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The Bostonians

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  4,975 Ratings  ·  280 Reviews

Dealing heavily with the then very timely political issue of feminism and the changing role of women in society, Henry James's The Bostonians is the story of Civil War veteran Basil Ransom's conflict with his cousin Olive Chancellor for the allegiance and affection of Boston feminist Verena Tarrant.

Nook, 0 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by B&R Samizdat Express (first published 1886)
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Wayfair 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)
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Paul Bryant
Oct 20, 2015 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 07, 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
Sep 17, 2007 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Lindgren
Jun 15, 2011 Mike Lindgren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Sep 02, 2014 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
Feb 20, 2012 Craig rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Nazirah Idris
Jun 16, 2012 Nazirah Idris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Justin Evans
Aug 21, 2009 Justin Evans rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 31, 2010 Briynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 03, 2007 Liza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Nov 30, 2014 Shauna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Chris Black
Apr 12, 2016 Chris Black rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 14, 2016 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 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
I'll never consider myself a Henry James "fan." Of the Henry James novels that I've read, I'd probably put them in the following order (from best to worst):

1. The Portrait of a Lady
2. The Golden Bowl
3. Washington Square
4. The Bostonians
5. The Ambassadors

My average rating for these five books is *2.4/5 stars.*

I should probably write a proper review for The Bostonians, but in all honesty, I just don't want to. It was a struggle for me just to finish the novel, & I hope that I will never be fo
Czarny Pies
Aug 13, 2015 Czarny Pies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 07, 2014 Lily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 17, 2009 Jennie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2011 Miriam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 06, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this love triangle between a rich lesbian spinster and her poor southern, somewhat laconic cousin, who both vie for the attentions of a young, overrated, free spirited woman on the feminist lecture circuit.

James focuses in on the men and women of various political movements and his cutting descriptions ring true today. With abolition won, the political left is exhausted by success and turning to other battles, including women's rights. There are battle-weary true believers, hangers-on se
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
Jun 22, 2015 Tina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
I hated this. Ransom is an ass, and at least reading this from my 21st century perspective, the worst sort of man. What made me the craziest was how every main character (and most of the secondary characters, as well) had an opinion on what Verena was going to do with her life, except Verena herself.
And all the while, Ransom is in love with her and her pretty little stupid self. Why would a person love another person they respect so little?
I couldn't wait for this to be over.
Mar 25, 2008 Nathanimal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tense, sometimes funny, ultimately sad, but always wordy,love triangle. Two awful people trying to step on the same perfect flower.

Henry James was doing his thing before the whole "iceberg" theory of fiction came about. There's not a lot of "submerged" story. Instead he drops the whole damn iceberg on your lap and points out to you inch by inch its various icy pits, bumps, and fissures. Yes, that kind of detail, which manifests itself in pages and pages blackened with long and winding sentence
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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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