Set in England, this complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some critics have called the “major phase” of James' career. The Golden Bowl explores the tangle of interrelationships between a father and daughter and their respective spouses.
The novel focuses deeply and almost exclusively on the consciousness of the central characters, with sometimes obsessive detail but also with powerful insight. The title is taken from Ecclesiastes 12: “Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”