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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very 'internal' novel
If the narrative of this novel confined itself to simply reporting external events, it would probably be no more than 50 pages long, rather than the 400+ pages it actually is. Not that this would be as good thing. The self-conscious, ambiguous narration is enough to make literature students (such as myself) jump for joy. The narrator explicitly acknowledges his own...
Published on 24 Feb 2003 by proclivities

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read
As a lover of classics I thought I'd give a Henry James book a go, and as a feminist I thought this would be a good place to start. The book is quite amusing, but the political content is rather weak. The characters are good in that they are well developed but I can't say I was particularly fond of them by the end of the book, which I personally think is quite...
Published on 24 Sep 2010 by Freethinker


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very 'internal' novel, 24 Feb 2003
This review is from: The Bostonians (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
If the narrative of this novel confined itself to simply reporting external events, it would probably be no more than 50 pages long, rather than the 400+ pages it actually is. Not that this would be as good thing. The self-conscious, ambiguous narration is enough to make literature students (such as myself) jump for joy. The narrator explicitly acknowledges his own presence, and the limits of his knowledge, and immerses the reader in a hall of mirrors, where he dips in and out of characters' consciousnesses, and sometimes reports what characters think that other characters are thinking! The plot revolves around Boston and New York societies, and the spate of reformist groups in the wake of the Civil War - particularly those championing the rights of women. James subtly probes the finer points of the motives of individuals for engaging in or opposing such movements, and succeeds in creating psychologically real characters. The novel is weighty, not something one can dip in and out of, but close reading is extremely rewarding.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James Does Sapphism??, 30 Aug 2010
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M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Firstly I should warn anyone reading this Penguin edition, the print is a bit on the small side and may not be easily read by some people, also if you have never read any Henry James before, this isn't the best book to start with.

This tale came out in 1886 in novel form, after first being serialized. The year saw two James novels come out in print, this one and The Princess Casamassima (Classics), neither of them received very flattering reviews and both of them are now referred to as his 'political novels'. This book has always been more popular on this side of the Atlantic whilst the other one has always been more popular in the US. I won't go into details why this is so but looking at the US site for Amazon I see that this book has obviously gained in popularity.

The story itself is very simple, but of course with most of James' tales it is drawn out. Olive Chancellor feels it her duty to invite her cousin, Basil Ransom to visit her in Boston. Going to one of her radical meetings they both come across Verena Tarrant. Basil disapporves of her views and opinions, after all this is a feminist meeting and he has old world values. Olive on the other hand has the same views as Verena. So more or less starts a fight for Verena's heart and soul by these two cousins.

Why this novel has gained much deeper appreciation in later years is because people are more and more realising that Olive is undoubtedly a lesbian. That you can read this between the lines isn't difficult, but that James is even more open in the text is surprising. You read quite early on that when Olive tries to get close to working class girls they shun her, and as Verena is to all intents and purposes naieve and innocent would account for her not running. It is never made clear whether a definite lesbian relationship is experienced between the young women, but a close reading would seem to suggest that there probably is. But will Olive be able to hold onto Verena, especially after Basil formerly makes his proposal?

You have to wonder whether James went through his life after writing this, chuckling away to himself that he hadn't caused a furore at the time. Richard Lansdown gives a very good introduction here explaining why this is James' most humurous novel, as well as there being two appendices, both extracts, one from de Tocqueville, and the other from James, as well as copious notes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An intimate insight into the Bostonian mind, 7 Feb 2014
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I'm writing a book that is partly set in Boston, slightly later than in the film. I knew that Henry James was a writer who is insightful about the nuances of society and so it proved with The Bostonians. Although set in a different period to mine, (1919 post WW1) it was a useful study of how men perceive independent women. Alex Martin, author of Daffodils
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, 29 May 2013
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What a novel! Henry James writes beautifully about early Boston and its inhabitants, the trials and tribulations. Read read read, must be on your to-do list.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 24 Sep 2010
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As a lover of classics I thought I'd give a Henry James book a go, and as a feminist I thought this would be a good place to start. The book is quite amusing, but the political content is rather weak. The characters are good in that they are well developed but I can't say I was particularly fond of them by the end of the book, which I personally think is quite important. The main strength of the book, apart from the humour, is the descriptions of American society and manners at the time the book is set. This was quite enlightening.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Synopsis, 10 Aug 2008
This review is from: THE BOSTONIANS. (Paperback)
Lovely Verena Tarrant has taken 1880s Boston by storm. Her inspired speeches on the emancipation of women carry her from poor beginnings to fame in the fashionable world, and bring her the friendship of Olive Chancellor - a wealthy, well-bred woman who is a fanatical believer in women's suffrage
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The Bostonians (Oxford World's Classics)
The Bostonians (Oxford World's Classics) by Henry James (Paperback - 2 April 1998)
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