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Publisher's Summary

Milly Theale is a young, beautiful, and fabulously wealthy American. When she arrives in London and meets the equally beautiful but impoverished Kate Croy, they form an intimate friendship. But nothing is as it seems: materialism, romance, self-delusion, and ultimately fatal illness insidiously contaminate the glamorous social whirl.

Public Domain (P)2017 Naxos AudioBooks

Featured Article: The Greatest, Most Notable American Writers of All Time


To curate a list of famous American writers who are also considered among the best American authors, a few things count: current ratings for their works, their particular time periods in history, critical reception, their prevalence in the 21st century, and yes, the awards they won. Many of these authors are taught in school today, and hopefully, several more of them will be taught in school in the near future.

What listeners say about The Wings of the Dove

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

No one but Juliet Stevenson...

... could do Henry James justice. I'm convinced of it. His sentences are so long, his sensitivities and observations so nuanced (and downright complicated) that one needs either large print and lots of concentrated time to delve in, or the velvety syllable-by-syllable de-ciphering of a master codebreaker. Thank you, Ms. Stevenson, for once again opening the classics to me. Please keep them coming!

25 people found this helpful

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Not an easy read but SO worth it!

Henry James's writing is not for everybody. It is incredibly dense and detailed and he deep dives into the ruminative thoughts of all the major characters at such length that for the first 1/3 of the book, you might find yourself going a little crazy, thinking WHERE IS THE PLOT?! But the book picks up in intensity after the midway mark and I literally could not stop listening. The story is deeply philosophical, about the nature of love, betrayal and just how far one would go to get what one wants - only to then have to live with the consequences. It's absolutely Shakespearian, this story. If you want to be a "well read" person, you should read at least one Henry James novel and that should be this one. Give it a chance, be patient, retrain your focus when you begin to drift, and you will be richly rewarded, in the end.

36 people found this helpful

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Challenging text, beautifully read

This late novel by James is full of nuance, indirectness and innuendo. It requires a highly gifted and intelligent reader to capture the subtle shades of meaning and feeling. Juliet Stevenson is superb at fathoming and expressing the inner and outer worlds of each protagonist in this complex work.

10 people found this helpful

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Well narrated but not a gripping story

Time to take up my pen and go after Henry James again. Of all the Victorian novelists I’ve read over the years (many out of a sense of duty — I was an English major, after all, and I never lost the habit), he’s probably my least favorite. He's like Anthony Trollope, but without any of the humor or charm.

The problem is that he's verbose, almost past the point of endurance. His prose is sometimes like being forced to read the Collected Grocery Lists of Edward Casaubon. This novel, and many of the other novels of his that I've read, would benefit enormously from a ruthless editor. Each chapter, each paragraph, maybe even each sentence could lose about 20% of its verbiage without losing its plain sense; and the meaning and impact of the story would come through all the more brilliantly.

In Wings of the Dove, Kate has a problem. She loves the (relatively) poor journalist Merton, but if she marries him, her Aunt Maud — on whom she is financially dependent — will cut her loose. Enter the bright and ridiculously rich American girl Milly, on a European tour. It gradually becomes apparent that Milly is seriously ill, maybe even terminally ill. (From cancer? Consumption? She doesn't have any obvious symptoms, and James never says.) It also gradually becomes apparent that Kate has developed an ingenious plan to solve her financial woes and set her and Merton free from the clutches of her family. All he has to do is make Milly fall in love with him, marry her, and then wait for her to die.

As unpleasant as I found James’s characters through most of the book, they began to take on an almost tragic dimension as the story drew near its end. Merton is trying to do the right thing, or the closest he can get to it; Kate acts from more questionable motives initially, but what a family! — she's in a trap not of her own making, and an argument could be made that if her plan came off, no one would actually get hurt. But it's a Henry James novel, so her plan doesn't come off; in fact it leads to a conclusion that squeezes about as much pain out of the situation as possible — and then squeezes a little more by having the novel end almost in mid-sentence.

Although the style of the book didn't always appeal to me, that is in no way the fault of Juliet Stevenson. She is a truly wonderful narrator, and is easily my favorite among the different narrators of James I've listened to. (She does an outstanding job with just about everybody: she's also one of my favorite narrators of Jane Austen and George Eliot.) I've read occasional criticism of her American accents, but I think she does just fine with Milly Theale and her annoying friend Susan Stringham. This is one of James’s later books, and his syntax became more gnarly toward the end, with one dependent clause piling up on another; but Stevenson seems to have a particular knack for parsing them out loud, and she never loses the thread.

If you like Henry James, you'll love this one. If you don't like Henry James, you might like this one, or you might enjoy the narration for its own sake. A lot may depend on whether you were an English major or not.

4 people found this helpful

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Disappointing accent

I love Juliette Stevens’ reading generally, but was distracted throughout Wings of the Dove by the odd accent she used for the two American characters. It sounded forced and was unconvincing.

7 people found this helpful

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Difficult reading

This writing is not crystal clear. Rather, there is a vagueness to it and a formality of speech that is very challenging.

1 person found this helpful

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I love Juliet Stevenson

Juliet Stevenson is my favorite Audible narrator, but even she can't rescue this oblique and irritating novel. I still adore Henry James, but maybe not the late novels so much.

1 person found this helpful

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A masterpiece - challenging for literary novices

There’s a reason Henry James is considered one of the finest authors of all time and most certainly among the top of American authors. This is astonishing - but requires patience and close attention

1 person found this helpful

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Magnificent concept ruined by vague writing

This is unquestionably the most frustrating book I've ever read. The concept is overspilling with promise; a man tries to woo a doomed heiress so he can inherit her money and marry the poor, socially leveraged woman he loves, only to fall for the heiress. But James' disastrous execution of his marvelous idea destroys it. As many reviewers have noted, his writing is so endlessly vague, so self-consciously lofty at the cost of clarity, that one has to listen to sentences over and over in a usually fruitless attempt to understand what he's trying to say. Often, it seems he doesn't want us to know. (And my goodness, can't he call a conversing person a person, rather than an "interlocutor," which he seems to do one hundred times in this novel?) He has very, very little dialogue or action, preferring to spend hundreds of pages telling us what his characters are thinking, rather than showing it in word and deed, and he's enamored of summarizing scenes rather than letting us witness them, which makes it impossible to become involved or absorbed. It's as if he is telling us about a novel he read, rather than actually writing the novel. Even the incandescently talented narrator Juliet Stevenson can't save James here.

There is so much potential in this story, and James, when he's on his game (the masterpiece Portrait of a Lady), is almost peerless in his ability to see inside his characters and their complicated worlds. But in this book, all this promise is wasted in his inexplicably murky writing and summarizing. I've never felt so frustrated with a book or author.

Edith Wharton was James' friend, and the two addressed the same themes in their books -- the plight of marginalized, exploited, trapped women in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Each was wondrously insightful and sympathetic to their characters. But Wharton was vastly, vastly more capable of realizing the promise in her stories, crafting her narrative worlds in prose of shimmering, austere clarity. If James frustrates you as he does me, try Wharton, most notably "Summer," "Custom of the Country," and "The Age of Innocence." I wish she had tried her hand at this story.

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Superb narration.

The narrator, Juliet Stevenson,is simply magnificent.I cannot imagine a more intelligent reading of such a sophisticated, demanding novel.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-27-20

Slow & wordy

Not for the faint-hearted. A great story with some superb writing but it is slow. The characters take long- windedness & never saying directly what they mean to the extreme which takes some patience from the listener/reader.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-02-20

beautiful book

Once you get used to the style of writing this is a beautiful and poignant story well worth listening to

1 person found this helpful

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  • gill
  • 04-27-17

not for me!

too wordy by far. cannot finish it. really wish I hadn't chosen this one. disappointed

4 people found this helpful