Henry James's celebrated novel about a passionate New England feminist, her reactionary Southern gentleman cousin, and a charismatic young woman whose loyalty they both wish to possess goes so directly to the heart of sexual politics that it speaks to us with a voice as fresh and vital as when the book was first published in 1886.
When Basil Ransom visits his cousin Olive Chancellor in Boston, she takes him to hear a political speech about women's emancipation by a gifted speaker named Verena Tarrant. Though repelled by her principles, Basil is enchanted by the lovely Verena and becomes determined to convert her to his rigidly conservative views of a woman's place. He argues that Verena is made for private passion not a public career, and wants to marry her and take her away from those he feels are exploiting her. But Olive, a serious devotee of the cause, has made Verena her protegee and taken her into her home. What ensues is a battle for the young woman's body and soul by two antagonists with wills stronger than hers. Riveting in its narrative drama, rich and sympathetic in its ironies, The Bostonians is the work of a master psychologist at the top of his form.
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About the Author
Henry James was born on April 15, 1843, on Washington Place in New York to the most intellectually remarkable of American families. His father, Henry James Sr., was a brilliant and eccentric religious philosopher; his brother was one of the first great American psychologists and the author of the influential Pragmatism; his sister, Alice, though an invalid for most of her life, was a talented conversationalist, a lively letter writer, and a witty observer of the art and politics of her time. In search of the proper education for his children, Henry senior sent them to schools in America, France, Germany, and Switzerland. Returning to America, Henry junior lived in Newport, briefly attended Harvard Law School, and in 1864 began contributing stories and book reviews to magazines. Two more trips to Europe led to his final decision to settle there, first in Paris in 1875, then in London next year. James's first major novel, Roderick Hudson, appeared in 1875, but it was Daisy Miller (1878) that brought him international fame as the chronicler of American expatriates and their European adventures. His novels include The American (1877), Washington Square (1880), Princess Casamassima (1886), and the three late masterpieces, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). He also wrote plays, criticism, autobiography, travel books (including The American Scene, 1907) and some of the finest short stories in the English language. His later works were little read during his lifetime but have since come to be recognized as forerunners of literary modernism. Upon the outbreak of World War I, James threw his energies into war relief work and decided to adopt British citizenship. One month before his death in 1916, he received the Order of Merit from King George V.
“As devastating in its wit as it is sharp in its social critique of sexual politics. No writer in America had dared the subject before. No one has done it so well since.” —The New Republic