The Europeans

Book :        The European
Author :      Henry James
Genre :        Comedy Of Manners
Published By : Penguin Popular Classics
My Ratings  : 4/5

 'The Europeans' is a short novel by Henry James, published in 1878. It is essentially a comedy of manners  contrasting the behaviour and life style of Europeans with those of their relatives in New England . 
It's  light hearted, quick flowing and is essentially a happy and sunny book yet, at the end I was left with a sense of something wanting in that picture of perfect happiness...a sense of sweet melancholy.

In the hope making a wealthy marriage Eugenia, the Baroness, a morganatic wife of a German prince is in the middle of a divorce urged by her in-laws in favour of a state marriage. She, with her marriage on the verge of annulment, and her younger brother Felix , an artist and a vivacious person, arrived to Boston, new England to their relatives The Wentworths.
Placed in a near by house, they became close friends and associates as emotions start to gain upper hand over prudence and prejudices and vice-versa among the cousins and their friends. While Felix let go his feelings and confidently grabs the gifts the present offers, Eugenia's delicate nature makes her apprehensive , doubtful and prudent. Her suitor also is less confident unlike Gertrude, who has immense faith in Felix and at the same time finds only herself as responsible for her choices. Eugenia declines the present and is unable to hold  the lucratively strange future in her palms... she returns to the familiar surroundings with empty hands and a lonely heart.


It's deftly written as in few pages the author has created and cultivated detailed  characters. The book is Austenish in appeal and has all the charm, the delicate environment and subtle wit of an Austen work but, in much less pages.

Felix's character has all the debonair charm of an European gentleman while the delicate Eugenia is the perfect example of quintessential feminine sophistication, suavity, wit , guile, doubt and mistrust. Both are intelligent, witty , smart and alert which adds charm to their respective persona.
Eugenia is independent and haughty - an example of a modern woman.

 In their English cousins Gertrude is the intelligent one with a rebellious streak though dormant till she found the magic touch of Felix's positivity and confidence. She has a flair for adventure and vigour and is passionate.
Charlotte is the conventional one, stickler for conduct, tradition and routine.
Clifford the brother is shy, emotional so confused, with a drinking problem and seemed a bit bored with life in general.

 Ah! now the Actons. Lizzie Acton is a shadow of the Wenteworth ladies as she is quite young. She is in love with Clifford and they seem to share an understanding though nothing is official . It does becomes official but only after the effect  of the Europeans is rubbed on the New Englanders. Felix and Eugenia in a way 'caused' the union of Clifford and Lizzie as well as Charlotte and Mr. Brand. Felix himself is smitten by Gertrude and the reader loves her because Felix loves her. She was pretty, intelligent, passionate, strong and emotional but all this bloomed after she met Felix.Felix himself is smitten by Gertrude and she outdid Robert Acton!

Mr. Acton had the most exposure of the lot at The Wentworths
He was supposed to be progressive, understanding, liberal and fairly detached to dead traditions and morbid codes of conducts and yet, he was unable to break the shackles of traditions, society, morality in marrying Eugenia.

Gertrude outshined him in listening to her heart and following her natural instincts and flew away with her Artist into the wonderlands of love which are always full of risqué and passion. Mr. Acton wanted much in security against failure. He must have to love Eugenia more and better to win her faith and sweep her off her feet. He failed in doing so and instead of accepting the lack of feelings on his part he called Eugenia a liar, thus saving himself from self scrutiny which in turn would have revealed him as far inferior to the Baroness who was honest enough to follow her heart and accept it.
 Disillusioned, stifled ,suffocating and perhaps scornful ,she went back to familiar hazards rather than braving the new ones.
Its not in The Wentworths or Mr. Brand but in Acton that  his motherland is ashamed. He emerged from deep waters of world as shallow as those trifling with pebbles on the shore.

What Was Wanting

The characters of the ladies Gertrude and Eugenia could have been more layered and more pages could have been dedicated for them.(which inturn could have turned it into an Austen :P)

 There were no loose threads at the end of the story but being a hopeless romantic, I was expecting something for Eugenia's sake. 
The novella is complete yet the reader is left carving for more.

(so the 4/5 rating)

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