Daisy Miller (James)

Book Reviews
For the great works, there are few if any mainstream reviews online to draw from. So we've included one of our own:

A novella and possibly the most accessible of James's works, Daisy Miller brought the author fame...along with a bit of controversy. There was the charge that its heroine was "an outrage on American girlhood"!

Daisy epitomizes the James heroine—a young, fresh American woman on European soil, who defies strict social conventions, sadly to her own detriment. We witness a class of wealthy Americans who have lived so long in Europe as to become Europeanized; in other words, they eschew the ideals of an open, egalitarian society in favor of a rigidly hierarchical one. Know your place—and behave accordingly.

The very proper Mr. Winterbourne first meets Daisy (yes, pay attention to the symbolic nature of the names!) in Switzerland where he is smitten by her beauty and intrigued by her frankness. She's a charming flirt, alarmingly so—but does she knowingly flaunt the rules of proper society or is she simply oblivious to them? It's unclear. Winterbourne meets up with Daisy again in Rome, but by now she is a pariah to society.

It's uncertain what Winterbourne wants with Daisy; he himself is unsure. And her behavior remains a mystery. I think book clubs will have wonderful discussions parsing Winterbourne's desires and psychology—as well as the impetus behind Daisy's actions. Ultimately, we wonder, is it Daisy's story...or Winterbourne's?
LitLovers LitPicks (Sept. 09)

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