My string of short novels continues with Henry James’ Daisy Miller. This slender volume tells the story of Daisy Miller and Frederick Winterbourne. Daisy is a young and beautiful American heiress touring Europe with her mother and nine-year-old brother, Randolph. In Vevey, Switzerland, Daisy and her brother become acquainted with Winterbourne, a young American who has lived in Geneva for most of his life. He is immediately struck by Daisy’s beauty but is confused by her free and flirtatious manner. She agrees to visit a local castle with him unescorted, an act very much in conflict with European standards of behavior. Despite his aunt’s disapproval, Winterbourne continues his pursuit of Daisy. He returns to Geneva after a few days but promises to visit the Millers in Rome during the winter. When Winterbourne next encounters Daisy, she is the talk of Rome. Her flirtatious manner has offended the conservative society of Rome, and her association with Mr. Giovanelli, an Italian of questionable repute, has made her the target of malicious gossip. Winterbourne tries to warn her but is rebuffed. Winterbourne gives up on Daisy and tries to enjoy Rome alone. One night, while visiting the Colosseum, Winterbourne finds Daisy and Giovanelli in the center of the giant stadium. Winterbourne is furious with Giovanelli, as the atmosphere of the Colosseum is known to be highly malarial. Daisy falls ill and dies soon thereafter.
I found this novel to be an enjoyable but inconsequential read. At the time it was written it would have been an excellent examination of prejudices between the old and the young, as well as between Americans and Europeans. The mindsets of both continents have changed significantly since then, however, leaving this book as a charming reminder of the way things once were.
The Current Count
12 Read, 88 To Go