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Washington Square by Henry James

Washington Square (1880)

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,852542,036 (3.75)225
  1. 20
    Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac (Sakerfalcon)
    Sakerfalcon: Similar stories of daughters oppressed by overbearing fathers, and what happens when a young suitor enters their lives ...
  2. 00
    The Aspern Papers by Henry James (alalba)
  3. 00
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (zasmine)
    zasmine: Very well defined characters here too

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English (51)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (54)
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New York City ( )
  EBT1002 | Feb 19, 2015 |
I remember reading, a long time ago, about a young woman who was enjoying Henry James, until someone asked her "But don't you find James very difficult?": after which she realized Henry James was difficult. Having that story in mind when I began, I was pleased to discover that James is difficult in a very specific way - to wit, his laughably long paragraphs. The first paragraph of Washington Square is two and a half pages long, and I noted one that ran to three pages (this in a trade paperback having quite small type). Frightened? You shouldn't be, for they are such tidy, controlled paragraphs, you won't feel lost. In fact, I quite like James's style. He paints his characters with immaculate precision and arranges them in a tableau of classic drama - unattractive girl, unsuitable suitor, domineering father, ludicrous aunt - that makes me think he was a big Austen fan. This is a realistic novel, not a romance, so don't take that comparison too far, but I would nevertheless recommend this to an Austen aficionado who has a little more depth than to demand a happy ending every time.

Mrs. Penniman was a tall, thin, fair, rather faded woman, with a perfectly amiable disposition, a high standard of gentility, a taste for light literature, and a certain foolish indirectness and obliquity of character. She was romantic, she was sentimental, she had a passion for little secrets and mysteries - a very innocent passion, for her secrets had hitherto always been as unpractical as addled eggs. She was not absolutely veracious; but this defect was of no great consequence, for she had never had anything to conceal. She would have liked to have a lover, and to correspond with him under an assumed name in letters left at a shop; I am bound to say that her imagination never carried the intimacy farther than this. Mrs. Penniman had never had a lover, but her brother, who was very shrewd, understood her turn of mind. "When Catherine is about seventeen," he said to himself, "Lavinia will try and persuade her that some young man with a moustache is in love with her. It will be quite untrue; no young man, with a moustache or without, will ever be in love with Catherine. But Lavinia will take it up, and talk to her about it; perhaps, even, if her taste for clandestine operations doesn't prevail with her, she will talk to me about it. Catherine won't see it, and won't believe it, fortunately for her peace of mind; poor Catherine isn't romantic."

Review from my blog, This Space Intentionally Left Blank ( )
  emepps | Jan 23, 2015 |
After muttering, grumbling and hating on Henry James for upwards of 40 years (ever since I struggled and failed to read The Ambassadors for an American Lit course in college), I have finally read and enjoyed one of his novels. In truth, I enjoyed it quite a lot. This is the story of unattractive, un-brilliant, motherless Catherine Sloper, who has no prospects of marriage until she somehow attracts the attention of young Mr. Morris Townsend, of the "other" Townsends. His prospects are no better than hers, for although he is delightful to look at, and a charming dinner companion, he has no money, no career and no family connections of the better kind. Catherine's father, a prominent New York physician, will have no part of Catherine's determination to marry Mr. Townsend; she has her own income from her dead mother and Father cannot change that, but he can and emphatically will remove her from his Will and the assured thirty thousand a year she might expect after his death, unless she gives up Mr. Townsend. The exploration of human emotions, motivations, and relationships in this novel are subtle but superb.
The movie, "The Heiress" with Olivia deHaviland and Montgomery Clift was based on this novel. The outcome is fundamentally the same, but rather more dramatic in the movie.

Review written in September 2011 ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Nov 12, 2014 |
A father and his daughter debate a young man's intentions in a story conveying messages about the admixture of pride and love. As the father of a very young daughter I've received its precaution not to invest too much in a singular vision of the future woman my daughter will grow up to be. The author does an admirable job with the daughter's character arc, very convincingly moving her through the stages. I couldn't decide which way I wanted the ending to go, and still have mixed feelings about how it wound up - as I think I'm supposed to.

I was surprised by how present the narrator is in this work, which I thought was antithetical for Mr. James. A quick search confirms this novel was from his early period before he became so entrenched, also explaining the easy reading. This short work is a good place for anyone to start who wants to sample James as an author without getting too bogged down. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Oct 1, 2014 |
While I did not find it exactly amazing, I did really like Washington Square. Henry James has a way with words that is all his own. One can almost tell immediately when they're reading one of his works. Washington Square actually took me to a place I had been once a couple of decades ago, and I just couldn't help but appreciate the social anthropology found within its pages. In a great many ways, one becomes involved with the lives there. More to come in the blog. ( )
  mreed61 | Aug 10, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (47 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arbonès, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auchincloss, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balseiro, María LuisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bonnafont, ClaudeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hall, DonaldAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heesen, Martha,Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
James, LloydNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ozick, CynthiaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poole, AdrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Lawrence BeallIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Doren, MarkIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more
particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and
practised in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an
exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States,
has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical
The years have passed very quietly.
She liked to wait, it intensified the situation.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the main work for Washington Square by Henry James. It should not be combined with any adaptation, abridgement, etc.
Publisher's editors
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Wikipedia in English


Book description
Conflict relationships. The heroine's naivete against the heartless ambition and hypocrisy of her suitor and the ruthlessness of her father. He is wise and knows what her suitor is after but his way of dealing with his daughter is heartless.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140432264, Paperback)

Washington Square (1881), by Henry James, tells the story of Catherine Sloper, the plain, obedient daughter of the widowed, well-to-do Dr. August Sloper of Washington Square. When a handsome, feckless man-about-town proposes to Catherine, her father forbids the marriage because he believes the man to be after Catherine's fortune and future inheritance. The conflict between father, daughter, and suitor provokes consequences in the lives of all three that make this story one of James's most piercingly memorable.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:13 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

In the Washington Square area of New York City in the late nineteenth century, devastating betrayals by both her father and her lover leave shy and fragile Catherine Sloper permanently scarred.

» see all 14 descriptions

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Average: (3.75)
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1.5 3
2 28
2.5 7
3 127
3.5 43
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8 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141441364, 0141194979, 0141389494

The Library of America

An edition of this book was published by The Library of America.

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Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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