A short book that kept me company on my kindle for the train ride to the second part of my course last week, "Eugene Pickering" is a story by Henry James and my very first read by that author. Originally, the story appeared in 1874 in three volumes of "The Atlantic Monthly", a "magazine of literature, art and politics", as it called itself. Later, the story found its way into several books containing some of Henry James' shorter novellas; apparently, it was never published on its own.
From the start, I found it interesting that the narrator not only remains unnamed, but appears as a spectator and advisor throughout, never as a prinicpal, acting character - except for when, towards the end of the story, he shows initiative by travelling to Cologne to look after his friend and then persuades him into further travelling with him.
Motherless Eugene has had a very secluded upbringing; his stern father wanted to make sure the boy was untouched by all bad influences. For a while, he was allowed a companion for his home schooling; the story's narrator was that companion and became the only friend he ever had.
Many years later, they incidentally meet again, and the narrator finds his old friend, now free of the omnipresent authority of his father, ready to embark on life with all its adventures. The inevitable happens - the naive, inexperienced Eugene falls in love with a woman who has the reputation of being an adventuress.
Taken on its own, that would not be so unusual, but Eugene has a promise to maintain he had no influence upon when it was first given...
The way things turn out in the end is more or less what I expected, but of course I won't tell you here.
This was an interesting, althougn not exciting, first encounter with Henry James for me. He lived from 1843 to 1916, and of course you won't have difficulties to find out a lot about him on wikipedia and elsewhere on the web. I have some more of his works as free ebooks on my kindle, and I will read them... sooner or later.
By the way, the painting on the book cover has nothing at all to do with the story. I often wonder how such cover art is chosen; most of the time, whoever makes that choice has probably never read one single word of the book in question.