In America

by Susan Sontag

A slow start, but eventually the book gets into its stride, evoking the world of nineteenth century immigrants to the USA and the gilded world of the theatre. A demanding and cerebral read; the detached style results in the heroine seeming a strangely distant figure, even though she is the centre of the narrative. Despite this, the book offers a detailed and entertaining study of an expatriate European's encounter with the dynamic and developing society of America.


She might not look exactly as she did in Poland. But coarsening toil had not changed the way she walked, or turned her head to listen, or kept silent, or most allurungly, spoke. In the vibrant cello voice urging them to remonstrate more forcefully with the neighbours whose cattle had devoured their winter barley crop they heard the cadences of a voice that proclaimed the excellence of mercy to Shylock, denied the coming of dawn to the fugitive Romeo, raved with Lady Macbeth's guilty dream and Phaedra's lustful longing for her stepson. It would be a long time before those nested auras of nobility faded.


Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

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