In my quest to read the "great books", I've read a few books with narrative styles that seemed to prioritize confusing or innovative writing over conveying a story. The worst offenders were Ulysses and Infinite Jest. The Golden Bowl isn't nearly as bad as those, but it certainly fits in the general category. Even those praising Henry James' novel have described it as "labyrinthine and claustrophobic". It's also not an upbeat story. It revolves primarily around jealousy, adultery, and betrayal.
The novel seems to be considered significant because it delves so deeply into the consciousness of the characters. His use of language while exploring the characters' consciousness is fairly unique. While I found it interesting at first, it was ultimately exhausting to read. Take this quote: "He found himself therefore saying, with gaiety, even to Fanny Assingham, for their common, concerned glance at Eaton Square, the glance that was so markedly never, as it might have been, a glance at Portland Place". Now picture that at the beginning of a paragraph that extends for pages in a book that's nearly 800 pages long.
I think one problem I've had with the books that are more difficult to read is that they're not compatible with what I'm trying to do with my reading. I'm trying to sit down a read books and absorb a story, while I might really need to spend three to four times as long as I would on a normal book of similar size in order to really appreciate what the author has done. Instead, I move forward at the best pace I can while reading everything. This leads to the book being obtuse and frustrating and makes just want to end it.
I can't recommend The Golden Bowl. Maybe that's only because I haven't given it a fair shake. I still think Ulysses was a cruel prank by Joyce.
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