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The Bostonians

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  5,172 Ratings  ·  297 Reviews
This brilliant satire of the women’s rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. Will the privileged Boston feminist Olive Chancellor succeed in turning her beloved ward into a celebrated activist and lifetime companion? Or will Basil Ransom, a con ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published December 9th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1886)
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classic reverie I am almost half way through this book & it was a movie in the 1980's & it would be a good movie to me but I never saw the 1980 movie. I think…moreI am almost half way through this book & it was a movie in the 1980's & it would be a good movie to me but I never saw the 1980 movie. I think it is a good read for a teen in a book club but it depends on the teen if they are looking for something current. This book has lots to discuss about past & current treatment of women & men.(less)

Community Reviews

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Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Ransom's the name -Basil Ransom. Status, bachelor. Occupation : general brokerage, whatever the hell that means. Occupation at the moment - just having fun. Let me tell you about my evening. It was last evening. The one before this one.

What a politico-literary gathering that was. The drinks were loaded and so were the dolls. I narrowed my eyes and poured a stiff Manhattan and then I saw...Verena Tarrant! What a dame, a big, bountiful babe in the region of 38-23-36. One hell of a region. She was
Sep 06, 2013 AC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this on audible while driving to & from work -- it took awhile, but the book allows itself to be 'read' in chunks. The story is certainly a bit too long (typically Jamesian, I guess), often melodramatic -- but, in the end, quite good. Magnficent characters -- Verena, Olive, Basil...

The audible was narrated by a woman named Xe Sands - pronounced 'ex-y Sands'. she specializes in reading audible erotic romances -- so I guess 'Xe' is not chinese; probably her real name is Mildred o
Aug 05, 2007 Kelly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: James fans who want to see a new side of their boy!
Newsflash: Henry James is funny! Seriously, he likes to laugh. And he's good at it. Who knew? The opening of this book reads like a farce, a comedy of manners, a vicious taking apart of characters worthy of Oscar Wilde. It does diminish and get rather more serious over the course of the novel, but it never entirely goes away. Henry's vicious! In a good way. I mean, you may feel a little bad as he chooses to rip into the feminist movement as a target, but at least his chosen characters fully dese ...more
Mar 18, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tiffani Amber Thiessen
Shelves: own, fiction

I found The Bostonians repulsive on so many levels. Where to even begin...

James is creating a world where it seems he wants you to find certain things repulsive, and you do, as a 21st century reader, although not necessarily quite as he hopes. The novel opens with Basil Ransom, a gallant Mississippian, paying a visit to his Boston cousin, the austere but still young spinster Olive Chancellor. Olive has invited Basil north in the hopes that he will become interested in her widowed sister, Mrs. Lu
Mike Lindgren
Jun 15, 2011 Mike Lindgren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Another step in the slow accretion of my lifelong project of reading the major novels and stories. The Bostonians -- maddening, thrilling, vexing, and troublesome -- illustrates again the principle that at its very highest levels fiction operates upon the reader in a messy and unpredictable way. As I write this, I am about to go to the "Great Books" discussion group at the Yale Club, which typically comprises late middle-aged women and me -- my peeps, in other words -- and which is always enligh ...more
Magrat Ajostiernos
Esta es OTRA de esas novelas en las que he terminado odiando a casi todos los personajes. ¬¬
Aprecio la ironía de James, el estudio que hace de la psicología de sus personajes y desde luego el contexto de las sufragistas pero 'Las bostonianas' no ha conseguido llenarme del todo.
Aún así, por alguna razón su historia logra absorberte de tal manera que tampoco podía parar de leer...
Lo que no quita que sea enormemente DENSA, y por ello no la recomiendo si buscais una lectura fácil y gratificante
Aug 18, 2010 Craig rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
A shallow portrayal of pathetic people caught up in the selfish advancement of their own interests. Two self-absorbed individuals vie for the affections of and control over an enchanting prophetess. As with many of Henry James works, this one also focuses on the movement afoot in the late 1800s regarding the emancipation of women. The substance of the movement is not discussed, only the forces vying for control. I found no great cause, no great plot, no great character development, no great styl ...more
A pesar de mi poca experiencia con Henry James, me atrevo a decir que no es un autor precisamente fácil: sus descripciones son exhaustivas hasta el paroxismo, el ritmo de la narración es concientemente lento, es pulcro y detallista hasta la exasperación… A veces se pasa de la raya, como en ‘La copa dorada’ (libro que confieso que no tuve fuerzas para terminar), pero a veces se queda justo al límite como por un milagro de equilibrista consumado, como es el caso de ‘Retrato de una dama’ y también ...more
May 05, 2012 Cristina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

En mi humilde opinión es uno de los libros menores de un autor enorme, uno de mis favoritos. Precisamente lo que me gusta de Henry James es que debes desenredar la madeja según lees. En muchos casos debes sacar tus propias conclusiones. A pesar de esas maravillosas descripciones tan detalladas que tiene en común con la que fuera su amiga Edith Wharton, tanto de escenarios, situaciones, emociones o perfiles psicológicos, siempre hay una historia oculta entre lineas. James siempre dice mucho más d
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
This was an interesting novel to read. In all honesty it was serious step down from the masterpiece that precedes it, i.e., The Portrait of a Lady. Having said that though, I think James perhaps intended this book to be lighter fare than Portrait. In fact, The Bostonians is loaded with satire, irony, and a goodly number of comedic moments. The novel's plot revolves around two cousins, Olive Chancellor and Basil Ransom, and the relationship that each desires to have with a young red-headed woman ...more
Nazirah Idris
Aug 12, 2011 Nazirah Idris rated it really liked it
My impression in very few words: Charming Southern asshole falls in love with pretend-feminist who is docile yet innocent (possibly with big tits). He then steals her away from her lesbian spinster best friend in the middle of them fighting for women's suffrage.

Quite entertaining. Consciously sexist though.
Jan 28, 2017 dianne rated it liked it
This is one of those books i’ll continue to ruminate on and most likely decide my thinking was awry, maybe often. I have a difficult time believing Verena - i guess what i mean is suspending my disbelief for her. How anyone could live a couple of decades and apparently not develop any predilections, any thoughts of her own, even about herself? She is presented as a pure vessel (empty?) gifted with a divine afflatus of enthusiasm, and the capacity to engage any audience.

“The worst of the case was
Aug 10, 2010 Briynne rated it really liked it
James is so sharp and mean in this – it’s not what I expected at all, and I kind of loved it. The story is set post-Civil War and concerns the women’s rights movement of the time. Olive Chancellor is a frigid, yet highly emotional, spinster who is obsessed with the idea of women’s suffering and oppression. She takes up a begrudging acquaintance with her Mississippian cousin Basil Ransom, who is the perhaps the least ridiculous of the three principle characters, despite being cast as the stereoty ...more
Justin Evans
Aug 21, 2009 Justin Evans rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Not quite sure what to make of this. It has a few Jamesian qualities: the enormous significance of details, general tragic view of life etc... But this is surrounded by mind-numbing detail and a set of characters with uninteresting psychologies. James is at his best when he's finding the complexity in the simple. But the main characters here are a caricature of an early feminist; a caricature of a post-war Southern gent; and a girl who's a bit too good to be anything but stupid. When the charact ...more
Dec 03, 2007 Liza rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bostonians, funnies, spinsters, people who don't know what's good for them but wish they did
I read this book because I just moved to Boston and hoped it would give me a sense of atmosphere, which it did. I was not expecting it to be as hilarious as it was. Unfortunately the humor tones down a little bit after the first hundred pages. It starts out absolutely ruthless but then you get the sense he maybe relented a little, because after all he loves these Bostonians, doesn't he? And so do we. (Or if you don't, you might be heartless.) Anyway, as the humor starts to fade the book becomes ...more
Glenn Bowlan
Sep 05, 2011 Glenn Bowlan rated it it was ok
A claustrophobic and tedious book that has little to offer the casual reader, this is a still-life of a novel with almost no plot, drama, or humor. Olive, Verena and Basil are drawn with microscopic attention to detail, but they are boring narcissistic characters with few illuminating qualities.

Miss Birdseye is the only vibrant character in the whole novel. The exchanges between her and Mr. Ransom are interesting and entertaining. There are exactly 4 such scenes.

Before starting the novel, I wa
Apr 13, 2008 Hol added it
I loved the descriptions of place--the unfilled Back Bay in Boston, ramshackle tenements in German Manhattan, grass growing in disused shipyards on the Cape. But the main characters are hard to enjoy. Boston feminist Olive is all angry propaganda, her conservative Southern cousin Basil is all sentimental claptrap. My copy bills the book as addressing "the woman question," but social reform is only a backdrop to Olive and Basil's rivalry. I was also struck by the rootlessness of the characters--O ...more
What a fascinating story of women's emancipation and liberation, combined with the desire to love and be loved. One man is driven to love and he sees that the love of his life will slip through his hands if he does not stop the madness of his cousin's claim on his love's time for a cause, a strong power of persuasion and a pull from both sides. Can a woman be in love, and be free? Can there be liberation and marriage? These were the questions of the day that Henry James wanted to address and to ...more
Chris Black
Apr 07, 2016 Chris Black rated it really liked it
A frustrated/extremely possessive lesbian feminist and a provincial/ambitious/obnoxious/relentless southerner compete for the absolute (and I mean absolute, these people do not understand the meaning of "casual") love of a charming (yet weak) young girl. Who wins? Well, the patriarchy, of course.
Nov 05, 2014 Shauna rated it it was ok
Gonna stop reading and get out while I can. Silly me for thinking a satire of the women's rights movement would be cleverly written and not a shallow portrayal of feminism. Also: edit, James.
Nick Jones
Nov 21, 2016 Nick Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over the past few years I have read a number of Henry James' late novels, ones where the long sentences snake around their meanings but never quite grasp them in their coils; ones where the process of reading feels like walking in a mist within a fog. It was almost a relief to read one of his earlier works and The Bostonians is a novel of refreshing clarity: you know where you stand with early James. It is a beautifully constructed work, but it certainly isn’t a ‘page turner’. If the novelist’s ...more
Diana Markova
Nov 26, 2016 Diana Markova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Това е свят, в който навиците и вкусовете са подкрепени и изразени от множество вещи – в къщата на един от главните образи е пълно с прекрасни предмети, сякаш за да направи нейния феминистки свят още по-примамлив. Да, „Бостънци” на Хенри Джеймс е книга за феминизма – точна, безстрастно представяща течението в онези години и въпреки това изпълнена със страсти.

Хенри Джеймс е познавач на женската душевност. Неговите женски образи са развити в дълбочина и детайлност, но описанията на техните мисли и
Aug 15, 2012 Dusty rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
The Bostonians is the second James novel I read this fall/winter. Ultimately, I think it's a better read than The Princess Cassamassima -- more believable relations between characters, a sharper satiric focus -- but the two make a fascinating combination. I say this not only because they were written one right after the other but because they both profile James at his least socially withdrawn: They're commercial ventures, both serialized in various magazines, and although their politics may be u ...more
Aug 08, 2009 Miriam rated it liked it
It's wry and droll. It's funny, like how you might go "hmph" as you read. The female characters are varied, absurd, and feel real, as real as archetypes of women reformers can feel--I love Doctor Prance who does her own thing and says what she thinks and is characterized more by her vocation as a scientist than by her gender. Then the whole thing unravels. Spoilers to follow. I understand that people don't always choose who they love, that our perception of someone might become more generous bas ...more
Sep 13, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
RE-READ 10th July 10, 2016
Enjoyed this more the second time round, although I'd forgotten a great deal of it in the three years since I last read it. Olive Chancellor's character seems even more bitter and controlling this time, and Basil Ransom more naive. It's a strange story of two people fighting for the control of another, but control by one or two persons of another's life is a common theme in James.

I read James' Portrait of a Lady a number of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it (and
Jun 12, 2012 Lily rated it really liked it
Just lost my input!

Have been on a Henry James streak: The Bostonians, The Wings of the Dove, The Portrait of a Lady Am enjoying comparing characters across the novels, immersing self in the attitudes and manners of turn-of-the-twentieth century, and dueling with that mind of James. Here I was reminded that feminist leaders had been honed by abolition issues, that Southern sensibilities of its white plantation owners were still rooted in chivalry and efforts at adaptation to new sources of livel
Oct 23, 2008 Jennie rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2009

I have always wanted to read a Henry James novel because he is well respected and thought of in the literary world. The back jacket of The Bostonian intrigued me with its plot line of women’s suffrage and the fight for equal rights so I decided this would be the perfect Henry James novel for me.

Well, the first 100 pages were a chore, complete with the thought of giving the book up entirely! The main character did not enter the storyline for the first 30 pages or so and the text seemed to ramble
I read this book for my Lawyers in Fiction class, but it doesn't really have much to do with lawyers or the law. It is the story of the struggle for Verena Tarrant, a young woman with a talent for oratory, a struggle between Basil Ransom, a conservative man who has left the defeated South, and Olive Chancellor, the upper crust Bostonian who tries to possess Verena in the name of bringing her out for the women's movement.

The book has many interesting themes - it made for a good discussion in cla
Mar 14, 2015 Ron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Whoa! This isn't right. I get to the end, which is definitely not the end, and find that this Kindle edition only includes half of the original story.

Interestingly, the background environment is the growing women's suffrage movement in America. The book was written long before women were granted the vote, but many of the arguments and the background were based on the assumption, by both sides, that women would make such a difference once they could vote. Other than perhaps the imposition of proh
Czarny Pies
Nov 20, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it liked it
Recommends it for: No one. Much as I admire James I have always felt he was one writer we could do without.
Recommended to Czarny by: Everybody. He was lionized when I was an undergraduate.
This novel about a southern conservative and Civil War veteran who competes with his lesbian cousin in Boston for the love of a feminist activist works surprisingly well given the basic dramatic conflict which was highly scandalous for its time and flies in the face of today's political correctness. After much psychological conflict involving the three main characters, the sweet Northern girl abandons feminism to elope with the gallant southern gentleman.

The reason why the Bostonians works is be
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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
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“Wherever you go, madam, it will matter little what you carry. You will always carry your goodness.” 5 likes
“Miss Chancellor would have been much happier if the movements she was interested in could have been carried on only by people she liked,and if revolutions, somehow, didn't always have to begin with one's self--with internal convulsions,sacrifices,executions.” 4 likes
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