher, who is not a wealthy man, would by gaining Milly's fortune to gain enough social standing to gain the consent of Kate's rich aunt Maud for Kate's hand in marriage.

The motives of the pair are not completely selfish. Milly is dying, it is true, but as long as she enjoys life she does well, and the doctor pronounces that the more joy she can have, the better. Kate is a good friend of Milly's, and knows (or at least thinks) that her last days will be happy with even the artificial love of Densher.

The contrast between American and European society comes in the question of social standing. As Maud puts it, and as everyone understands it, Densher is not 'good enough' for Kate. Milly, though many times more wealthy, has no such scruples, and the common Densher is plenty good for her, even though she's also being pursued by a nobleman named Lord Mark. Milly sees Densher's personality as the core of her fondness for him, and cares nothing for his social standing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Old-Fashioned Genius May 21 2003
Two responses to previous reviews: it was written one hundred years ago, so it would of course be somewhat dated. Second, you should perhaps READ THE ENTIRE BOOK before you attempt to review the text.
The text follows the fascinating development of a manipulation: Milly Theale, an American woman, enters the London scene, endowed with prodigious wealth, youth, and beauty, and several characters vie for her affection. It's a standard James plot in that way. Much like Portrait of a Lady, the wealthy American is exploited by her European acquaintances. Kate Croy convinces her lover Merton Densher to take advantage of Milly's interest in him, and to go so far as to attempt to marry the young American for her money. She is, after all, fatally and tragically ill. James brilliantly depicts the struggle between Densher, Kate Croy, her powerful Aunt Maud, the piquant Susan Shepherd, Sir Luke, and Lord Mark, and his characteristically enigmatic ending does not disappoint. James manages to breathe life into these odd characters in a way that so few writers can: his genius is for complex character, and this book embodies that genius at its height.
The trouble with the book, however, is that it does not qualify as a "light read." The pace is incredibly slow - deliberately slow, of course. It is a novel about decisions, and the development of those decisions constitutes the bulk of the novel. James's prose does lack the terseness of a Hemingway, but the latter writer often fails to capture the nuances that James so elaborately evokes in his careful prose.
James, like Faulkner, is not for the faint of heart.
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4.0 out of 5 stars James - an intellectual writer July 20 2002
I read Wings of the Dove several years ago, then watched the movie. My first, quick impression of "The Dove" was that the long narrative is both tedious and mentally exhausting. But a determination to stick it out to the end is rewarding if only in the knowledge that the reader has overcome James's Victorian verbiage, his intellectual bent for words, his superfluous sentences seldom coming to a direct point, but generally dancing around with hints, inferences and intimations directing the reader, at long last, to a point. Thus, finally, in the end, the reader is left with something to think about. To this reader, the point is the failure of Victorian mores over morals and principles. Perhaps, as in "The Dove," Victorian mores encourage moral failures.
Later, after further study of James's writings, I am convinced of his genius and his ability to portray the human character in ways no one else has been able.
Briefly comparing the movie with the book: James's metaphoric phrase, "wings of the dove," is in reference to Milly. Milly's friend, Kate, compares her to a dove whose wings spread and surround all those she loves. In the movie, Densher attends Milly's funeral and, in his grief, says he wishes he were like a dove whose wings would carry him away. With this intentional misinterpretation (in my opinion), the movie misrepresents an important character description in James's novel: Milly is the "heroine" who loves, is loved, is good, loves life and wants to live and spread her wings during the last days of her life.
The movie does present the quandary of Kate's position: practically penniless and at the mercy of her rich aunt Maud, who, in her determination not to let Kate marry "poor" and lose her rightful place in society, has engaged her to Lord Mark.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars tough but worthwhile
One of the great reads of Western literature is a beautiful love story of deceit and social requirements, containing James' most demanding narration. Travel carefully. Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by JR
3.0 out of 5 stars The Wings of the Dove
There is no disputing the artistry of this novel but it is without question extremely difficultt to read. Read more
Published on March 9 2003 by "cmerrell"
4.0 out of 5 stars difficult, but worth it
James' style is indeed difficult. I found that reading some sections of the novel aloud helped me keep my focus and enhanced my enjoyment of James' language. Read more
Published on May 5 2002 by Lelia Thell
5.0 out of 5 stars The novel could never be the same again.
The title is a Jamesian euphemism for 'Pulling The Wings Off Flies'. In a book that is a vortex of ironies, the most fundamental is that a novel written at the highest pitch of... Read more
Published on April 23 2002 by darragh o'donoghue
2.0 out of 5 stars The burning of the letter is symbolic of this book's style
At an important juncture, our heroine throws a key letter into the fire. We, dear readers, never get to know what it contains. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2002 by Stacey M Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex and Hard to follow, but still good
First things first, it is a very nice novel, but very hard to follow. Personally speaking, sometimes I couldn't get very exactly what Henry James was trying to say, but I could... Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2001 by A. T. A. Oliveira
4.0 out of 5 stars Much to my surprise...
I was certain, in the first 100 or so pages of this book, that I was going to hate it. I nearly gave up on it a half-dozen times. Read more
Published on Nov. 23 2001 by Veejer
3.0 out of 5 stars Great language can't save a weak story.
Henry James's "The Wings of the Dove" presents a detailed study of human nature and motivations with regard to love and money and the social differences that separate... Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2001 by A.J.
5.0 out of 5 stars Each Paragraph a Work of Art
It's said that James aspired to craft each line of his later works into a work of art. Arguably he succeeded at this tremendous task, but in the process he made it a tremendous... Read more
Published on July 22 2001 by Gregory N. Hullender
2.0 out of 5 stars painful reading
Dennis Barlow: Through no wish of my own I have become the protagonist of a Jamesian problem. Do you ever read any Henry James, Mr. Schultz?
Mr. Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2000 by Orrin C. Judd
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