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.
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.Read more ›
The story is very well conceived and contains the same moral dellimas that are characteristic of other James' novels. The plot turns around a rich and naive American girl,( James seems to portray most Americans as either naive ar crude) who is dying and the schemeing couple who want to make the most of the situation. The story is further complicated by the love and respect that the deceivers have for the dying girl.
Good luck because The Wings of the Dove is both long and complicated.
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. Kate thoroughly dislikes Lord Mark.Read more ›