CLASSIC YA – Daisy Miller by Henry James

A very slight book, but nevertheless compelling.

piranha stars blue 4

daisy-millerI first read this many years ago and remember it as atmospheric and enthralling. So I have to admit to being a little disappointed on reading it again. Daisy seems insipid, Frederick predatory, Daisy’s brother and mother are appalling. The snobbery that underlies the whole social setting is deeply unattractive. Maybe this was what James was intending to portray. Strange how I didn’t really see that first time round. Daisy is charming, but definitely not likeable. She’s a world away from the current-day ultra-bright YA heroines.

At first you are sure Daisy is stupid. Then you begin to think that she has a point. Then that she really is really, but even so that she should be allowed to be herself. The ‘hero’ Frederick is far more badly behaved, with his liaisons with older women, but this is never criticised.

This is a book that grows on you. It is beautifully written, as you would expect of Henry James, with a lingering sense of beauty and doom. I remember believing as a teenager that Daisy would win through and being really sad that she didn’t. This time around, I appreciated the writing but didn’t sympathise with Daisy nearly as much.

This is an interesting read for its portrayal of the contrasting manners and attitudes of the American and European characters, and also for its study of innocence misdirected. A very slight book, but nevertheless compelling.

Review by Gill-Marie Stewart

Gill-Marie writes YA mystery/romances as Gill-Marie Stewart. As Gilly Stewart she also writes women’s contemporary fiction. The first book in her YA series about George and Finn is Music and Lies (try the first chapter here).

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