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The Bostonians (1886)

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,531304,830 (3.57)116
This brilliant satire of the women's rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. Will the privileged Boston feminist Olive Chancellor succeed in turning her beloved ward into a celebrated activist and lifetime companion? Or will Basil Ransom, a conservative southern lawyer, steal Verena's heart and remove her from the limelight? ""The Bostonians" has a vigor and blithe wit found nowhere else in James," writes A. S. Byatt in her Introduction. "It is about idealism in a democracy that is still recovering from a civil war bitterly fought for social ideals . . . Ýwritten¨ with a ferocious, precise, detailed--and wildly comic--realism."… (more)
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» See also 116 mentions

English (27)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Here's what I wrote after reading in 1988: "It is to be feared that with the union, so far from brilliant, into which she was about to enter, these were not the last (tears) she was destined to shed." Wirtten in 1885, Henry James' study of "the situation of women, the decline of the sentiment of sex, the agitation on their behalf". WIth characters Verena Tarrant, Olive Chancellor and Basil Ransom, James creates a love triangle of sorts. Olive attemps to, and nearly succeeds at, leashing Verena to a public life of speaking on behalf of feminism. Basil attempts to, and cruelly succeeds at, leashing Verena to a private life of wifely cares and responsibilities." This is another I don't recall reading. ( )
  MGADMJK | Feb 24, 2022 |
Published serially in Century Illustrated Magazine in 1885–86 and in book form in three volumes in 1886. It was one of the earliest American novels to deal—even obliquely—with lesbianism.

Olive Chancellor, a Boston feminist in the 1870s, thinks she has found a kindred spirit in Verena Tarrant, a beautiful young woman who, though passive and indecisive, is a spellbinding orator for women’s rights. Olive vies for Verena’s attention and affections with Basil Ransom, a gracious but reactionary Confederate army veteran. Verena marries Basil and leaves Boston. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Jan 17, 2022 |
The Bostonians is a novel of manners. We can appreciate is much more pleasurably when taking the role as observers than when trying to analyze of explain the characters. While the 1820s - 1840s are traditionally described as the hey-day of the American reform movement, culminating with the triumph of the abolitionist movement at the end of the Civil War, the reform movement picked up unabated after the Civil War with idealists striving for women's rights, both voting and emancipation, the abolition of tobacco use, vegetarianism, health reform, homeopathic medicine, and pacifism among others. Henry James describes Boston as the city where this activism thrived in the circuit of lectures, together with lectures by quacks, cranks, faddists, and “do-gooders". The best part of Book 1, running well over 80 pages is all devoted to describing a single event like that, where the reader is taken on a tour observing speakers and attendants on an evening.

This type of environment exists up until the day of today: magical healers, homeopaths, veganists, religious fanatics, environmental activists: and the three characters as embodied in The Bostonians are also still found in the same scene: Olive Chancellor as the establishment within a movement but possible with a hidden agenda, some personal interest, Verena Tarrant, the child who grew up within the movement, lacking critical judgement, and Basil Ransom, the common-sense skeptic.

While the scene itself is described to make it amusing, neither pro nor contra, the substance of the novel focuses on the competition for Verena's heart. ( )
  edwinbcn | Jan 3, 2022 |
First off one minor quibble. This has THE worst use of chapters i've ever seen! I mean almost every chapter felt like it was starting in mid-sentence. Chapters are supposed to distinguish particular scenes but the chapter ends in this all felt like they were in the wrong places.
Social satire/drama romance thing... i don't really know how to characterize it properly. Set amongst the Suffragette movement in America and with some battle-of-the-sexes goings on.
Its VERY well written with a nice way of painting people and places. I'm not going to say whether it was depressing or uplifting as this might spoil it, suffice to say which ever one it was it did so to an extreme degree.
The authors slow burn writing style became quite annoying later but that was due to how compelling the story was and how desperately i wanted to know what was going to happen. ( )
  wreade1872 | Nov 28, 2021 |
The part where Olive literally buys Verena from her father, for use in the cause of emancipating women, showed me a quite startling sense of humor on the part of the author.
  jjmiller50fiction | Apr 18, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Set in the period after the Civil War, among the abolitionists, who are now—it's 1875—turning their energies to the emancipation of women, it's a wonderful, teeming novel, with darting perceptions. It's perhaps the most American of James's novels—not just because it is set here but because all the characters are Americans, and because Boston, with its quacks and mystics, its moral seriousness and its dowdiness, is contrasted with New York's frivolous "society" and the South's conservatism...

It's the liveliest of his novels, maybe because it has sex right there at the center, and so it's crazier—riskier, less controlled, less gentlemanly—than his other books. He himself seems to be pulled about, identifying with some of the characters and then rejecting them for others. I think it is by far the best novel in English about what at that time was called "the woman question," and it must certainly be the best novel in the language about the cold anger that the issue of equal rights for women can stir in a man. I first read the book when I was in my early twenties, and it was like reading advance descriptions of battles I knew at first hand; rereading it, some forty years later, I found it a marvelous, anticipatory look at issues that are more out in the open now but still unresolved.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe New Yorker, Pauline Kael
 

» Add other authors (78 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Anderson, Charles RobertsEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lansdown, RichardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodgers, ElisabethNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Olive will come down in about ten minutes; she told me to tell you that."
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Le bostoniane possiede la crudele, paurosa bellezza della verità.
Antonio Lombardo
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This brilliant satire of the women's rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. Will the privileged Boston feminist Olive Chancellor succeed in turning her beloved ward into a celebrated activist and lifetime companion? Or will Basil Ransom, a conservative southern lawyer, steal Verena's heart and remove her from the limelight? ""The Bostonians" has a vigor and blithe wit found nowhere else in James," writes A. S. Byatt in her Introduction. "It is about idealism in a democracy that is still recovering from a civil war bitterly fought for social ideals . . . Ýwritten¨ with a ferocious, precise, detailed--and wildly comic--realism."

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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