James's first major novel embodies one of the key themes of his work (the differences and tensions between the New World and Old Europe) and is an accessible entry point into his formidable oeuvre. The title character is a brash, wealthy, optimistic American who comes to Europe and falls for a pretty, distant Frenchwoman from a distinguished and proud family. Her imperious mother doesn't approve of the romance and stands in their way. The strength of the novel is that James doesn't take sides, detailing the shortcoming of both parties. An excellent introduction to the Master's work. Consider reading "Daisy Miller," "Washington Square," and "The Europeans" next.
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