Washington Square
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read book* *Different edition

Washington Square

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  9,784 ratings  ·  718 reviews
Washington Square follows the coming-of-age of its plain-faced, kindhearted heroine, Catherine Sloper. Much to her father’s vexation, a handsome opportunist named Morris Townsend woos the long-suffering heiress, intent on claiming her fortune. When Catherine stubbornly refuses to call off her engagement, Dr. Sloper forces Catherine to choose between her inheritance and the...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published October 31st 1990 by Vintage Books / Library of America (first published 1880)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Washington Square, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Washington Square

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I love this book so much I can't bear it. As someone who adores just about every last word that Henry James (over-) wrote, it has never gotten any more deliciously (un-)satisfying than this -- a slim, tart little novel about plain, socially unpromising Catherine Sloper, whose wealthy father refuses to allow her to marry Morris Townsend, whom he believes to be mercenary. No matter how many times I read this book, the question still nags at me: "Does Morris have any feeling at all for Catherine, o...more
Henry James is Gangnam style
Gangnam style

Catherine Sloper is warm and humanle during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist

I’m a guy called Morris Townsend
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, Catherine Sloper, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
My first completed book of the year and one that has totally altered my view of Henry James and his fiction. Instead of being what I had thought of as the somber "master" of cold 19th century fiction, he is a man with sharp and perceptive humor, a clever sense of inequalities between sexes and in society. My enlightenment is partially responsible for my rating, though I also enjoyed the novel!

The story is really quite simple...wealthy father knows what is best for future heiress daughter. Rogue...more
Jul 18, 2007 HRH rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who don't need resolution
I had read Daisy Miller and enjoyed it so I thought I would like another Henry James novel, Washington Square. Furthermore, one of the remarks on the cover said something about the man writing as good a family story as Jane Austen. What could be better?

A lot of things actually.

I even read somewhere that James didn't like the novel so he didn't include it in his anthology. I'm surprised he made it through the first time knowing the ending as he presumably did.
Staged in New York City, Washington...more
Henry Avila
Time the 1840's, in New York City.Catherine Sloper, a twenty-one year old woman.Daughter of a prominent and wealthy doctor.You'd think all the young men would be trying to marry her.But Catherine is plain of face and very shy.There's a good probability, that she'll remain a spinster, till the end of life. Catherine adores her father, and is intimidated in his presence.A very intelligent man, Dr.Austin Sloper is.The widower, invites his widow sister Lavinia, to stay at the Washington Square mansi...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read a hundred so-called "classic" books for the first time, then file reports on whether or not I think they deserve the label

Book #10: Washington Square, by Henry James (1880)

The story in a nutshell:
Agreed by most to definitely be one of his minor works, Washington Square i...more
An early work by Henry James (1880) and rather brief, The plot is straightforward. Dr Sloper lives with his daughter Catherine and hus widowed sister Mrs Penniman. They live in Washington Square and Sr Sloper is reasonably well off and Catherine also has some money left by her mother. Dr Sloper (and the narrator) describe Catherine as rather plain and unitelligent. Into this family scene enters Morris Townsend, a very handsome and penniless young man who woos Catherine (and charms Mrs Penniman)...more
First, I am grateful that I did not grow up during the Victorian period. Second I'm not a big fan of Henry James.

Washington Square (1880) by Henry James

The plot is based on a real story told to Henry James by his dear friend Fanny Kemble. James was not a great fan of Washington Square itself. He tried to read it over for inclusion in the New York Edition of his fiction (1907–1909) but found that he could not, and the novel was not included. “He dismissed it as one of his unhappy accidents.”

James is an emotionally insightful and understated author. Re-reading “Wahsington Squre” reminded me how of that. Catherine is an average 1870’s New Yorker in every way except one; she’s an heiress. Her mother died when she was very young leaving her $10,000 a year. She’s set to inherit double that amount from her doctor father. It seems the money is important to everyone but her. Her Aunt Pennyman, her surrogate mother, urges her to encourage Morris, a fortune hunter. Since Catherine’s inexperi...more
Christopher H.
Some truly monstrous fathers can be found among the great works of fiction. Shakespeare's King Lear and Titus Andronicus certainly come to mind, or Hardy's 'Michael Henchard', and 'Laius of Thebes' may be the worst of the lot. Having just finished reading Henry James's Washington Square I am now fully prepared to add Doctor Austin Sloper to my top-ten list of 'Worst Fathers of Fiction'.

Washington Square is a short novel (more a novella) by Henry James written in 1880, and is really an excellent...more
I did not like any character in this book, and found myself actually despising Catherine the most(close runner-up: Dr. Sloper, her father). The only part of the entire novel that was even remotely likable was the last few chapters, and Catherine redeemed herself a bit for me in the end. James' actual writing is quite good of course (hence my 2 star instead of 1 star rating), but I would have to disagree with an assessment from Graham Greene that was on the back sleeve of my copy: "The delicate,...more
This life had, however, a secret history as well as a public one.

I'm surprised to learn that James excluded 'Washington Square' from the New York Edition of his works; it strikes me as the best of the novels to precede 'The Portrait of a Lady' (although I haven't yet read 'The American' or 'Daisy Miller'). The characters are more complex, the story more ambitious--ah, that richly characteristic Jamesian brew of duplicity, emotional aggression, half-known secret history!--than anything to be foun...more
My second book by James and I still remain unimpressed when comparing him to Lawrence, Hardy or the Brontë sisters. Even to Austen.
I know he writes about different times, different places and with different aims, but even though I appreciate his correct and composed style, I miss the passionate accounts of other classic authors.
In "Washington Square" the setting takes place in the late XIXth New York where we are introduced to the Sloper family, consisting basically of the well respected and int...more
Cristina Caminita
I used to hate Henry James. I really did. I tried to read The Aspern Papers when I was deep into my thesis on Byron and couldn't get through it. I tried to read Portrait of a Lady and found Isabel Archer annoying at best, although I couldn't quite describe why she irritated me so much. I abandoned James for a long time. Last month I decided to start on his shorter novels and see if I could build up a tolerance for him. Lo, I seem to have done it.

I can't say that this book was brilliant by any d...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Colleen Wainwright
There are great gaps in my literary education, and Henry James' oeuvre is—are?—one of them.

I fell in love with this story watching the classic screen version with Olivia DeHavilland and Monty Clift. It stands alone as an outstanding piece of entertainment, but, like most films based on books, only begins to get at the emotional nuances of the original novella. (Or maybe it *is* a novel, but given how long everyone wrote back then, especially James, it feels like a novella.)

Even though it's set...more

Call me idealistic, but to me the point of calling someone a heroine, is reserved for someone at the least having qualities that surprise you, or that maybe make you sympathize for that person, through whatever happens to them in the story, or their thoughts.
What goes on in Catherine's mind? Who will ever know? I only felt uncomfortable while reading this book. Not an enjoyable read for me. I suppose you could say it is always a better description of any book, to do at least that, make you cring...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Washington Square marks the first of what will probably be several books visited because of my recent reading of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I'm pretty sure the only James I had read prior to this book was Daisy Miller, which I read for literature classes in both high school and college. I remember distinctly disliking it in high school (because "nothing happens and it just ends") although I think I did like it more the second time around.

Washington Square is the story of Miss Catherine Sloper, a...more
Carmen Micsa
I promised my friend Julie a few reviews, so I'll crank them out to start the New year on the right literary foot-Ha!Ha!, and, of course to keep my promise, as she's always sending me the best audio books, for which I'm very grateful.

I enjoyed the plot and the characters of this book, but most of all I've enjoyed the subplots and the subtexts. I also like the suspense created by the omniscient narrator who gives out scrapes of information for us to assemble the larger puzzle of love, as well as...more
Oct 11, 2007 Elena rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who have sat through the 6-hour BBC version of Pride and Predudice more than once
Engrossed in this book after the first few chapters, I read further with slight irritation because I couldn't pin down why I was so into it. Even the Austinian precision with which James paints his characters should have been overshadowed by a heroine who was "plain, dull" and lacking in intelligence. But it wasn't. I read the introduction after fininshing the book, and I think this is why:

"James commends Balzac for the way he so obviously loves his characters, not for any virues they may posses...more
Tracy Rhodes
I enjoy the writing style of Henry James, but the story itself... Ugh.

I kept thinking surely there are going to be some major plot twists, some sort of revelations or scandal to spice things up, or even some drastic unexpected course of action taken by someone or another... Instead the story mostly consists of a pack of unlikable people sitting around either scorning or deluding each other, and one spineless, milquetoast "heroine" stuck in the middle of it all, whom I spent most of the book des...more
So, it was OK. With a touch of boredom. If only the reader was rewarded with a happy ending - no kids, happy ending doesn't mean he marries her and live happily ever after! - happy ending as in Catherine gets brainier, independent and starts living a bit. But James chooses to let her grow into a quiet spinster and bore us to death. Or maybe I'm just not fair and James loves her, despite the fact that he doesn't endow her with too many qualities (her father being the first to admit and emphasize...more
What a fantastic novel--and what a cruel premise! I have tried repeatedly to describe the basic idea of this book, and I have struck out line after line because each felt too mean to commit to print. Suffice to say that James gives his own take on the "ugly duckling" scenario that features in romantic dramas, adopting an approach that is far more realistic--and, again, cruel--than most stories allow.

I have read James before, and once again I loved his prose and witty narration. Here is an examp...more
Having seen and enjoyed the film several times, I was already predisposed to like this book and I did. It's written with wry humour and the author obviously enjoys poking fun at his characters.
It's also a rather sad reflection of nineteenth century attitudes to women. This is an old fashioned book, written in an old fashioned style, with very old fashioned values; however, despite the rampant male chauvinism it's possible to feel some sympathy for the concerned father who is trying to ensure tha...more
Interesting to read Henry James shortly after having read Edith Wharton; they were contemporaries and friends and wrote about much the same topics: the lives of the upper crust in New York City at the end of the 19th century, with - in this novel as in Wharton's The Age of Innocence - a special interest in families' social agendas surrounding courtship and marriage. In James's novel, I found it difficult to actually like any of the characters; they seemed either selfish and mean (the father), se...more
Moses Kilolo
For most books there exists brief moments during which my reading mind misbehaves. Concentration is lost. Strange and distant thoughts, even sweet memories and or tender aspirations take up my wandering mind. But here is a book that did not allow that. It engaged me from the beginning to the end. The simplicity with which it unfolds beautifully caught up that soft spot reserved for things romantic. (Don't hold that against me. I never read romance. Its human to want to tie one to something sensu...more
Взех книгата от библиотеката съвсем случайно. Името Хенри Джеймс ми бе познато, но не бях чела нищо от него и реших да пробвам. Взех я с още няколко книги, една от които "Безкраен празник" на Хемингуей. Именно там, доста изненадващо за мен, Хемингуей споменава, че Хенри Джеймс е любимият автор на жена му. Прочетох книгата веднага след това. И останах много, ама много очарована.
Хенри Джеймс е уникален психолог, познавач на човешката душа с всичките й терзания, възходи и падения. Пише в един прекр...more
Rhayna Kramer
After watching the award-winning movie, "The Heiress," and after some recommendation from my father as to read Washington Square, I was not only interested in reading it because I enjoy reading classics, but I also love to form a mental comparison and contrast between movies and books; one can usually find that the books are better than the adaptations in the sense that there is such detail that goes into them that movies, leave out.

I must confess, that I was astonished that although "The Heire...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Old New York: Four Novellas
  • Framley Parsonage
  • Two on a Tower
  • Cousin Pons
  • Armadale
  • Shamela
  • Manservant and Maidservant
  • Felix Holt: The Radical
Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the...more
More about Henry James...
The Portrait of a Lady The Turn of the Screw Daisy Miller The Wings of the Dove The Golden Bowl

Share This Book

“Don’t underestimate the value of irony—it is extremely valuable.” 64 likes
“do you think it is
better to be clever than to be good?”
“Good for what?” asked the Doctor. “You are good for
nothing unless you are clever.”
More quotes…