I’ve never ready Henry James’ The Ambassadors

  • Book: Foreign Bodies
  • Location: Singapore
  • Author: Hwee Hwee Tan



I’ve never ready Henry James’ The Ambassadors, so I was a little apprehensive that Foreign Bodies would just go over my head. (I wiki’d James’ book to find out the gist of the plot.) While the premise of Foreign Bodies is vaguely similar to The Ambassadors (a teacher sets out to retrieve wayward pupil from Paris), I don’t think one needs to have read the latter to enjoy the former.

Rather than Henry James, I was strongly reminded of the books from the era Foreign Bodies is set, particularly Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. Ozick’s prose varies from concrete and certain to ethereal and scattered. The characters are all vaguely amoral and unappealing. The prose hardly plumbs anyone’s motivation, not even Bea Nightingale, the heroine, which is my only complaint. Even though we’re in Bea’s head, swimming in her thoughts, something about the prose keeps the reader at arm’s length when the big a-ha moment came, I hardly felt the impact.

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