Milly Theale was a wealthy American heiress who loved traveling the world. She met and befriended the betrothed English couple Kate Croy and Merton Densher shortly before Milly was diagnosed with an incurable disease. Kate convinced her fiancé Merton to court the dying Milly in the hope that he would inherit Milly's fortune and share it with Kat.
The story is good, and the novel has withstood the test of time, but its problems come from the author. The American James wanted desperately to come across as a Victorian Englishmen. He does so by dressing every sentence with flowery prose - prose that often gets in the way of the story. He has a story to tell, and he tells it, but he takes at least twice as long to do so.
I believed in the characters. Kate was raised without a mother - first by her worthless father, then by her domineering Aunt Maud, who forbade her from marrying the penniless Merton. Kate's actions were understandable, if not forgivable.
The conversation in the final chapter, in which the characters seem to come to terms with their sins, is satisfying, even if the final ambiguous sentence is not.
Finishing this book made me feel as if I had accomplished something, which is something.