The Wings of the Dove
For starters, there's the story itself, a potboiling gothic romance that grabs one by the throat and refuses to let go. But what makes "Wings" great is how this material is handled. James doesn't simply tell us how Kate, Milly and the man they love are forever changed by what happens around them. Instead he lets them speak for themselves. Although written in the third person, James channels his narrative through the richly textured point of view that each of his main characters develops as they "talk to themselves" during their most private moments. Even in such moments, James hints, none of them ever fully grasps or is entirely honest about why they act as they do. And because James never presumes to know more about his characters than they know about themselves, interpreting what each of them understands at any given point is both daunting and exhausting. James built this elusive quality into his masterpiece because he recognized that writing an "easier" story would have reduced the multi-dimensioned complexity of his characters and his readers. Resisting the easy road, "Wings" pays homage to both, while teaching us how to read the contradictory and often inscrutable language of the human heart.