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

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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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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: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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