Watch and Ward

Watch and Ward - Henry James I hadn't read any Henry James for thirty years or so, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened up this, his first novel. It's periodical literature, if I read my introduction correctly, and that explains the slightly odd structure - many parts, each containing only two or three chapters. However, since this is a novel of sentiment, it doesn't suffer from the bad influences of periodical publication in the same way that adventure or mystery fiction can. I think it's really quite an accomplished piece of work from a first novel. Of course, I find the premise - an older man adopting a twelve-year-old with the express purpose of making her his wife - decidedly icky; but then again, James was quite aware that it is so, and he had his protagonist, Nora, react with suitable revulsion when she finds out. She flings herself out into the wide, wide world rather than give herself up to this predetermined plan, and it's here that James and I part company, for he has her eventually come back to her guardian, Roger Lawrence, because (I'm paraphrasing) he's the only man she's met in the world who has a heart. Maybe she should have met a few more men... However, I did enjoy the reading experience, and the prose wasn't as flighty or difficult as I remembered from before; perhaps that developed as James did. Looking forward to continuing with the Henry James project.