This work is Henry James's last novel and is a symbolically
complex story of two flawed marriages. The gilded crystal bowl with
its largely concealed flaw is the symbolic vehicle used to reveal
past misdemeanours and make the characters face the flaws in their
Henry James (1843-1916) was born in New York and had an unconventional childhood, being educated in a variety of schools and living with his family mostly in hotels in England, France and Switzerland. He spent a term at Harvard Law School in 1862, before embarking on his career as a writer and continuing to travel extensively. He was naturalised as a British subject in 1915. James wrote twenty novels, innumerable short stories, many works of criticism or description, a number of plays and two excellent pieces of biography. He is most noted for his methodical construction, individual style, and careful characterisation.