The Golden Bowl

The Golden Bowl
Image source: Google

Rating: 3.8/5

Author: Henry James

Hardcover: 356 pages

Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons (US), Methuen Publishing (UK)

Publication Date: 10th November, 1904

Language: English

Genre: Fictional Novel

ISBN-10: 1468092014

ISBN-13: 978-1468092011

Cost: Rs. 49 (Kindle edition)


The Golden Bowl is a 1904 novel by Henry James. Set in England, ‘The Golden Bowl’ tells the story of the marriage of two couples and the impact the prior relationships of these couples have on each other. The story revolves around a beautiful, but cracked, golden bowl and the secrets this bowl allows to come up to the surface.

Wealthy American widower Adam Verver and his daughter Maggie live in Europe, where they collect art and appreciate each other’s company. Through the efforts of the manipulative Fanny Assingham, Maggie becomes engaged to Amerigo, an Italian prince, but remains oblivious to his re-ignited affair with her long-time friend Charlotte Stant.

Maggie and Amerigo marry, and later, after Charlotte and Adam have also wed, both spouses learn of the ongoing affair. What does the future holds for them? Would they confront each other? Would the marriages break? The Golden Bowl is a relishing amalgamation of curiosity and psychological warfare.


The novel presents ‘marriage’ as a political weapon. While modern Americans generally marry for love and affection, the characters in this novel seem to view marriage as a way either to ascend the social ladder. For instance, when the Prince marries Maggie, one of his thoughts is that he is now associated with, and is in fact, one of the rich. When Mr. Verver marries, he chooses a spouse who can be useful to him. Charlotte fills in the gap that Maggie left behind when she married the Prince.

The Golden Bowl digs deep into the psyche of its main characters, often giving out details of their most intimate thoughts almost to the point of ridiculousness. James borrowed the book’s title from a verse in Ecclesiastes 12 that depicts a cracked golden bowl as a metaphor for the inevitable decay or destruction of all beautiful things.

James just like in his previous works of literature, he starts ‘The Golden Bowl’- with the recording of an anecdote he had heard concerning a young woman and her widower father, each of whom had taken a spouse and then learned the partners were engaged in an affair. The writing becomes more complex and bewildering and it aims towards letting the audience know more about the characters and the events they are going through.

The relatable quality with this Novel is that the problems of love and marriage at the heart of The Golden Bowl are universal. Every society in every part of the world deals with these kinds of problems, and so the readers from all over- can relate and compare their situations to that of the characters in the book!


  • In 1972, the BBC produced a six-hour televised version of the book that was highly praised.
  • In 2000, The Golden Bowl was filmed by Merchant Ivory Productions, directed by James Ivory.

About the Author:

Henry James, (born April 15, 1843, New York, New York, U.S.—died February 28, 1916, London, England), American novelist and, as a naturalized English citizen from 1915, a great figure in the transatlantic culture. His fundamental theme was the innocence and exuberance of the New World in clash with the corruption and wisdom of the Old, as illustrated in such works as Daisy Miller (1879), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Bostonians (1886), and The Ambassadors (1903).