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The Bostonians (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – May 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; 1 edition (May 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199539146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199539147
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,185,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Henry James (1843-1916), the son of the religious philosopher Henry James Sr. and brother of the psychologist and philosopher William James, published many important novels including Daisy Miller, The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl, and The Ambassadors.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Though James is certainly not known for his sense of humor, he displays a keen sense of satire in this novel. The two senses are not identical--many readers expect satire to make them laugh out loud, and those readers will be disappointed in this book. James' satire is more likely to make readers feel uncomfortable. He repeatedly mocks the two main characters and their struggle to control a young woman who hardly seems worth the effort that these two egoists put into her pursuit. James allows Olive Chancellor and Basil Ransom (whose names evoke the satiricomic tradition in which he is writing) to take themselves seriously while allowing the readers to see them as stereotypes. While satire depends on such stereotypes, James' fiction typically delves into the psychological. At times, he is able to keep this balance, but often the tension is too great and the characters seem to fall flat. Verena Tarrant--the object of Olive and Basil's affection--is virtually absent psychologically (as others have noted), but her lack of character is built into the novel. She begins as her father's possession, and the novel hinges on whether Olive or Basil get to own her next. While the novel is certainly not without faults, it is interesting to watch a novelist as self-conscious as James attempt to write a novel of this type. While he wasn't destined to become a comic genius, this novel is a step toward the psychological, satirical and comic success he was to have in a novel such as "The Ambassadors."
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lois on May 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
The astonishing thing about this book -- and a lot of Henry James's writing -- is his insight into the problems of women. This book deals with the problem of independence and freedom. Most of us, let's admit it, love the idea of being swept off our feet by some competent, assertive male. It's a real turn-on. If you don't believe it, check out how many successful professional women secretly read historical romances by the boxload. The problem comes the next morning when he starts to take control, bit by bit, of your entire life. In this book you have Olive, who is not, I think, a lesbian but someone who is very lonely and doesn't trust men and Verena, who likes men just fine, but is, for the moment anyway, under the spell of Olive and her feminist ideology. Are these our only options? Verena Makes her choice, but James notes that the tears she sheds may not, unhappily, be her last.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Edward Aycock on November 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the high point of the Henry James middle period. I don't think any book so perfectly captures the spirit of a city than The Bostonians does. It's obvious that James is critical of the people of Boston, and has great fun with a great era (spirituality, free love, communal living, feminism, and seances in the post-Civil War America), yet at the same time, I think this is a great description (and a truthful one) of the home of the eban and the cod. The battle between Olive Chancellor and Basil Ransom for the soul of the very confused spiritualist speaker Verena Tarrant (Ah, those Jamesian names again!)is not only powerfully doen, but I think this book has much more humor in it than Portrait of a Lady does. (Although, this does not diminish either work in the least.) I could speak all day about this book, and given a chance I will. But I urge you to take a chance on it. I was Massachusetts born and raised..but out in the Western end of the state, and we tend to feel Bostonians sometimes think a bit too well of themselves. Apparently, over 100 years ago, things were the same. There is so much more to this book, read it, and realize that we, at the beginning of a new millenium, are hardly as progressive or as innovative as we like to think we are.
Of course, the greatest irony of this book comes not within its pages, but when you visit the grave of the James family. Henry James ashes were interred in the ground on the family plot, and now and forever, the family plot looks not upon the city of New York, or the expanses of Europe, but rather, Henry James, for all eternity, is facing th city of Boston. e
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on October 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
The women's rights movement is a big part of American history, so it's interesting that Henry James used it as the subject of his 1886 novel "The Bostonians." While it's widely considered a satire, it doesn't really ridicule the movement, and the characters are too understated to risk judgment as caricatures. (To say James is a master of understatement is an understatement.) Rather, the novel appears to use the movement as a device to weave male-female relationships into a Balzacian comedy of society. Compared to most of his more popular novels, it is quite lighthearted.

The central heroine is the voluptuous Verena Tarrant, an inspirational public speaker with the voice of an angel and the charm of a Homeric siren. Her uniquely sheltered upbringing as the daughter of a fraudulent and avaricious "mesmeric healer" has freed her from a normal education and exposed her to anybody who wants to take advantage of her ingenuousness. One night at the home of an elderly progressive activist named Miss Birdseye, she delivers a mellifluous speech that grabs the attention of the scheming feminist Olive Chancellor and her cousin Basil Ransom, a Mississippi lawyer who has settled in New York to begin a practice and has just come to Boston to visit his relatives.

Olive quickly befriends Verena with the intention of putting her oratorical skills to work for the women's movement, acting as her mentor and coaching her in the rationale for gender equality. Men, including her own father, see Verena as a goldmine: A wealthy Harvard student named Henry Burrage offers to be her lecture agent, and a journalist named Matthias Pardon reports on her professional engagements, helping her to become a celebrity who commands large audiences.
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