by William Dean Howells, introduction by Wendy Lesser
One of the most charming and memorable romantic comedies in American literature, William Dean Howells’s Indian Summer tells of a season in the life of Theodore Colville. Colville, just turned forty, has spent years as a successful midwestern newspaper publisher. Now he sells his business and heads for Italy, where as a young man he had dreamed of a career as an architect and fallen hopelessly in love. In Florence, Colville runs into Lina Bowen, sometime best friend of the woman who jilted him and the vivacious survivor of an unhappy marriage. He also meets her young visitor, twenty-year-old Imogene Graham—lovely, earnest to a fault, and brimming with the excitement of her first encounter with the great world.
The drama that plays out among these three gifted and well-meaning people against the backdrop of Florence, the brilliance of their repartee, and the accumulating burden of their mutual misunderstandings make for a comedy of errors that is as winning as it is wise.
...[A] delicious novel of romance in late 19th-century Italy.
— Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
Again and again in Indian Summer, the felicity of the writing makes us pause in admiration....A midlife crisis has rarely been sketched in fiction with better humor, with gentler comedy and more gracious acceptance of life's irrevocability.
— John Updike
A lesser—known entry in the Americans—in—Europe genre, the school of novels ruled by Edith Wharton and Henry James, William Dean Howells' comedy of manners, Indian Summer, is as sublime as they come...Indian Summer is not, however, a tragic novel. Ultimately, it's one of those rare works...about the deep, unexpected satisfactions to be found in compromise...Indian Summer is what we mean when we invoke irony that does not mean hollow attitude, when we say something is civilized without meaning rarefied, when subtlety does not preclude accessibility, when optimism is earned. It's exquisite.