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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (8,300 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Henry James Narrator: Stephen Hoye Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2010 ISBN: 9781452670225
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Lambert Strether, a mild, middle-aged American of no particular achievements, is dispatched to Paris from the manufacturing empire of Woollett, Massachusetts. The mission conferred on him by his august patron, Mrs. Newsome, is to discover what, or who, is keeping her son Chad in the notorious city of pleasure and to bring him home. But Strether finds Chad transformed by the influence of a remarkable woman. And as the Parisian spring advances, he himself succumbs to the allure of the “vast bright Babylon” and to the mysterious charm of Madame de Vionnet.

One of Henry James’ three late masterpieces, The Ambassadors is a bittersweet paean to the life not lived and one of the most achingly beautiful and moving novels ever written.

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Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Chrodegang | 2/20/2014

    " This book is probably the worst I've ever read. I just hated everything about it. The style, the characters, the story, EVERYTHING. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mark Stephenson | 2/20/2014

    " A tough read for me 40 years ago but I'm so glad I persisted. 'Live all you can!' "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Steve | 2/18/2014

    " Makes the "Top 100"; but, the moral outrage elucidated is anachronistic and lost on the modern reader. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ann | 2/17/2014

    " This was James' favorite work, so I expected to be delighted. Unfortunately, boggy paragraphs obscure what was otherwise an interesting idea for a plot--a middle-aged widow sends her middle-aged boyfriend across the Atlantic to retrieve her son from the bad influence of Paris and its women, but, of course, the boyfriend falls under Paris' spell. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marie Bouteille | 2/13/2014

    " If you've never read a book by HJ it's definitely not the best one to start with. Every sentence is carefuly crafted but the story in general is such a mess that it's really difficult to read. One would have either to read it several times or to follow HJ's advice and read 5 pages a day. His descriptions are as beautiful as ever. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robin | 2/13/2014

    " This was a book with not a lot of story but much in internal dialogue and motives. It is also a story of late in life loss of innocence. Strethers being unawares of the intimacy between Chad and Mme. de Vionnet. I enjoyed Maria Gostrey's witt and acuteness. She was for me the best part of this book. It was at times hard work to read this book. It is a novel of impressionist influnce and psychological analysis. I will probably read it again in the future, but not too soon. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon Wright | 2/12/2014

    " This is the third Henry James novel I have read, and while it is his favorite it is so far my least favorite. I felt like the book was promising something it didn't quite deliver. Having said that, it was still a good book, it just didn't live up to my past experiences with Henry James. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Charlie | 2/10/2014

    " Look, it's Henry James, and while reading it, I more than once missed my train stop: James somehow has the capacity to make the hemming and hawing of rueful, middle-aged man engrossing enough for me to forget where I am. And when "where I am" happens to be the G train after midnight, that's saying something. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jamie | 2/8/2014

    " Glad I read it, but would not recommend this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonathan Dickstein | 2/8/2014

    " I need to go back to this someday. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 wade | 2/7/2014

    " I can not understand just why all the scholars think that Henry James is such a great writers. This is about my 6th one and the sentences are convoluted, the dialogue goes around in circles and it take 100 pages for anything of real content to happen. Maybe I am not as literary as others but I can't think of another "classic" author that I struggle to figure out what all the hoopla is about like James. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Courtney | 2/4/2014

    " I enjoyed so many parts of this book, especially the plot and the way James crafted the dialog. I did, however, have a great deal of trouble with James' writing and narration. The first 100 or so pages (approximately first 3 volumes) were almost unbearable, but I was dying to know more. On the whole, the middle of the book is brilliant with its subtlety, exploration of human psychology, and wonderful play-like dialog. The beginning and end are, rather unfortunately clogged up with endless sentences, incomprehensible passive voice and obscure or abstruse inside jokes or observations. Only for those determined to see the brilliant plot and observations and those committed to James. If the reader is not familiar with James' work, I suggest Washington Square or Daisy Miller. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Hannah | 2/3/2014

    " Not my favorite James book, but this was my first attempt at reading him, and his work can be horribly dense. An interesting read, if you can wade through it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amanda | 2/2/2014

    " The way James uses pronouns ought to be illegal. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Trisha | 2/1/2014

    " This was more dense, less approachable than I remember but when I focused like needed, it was very interesting. His technique is awesome--the way he makes the focus the inner workings of Strether's mind from the start--not the external events. But there was frustration; i just wished they would actually say concretely the issues they were discussing instead of dancing around everything, though I suppose that is how conversations usually go. It just took very careful reading. There are others of his I prefer, but still wonderful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elliot Schnapp | 1/31/2014

    " Foolish ever to choose a single work of art as "the greatest," but if I had to choose a single novel this would be it. The reader needs patience to work through James' pages-long sentences, but by the end of the book, the complexities and detail of James' descriptions of the inner workings of his characters' minds creates an environment in which the fluttering of an eyelash feels like an earthquake. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 1/28/2014

    " A book that you have to keep going back over...extremely rewarding, though, in how it gets to the complexities of feeling in people. There are revolutions and revelations on nearly every page...after which the ending feels almost inert, yet bittersweetly satisfying. Stop reading me, and read some gol-dern Henry James. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Frances De | 1/25/2014

    " hmmmmm........ it requires a good attention span...... had to start over, and i believe i may read it again, in order to really absorb the novel... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joanna | 1/23/2014

    " Just about my favorite James. Definitely my pick from his late novels. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Douglas Dalrymple | 1/17/2014

    " As with so many longer James novels, I can recognize that this is a great book and appreciate the author's psychological insight and power of phrasing; I cannot, however, get very excited about it. I enjoy James so much more in his shorter works, like 'The Beast in the Jungle' or 'The Aspern Papers.' "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sirad | 1/16/2014

    " couldn't finish...the story moved too slowly and described with too much detail. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margaret W | 1/13/2014

    " Another extraordinary James novel. Lambert Strether is one of the most moving characters in fiction. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jillian | 1/12/2014

    " I wanted to like this, especially considering it was James's favorite novel, but I couldn't get into it. The writing felt stilted, the characters were flat and uninteresting, and I could only make it partway through Book 2. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracy | 1/11/2014

    " I loved this one. I think if I were to go back to school, I'd do my dissertation on Henry James... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 1/10/2014

    " So far, my favorite Henry James book. James does a wonderful job of making each sentence full of meaning. Can be at times a fairly descriptive book but James does a great job of making the reader see this level of thought to each and every moment in the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Suzanne | 1/10/2014

    " It is almost worth reading this book just to read E.M. Forster's takedown of it in "Aspects of the Novel". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ke Huang | 1/9/2014

    " As a borderline workaholic, I have to say that I found myself frustrated that these characters led pretty idle lives, but I suppose normal people may actually find that aspect of the novel enjoyable. In my opinion, the most memorable parts were the preface and sections when the characters traveled. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 T | 12/31/2013

    " Far, far too much punctuation, thus ruining this read. Twenty pages and it was tossed away. The ashes of Henry James are interned in Cambridge, just around the corner, so I'll stop by to ask him why he ruined a good story with poor storytelling. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Silver | 12/25/2013

    " I have just started reading this book. James can be tedious to read and difficult. It is no light read, but there is something I enjoy about his writing and he is usually always through provoking and intriguing. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ann | 12/22/2013

    " When I got about 50 pages into this book and still didn't have much of a clue what was going on, I quit. It was going nowhere. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Michael Shilling | 12/19/2013

    " James is amazing in other works, but here he chokes on his desire to map out every possible qualification of a character's emotion. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Vanessa | 12/17/2013

    " Despite the slow start and the fact that he uses an awful lot of words, I LOVED this book... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Genevieve | 12/11/2013

    " I learned how to grow old. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann Marie | 12/10/2013

    " Dense prose but interesting thoughts about Europe's effects on Americans, James' usual theme. Not easy, over-long in parts, but engrossing. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joe | 12/5/2013

    " Great book, but wish I was studying the book from a literary stand point. As there is a bunch of material that I felt I missed or did not understand. Discussing the book with others would have made the reading much more interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margaret W | 12/5/2013

    " Another extraordinary James novel. Lambert Strether is one of the most moving characters in fiction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katherine | 12/3/2013

    " Man do I wish Henry James didn't so love the comma! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Frances De | 12/1/2013

    " hmmmmm........ it requires a good attention span...... had to start over, and i believe i may read it again, in order to really absorb the novel... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christina | 11/26/2013

    " One of Henry James's finest novels. The characters are beautifully-conceived through witty prose and dialogue. The theme of living life in a way that's consistent with one's own morality rather than societal convention is advanced perfectly. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Mike | 11/8/2013

    " I had a review up but I deleted it by accident. Oh well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paul | 11/3/2013

    " I congratulate myself on finishing it. I've never been a HJ fan, so my opinions shouldn't count for much. Much of what James does is simply irritating to me. That said, I'm glad I made the effort. Now I know why so many other people love this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrew Rostan | 11/2/2013

    " James's own favorite of his novels...a rich, realistic fantasy, a tale of transformation and how humans can simultaneously stay the same and change, written with some of James's richest yet still accessible prose. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Frankn | 11/2/2013

    " It was a long-winded book. It strained my attention span and just telling the truth, I found no enjoyment from reading it. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sandi | 10/13/2013

    " Just so slow in saying anything.. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Hannah | 10/3/2013

    " Not my favorite James book, but this was my first attempt at reading him, and his work can be horribly dense. An interesting read, if you can wade through it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kathy Conley | 9/21/2013

    " I agree with F.R. Leavis. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bradford | 9/4/2013

    " I'm told I was too young when i read this but my overwehlming reaction to the Father of Modernism is that he was quite correctly the father of modernism, meaning he didn't fully understand it and only shared 50% of its genome. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Terri | 8/31/2013

    " I read this for a class. It was pretty decent, but I don't know what I would have thought of it had I read it on my own. We spent literally over half of a semester on this one book--I suspect the instructor was obsessed with it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gerard | 6/30/2013

    " What an elegant writer this guy is. This is my favorite among his books I've read so far. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jane Stubbs | 6/15/2013

    " i'm pretty sure i didn't hate this book. i'm also pretty sure i wrote a pretty good paper on it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynne-marie | 5/28/2013

    " And I've re-read it since my last comment, of which I'm slightly embarrassed, and am astounded at the perfection of the work as I am of all the later James opus, which I am again reading. Each word is like a pearl falling into a subterranean pond. Exquisite! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hashi | 5/16/2013

    " For the first two-thirds of the book I rebelled against the lack of plot, against the elliptical, tangential references, against the way the flower opens like viscous molasses. But then I got into it, and enjoyed the subtlety, and the languid pace. Nothing happens in this book. But it's a trip. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jen | 5/7/2013

    " I HATED this book. I could barely force myself to finish it. I curse the 100 books to read list for including it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christina | 3/29/2013

    " One of Henry James's finest novels. The characters are beautifully-conceived through witty prose and dialogue. The theme of living life in a way that's consistent with one's own morality rather than societal convention is advanced perfectly. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sandi | 2/24/2013

    " Just so slow in saying anything.. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joe | 2/17/2013

    " Great book, but wish I was studying the book from a literary stand point. As there is a bunch of material that I felt I missed or did not understand. Discussing the book with others would have made the reading much more interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paul | 2/11/2013

    " I congratulate myself on finishing it. I've never been a HJ fan, so my opinions shouldn't count for much. Much of what James does is simply irritating to me. That said, I'm glad I made the effort. Now I know why so many other people love this book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/9/2013

    " This was almost as boring as Moll Flanders. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joanna | 1/26/2013

    " Just about my favorite James. Definitely my pick from his late novels. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jono | 1/7/2013

    " i'll admit it: the next time i pick this up won't be the first time. So YOU read James in NYC in summer! I'm interested b/c this is said to be James' favorite of his own books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrew Rostan | 12/1/2012

    " James's own favorite of his novels...a rich, realistic fantasy, a tale of transformation and how humans can simultaneously stay the same and change, written with some of James's richest yet still accessible prose. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gerard | 11/10/2012

    " What an elegant writer this guy is. This is my favorite among his books I've read so far. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erin | 11/9/2012

    " More like 3.5, but closer to 3 than 4 for me "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Michael Shilling | 9/11/2012

    " James is amazing in other works, but here he chokes on his desire to map out every possible qualification of a character's emotion. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marti | 9/8/2012

    " Some of the scenes of life in Paris were interesting but I did not really enjoy this book. It was interesting to see that book critics have been sharply divided on this book's merits. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hashi | 7/30/2012

    " For the first two-thirds of the book I rebelled against the lack of plot, against the elliptical, tangential references, against the way the flower opens like viscous molasses. But then I got into it, and enjoyed the subtlety, and the languid pace. Nothing happens in this book. But it's a trip. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori | 7/22/2012

    " Another late Henry James - still working my way through James. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Genevieve | 7/20/2012

    " I learned how to grow old. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Patricia | 7/4/2012

    " I rarely leave books unfinished but I just could not get into this one. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 James | 5/25/2012

    " Didn't finish and couldn't follow it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bradford | 5/2/2012

    " I'm told I was too young when i read this but my overwehlming reaction to the Father of Modernism is that he was quite correctly the father of modernism, meaning he didn't fully understand it and only shared 50% of its genome. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Linda | 3/11/2012

    " This book consisted of exactly two characters: he and she. Sometimes he and he. Anyway, altogether confusing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Teresa | 3/3/2012

    " This book is in my top five list. The prose takes some getting used to; the sentences are long and vague but it can help to think of the style as putting the reader in the same position as the protagonist. I find it well worth the effort to read and think about scenes from the book a lot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 2/12/2012

    " Strether is a bore. Long live Maria Gostrey! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Connie | 2/2/2012

    " I loved floating along with LL. Luckily he is my age so I can understand him.:-) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amon | 1/10/2012

    " It was this or The American, I read one several years ago and then I finally finished the other last year after many periods of picking it up and putting it down "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jenn | 12/11/2011

    " I'm still not entirely sure what this book was about.I had a very difficult time following the conversations between the characters and sifting through ALL of the words to even catch the general plot. This one was a lot of work, with little payout. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Roberto | 11/21/2011

    " I loved this book from the very first paragraph to the last. Henry James' artistry and language are just breathtaking though some may perceive his fiction as Baroque and verbose. Hang on to it and in the end you'll be happy to have read it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margaret W | 11/3/2011

    " Another extraordinary James novel. Lambert Strether is one of the most moving characters in fiction. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jillian | 10/19/2011

    " I wanted to like this, especially considering it was James's favorite novel, but I couldn't get into it. The writing felt stilted, the characters were flat and uninteresting, and I could only make it partway through Book 2. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sirad | 10/3/2011

    " couldn't finish...the story moved too slowly and described with too much detail. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jenn | 9/6/2011

    " I'm still not entirely sure what this book was about.I had a very difficult time following the conversations between the characters and sifting through ALL of the words to even catch the general plot. This one was a lot of work, with little payout. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patty Cottrell | 8/13/2011

    " this book is dense. james' prose takes some time to get used to. however, halfway through the book, you realize you're in the presence of great company. a good companion when you're surrounded by annoying people. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 James | 7/27/2011

    " Didn't finish and couldn't follow it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Robert | 7/27/2011

    " Towards the later part of James's career, he deliberately moved to an increasing convoluted prose style. He takes a moderately interesting study of characters, and, by slowing the story to a crawl, makes it nearly unreadable. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 James | 5/27/2011

    " Didn't finish and couldn't follow it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leigh | 5/22/2011

    " I need to reread this when I'm more in my right mind. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Suzanne | 5/8/2011

    " It is almost worth reading this book just to read E.M. Forster's takedown of it in "Aspects of the Novel". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joanna | 4/10/2011

    " Just about my favorite James. Definitely my pick from his late novels. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 James | 4/1/2011

    " Didn't finish and couldn't follow it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Robert | 2/26/2011

    " Towards the later part of James's career, he deliberately moved to an increasing convoluted prose style. He takes a moderately interesting study of characters, and, by slowing the story to a crawl, makes it nearly unreadable. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kirsten | 2/25/2011

    " I'm only on p. 80 and have given up. The language is so self-consciously convoluted and... I think "precious" about sums it up. People think this @$$#^&* is better than Edith Wharton???? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amanda | 2/14/2011

    " The way James uses pronouns ought to be illegal. "

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About the Author
Author Henry James

Henry James (1843–1916), American novelist, short-story writer, and man of letters, was born in Washington Place, New York, to a family of distinguished philosophers and theologians. He attended schools in New York, Boston, and throughout Europe, where he later settled. A major figure in the history of the novel, he is celebrated as a master craftsman who brought his great art and impeccable technique to bear in the development of abiding moral themes.

About the Narrator

Stephen Hoye has worked as a professional actor in London and Los Angeles for more than thirty years. Trained at Boston University and the Guildhall in London, he has acted in television series and six feature films and has appeared in London’s West End.