With the exception of The Turn of the Screw, Henry James is better known for his beautiful, byzantine prose than he is for narratives that will keep a reader up all night, but The Other House is a pause-resister. Perhaps that is what inevitably happens when a plot revolves around a horrific murder committed in the heart of blue-blooded England.
Graeme Malcolm, a Scottish television and Broadway actor known for his work on Boardwalk Empire, lends his lovely, mature accent and impeccable meter to James's ornate sentences. As James conceived this novel as a play, it is especially well suited to being performed.
In three beautifully crafted, dramatic acts, James's little-known novel unravels the painfully complicated emotional bonds which exist within a group of friends and lovers connected by two neighboring homes as they fight publicly for preferment, reciprocation ,and successful marriage.
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"The oddest Henry James novel"
This novel is unlike anything else produced by Henry James – and if you are at all interested, take care NOT to read a word about the novel anywhere, for almost every online account or mention (and every book back cover) gives away a tremendously important detail that should be held for the reading itself. The Other House is Henry James getting as close to Agatha Christie, eerily close (she was six when this book was published in 1896), as could be possible for him – and it is indeed that kind of tale, with a far stranger and more disturbing ending than anything she ever wrote. Certainly this is not the “first” or even second James anyone should read, but some of the customary signs of fine consciousness are there -- which many people like and some people hate. The subtle interchange of hyper-subtle points in conversation (no “real” people could ever catch the hints offered so delicately by someone else sanding before them). has nothing to do with the Twitter generation. These people are a different species and full citizens of the James universe, even if they live on his oddest planet. This is a genuine page-turner and perhaps not that much more than a pot-boiler -- you decide. It gives nothing away to say that critical comparisons with Ibsen are probably silly, and yet this book does have a strange northern chill. As far as the narrator Graeme Malcolm. He does a fantastic job, as he always does. If at first his frequent pauses seem too frequent, you get used to them soon and then you understand that they do wonders to help the listener follow Henry James famously winding sentences and geometrically multiplied clauses. There is not an ounce of prissiness in Malcolm's readings ever, and it is great to have a Henry James read as he reads it. It would be a fine thing to hear him do The Golden Bowl or The Wings of the Dove, books that are fleshier, even earthier than many think.
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