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Alice James: A Biography (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – November 1, 2011

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Alice James: A Biography (New York Review Books Classics) + The Diary Of Alice James + Death And Letters Of Alice James, The
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590174534
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590174531
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #626,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“From an isolated, eventless existence, Jean Strouse extracts something that did not exist for centuries: a woman’s interior life.”
—Stacy Schiff, The Wall Street Journal

“Engrossing, disquieting … Stunning, this book is haunting.”
—Naomi Bliven, The New Yorker

“Jean Strouse's biography of this infantilized, untimely, brilliant, radical, wasted, proud, hysterical woman does her complexity justice. Without didacticism or polemic, Strouse squarely confronts and explores the broad issues of medical and intellectual history that Alice James' life raises so provocatively. Her book is searching and scholarly, fascinating and sound. It is as good a history of Judith Shakespeare as we'll ever have, and its complex lessons, for both men and women, transcend intellectual history and touch life at its moral core.”—The Boston Globe

“Miss Strouse, in acquainting us with the younger sister of William and Henry James, has, as it were - and she is witty about Henry's ''ineluctable 'as it weres'  - written a Jamesian novel, subtle, evasive, embroidered, splendid.... Miss Strouse, who weaves instead of hammering home her delicate points is as expert in literary criticism as she is in recreating family life, medicine, psychology and education in 19th-century America. —John Leonard, The New York Times

“This is an important book for those interested in women’s history, in literary biography and for those who want to gain insight into the inner workings of human beings.”—The Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Jean Strouse is the author of Morgan, American Financier as well as Alice James, which won the Bancroft Prize. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Newsweek, Architectural Digest, and Slate. She is currently the Sue Ann and John Weinberg Director of the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Colm Tóibín is the author of six novels, including The Master (a novel based on the life of Henry James) and Brooklyn, and two collections of stories, Mothers and Sons and The Empty Family. He has been a visiting writer at Stanford, the University of Texas at Austin, and Princeton, and is now Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jaylia3 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
This comprehensive book about the insightful but often thwarted Alice James, the lone daughter in the family that included novelist Henry James and psychologist and philosopher William James, shines a bright light on the post-Civil War/pre-suffrage lives of women born into educated New England households. The Civil War created a surplus of women in Massachusetts; there were almost 50,000 more women than men in 1870 and by 1880 that number had increased to 66,000. Naturally, many of these women were unable to marry, and scores of them, inspired by the success of Harriet Beecher Stowe, turned to writing popular novels. Though disparaged by the admirers of Transcendentalists like Thoreau, Emerson and Hawthorne, literature by women had a large almost captive audience of disenfranchised females.

When her diaries were published after her death Alice was celebrated as a talented writer but she was not one of the new female novelists. Alice was never expected, encouraged or often even allowed to do much of anything at all. During this era there seemed to be an epidemic of women suffering "nervous disorders", and their number included Alice, because in spite of her excellent mind for much of her life she had no real work to do. Her father, Henry James Sr., was wild and unmanageable in his youth, rebelling against his strict religious father, and he was generally forward thinking as an adult, providing a rich environment for his children that helped nourish his oldest sons' abilities, but there was a dichotomy in his thinking because he could only be so progressive based on his upbringing and the age he lived in.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By John E. Carlson on June 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in 1991 and am still haunted by some of the words and letters of Alice James. Jean Srouse's thorough research and great prose kept me reading. It was Alice, herself, however who really touched me. This book introduced me to a cast of interesting characters who are with me still.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jan Overstreet on August 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's interesting that Alice's disabling illness has always been considered as neurotic, perhaps even a sign of envy of her successful brothers. It's occurred to me that Alice may have been suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, at that time an undiagnosed illness, as opposed to "brother envy". In any case, the book is beautifully written and is fascinating indeed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Oksol VINE VOICE on November 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is another incredible book. I picked up a used copy at a bookseller on the street for $2.00. It looked old, and two pages near the middle were torn, but when I opened it to read it, I could tell it had never been opened before. For me, it was priceless.

I cannot believe how well written some of these "older" books are. The story captured me from the beginning. I was introduced to Henry James by a friend some years ago. She had read some of his works in high school; I had never read him. Indeed, I had not even heard of Henry James. Curious, I tried reading Henry James and almost gave up. But I continued, and the more I read, the more interesting I found him to be. I eventually read the biography of his brother William, often said to be the most important psychologist in US history. In all those biographies there are references to Alice. I've always been curious about her.

Finally, a biography of Alice. It is amazing how far we've come with regard to allowing women to seek their full potential. It is no wonder there were so many great female writers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. That was the only way they could express themselves.

This is a big book, meant for serious readers. I would not recommend it as the first biography of the James family to be read. If I had to choose only one (William or Henry) to read first, it would be a hard call. I know I did it right be reading Edel's biography (the shorter biography) of Henry first and then Richardson's biography of William before tackling Alice. I guess if push came to shove, it would be Edel's one-volume biography of Henry.

Jean Strouse, the author, is editor of "Women and Analysis: Dialogues on Psychoanalytic Views of Femininity (1974)." Unlike some other feminist authors I have read, Strouse writes in a matter-of-fact style, never "in your face," and very enjoyable, even for a 60'ish-year old man like me.
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1 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bruce P. Barten on March 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
The 2011 preface only adds 3 or 4 pages at the front of the book. I would like people to read in an attempt to change their outlook on today, so I consider this book in connections with a few other things that come to my attention in a century that could use some sense of direction.

I am a man of constant swallow. Food is best raw and fresh, but custom has created processed food to make life possible in civilizations that do not allow everyone enough resources to grow what they eat. Intellectual activity is most like processed food when creative subjectivity is strongest in those who are sensitive to the vile nature of consensus. Tradition won't always provide answers for people raised on a song like Casey Jones by the Grateful Dead:
Skeletons From The Closet: The Best Of The Grateful Dead

Up around the bend,
you know it's the end.

From London, 2005, Cream Royal Albert Hall:Cream - Royal Albert Hall - London May 2-3-5-6 2005

Pressed Rat and Warthog were told to close up shop.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, the psychology of optimal experience.

Consciousness in conflict between being alone and being with others.

Jean Strouse, Alice James, a Biography.

Registering dramatic wars that raged through her body and mind.

Sander L.
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