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The Bostonians

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  3,905 ratings  ·  214 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.

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Published September 1st 2009 by B&R Samizdat Express (first published 1886)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul
Name's Basil Ransom - status, bachelor. Occupation : I make deals. Occupation at the moment - just having fun. Let me tell you about my evening. It was last evening.

What a politicoliterary 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 talking up some of that feminism thing like they do these days, and she
...more
AC
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
...more
Kelly
Sep 17, 2007 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Lobstergirl
Sep 02, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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Christopher H.
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
Cristina

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
...more
Craig
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
Núria
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
Justin Evans
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
Briynne
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
Liza
Dec 03, 2007 Liza rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Hol
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
Czarny Pies
Nov 20, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Shauna
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.
Nazirah Idris
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.
Lily
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
...more
Jennie

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
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Miriam
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
Karen
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
...more
Katherine
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
...more
Melinda
Verena Tarrant is an innocent young woman who resides in Cambridge, MA at the turn of the 20th century. Olive wants to exploit Verena's social connections and gift for public speaking to promote her political ideology. Olive's cousin Basil has fallen in love with Verena and wants to make her his wife. Lurking in the background is poor-but-honest Henry, Verena's true love. This was not an easy book for me to get through - a bit wordy and the pace, at times, a bit of a crawl. However, I did enjoy ...more
julieta
One part of me likes this book, I suppose the romantic side of me, the part that believes that words can stay waiting in a person once they have been said, and that true feelings are never really urgent.
But there is another side of me which was really bothered that he makes quite a caricature of convictions. Why is it that believing in something can be such a bad thing? why is it that someone who is a feminist has to be a hard person with no sense of humor, why Olive Chancelor?
I loved it anywa
...more
Spencer Cox
For James, this is a deceptively accessible book. While nominally the characters go on and on about their relationship to feminism, the real drama of the book turns on the roles of women in classical Jamesian tropes such as repressed sexuality and the ways in which distinctly human impulses are both aided and thwarted by their available social means of expression. James' use of a narrative voice that is simultaneously external to the story, yet maddeningly allusive, indirect, and not, perhaps, a ...more
Christopher Sutch
This confused novel, produced four years after the publication of the very fine _Portrait of a Lady_, is something of a disappointment. It appears to me that James was attempting too much in this story about a dynamic public speaker (Verena Tarrant, a name that evidently resonated with Edith Wharton, who named one of her major later characters Halo Tarrant) caught between two equally selfish and manipulative cousins seeking to control her fate from opposing motives. As the focal point of our sym ...more
Rachel
Or, as it is better known, The Boring Yet Creepy Love Song of Olive and Verena.

(view spoiler)
...more
Clay Brown
Let us now turn our attention to The Bostonians by Henry James. I must admit that I’d never read anything by Mr. James before, but his reputation has, of course proceeded him. So it was with some interest that while I was shopping for other books, that I decided upon The Bostonians. I usually try to start at the beginning of a writer’s career but with Mr. James there are quite a few books and I just felt that I finally needed to ‘pick one up’ as it were.

A quick perusal of its back cover told me
...more
Brian Neumann
If we measure a work by its artistic beauty or its ability to inspire thought and emotion, then this is a great novel. The writing is beautiful, and it's probably the funniest literary novel I've ever read. But I disagree profoundly with James' message. The Bostonians, a satire of the women's rights movement, denies both humanity's capacity for progress and women's capacity for freedom and autonomy. At its heart, the story is the struggle for the soul of a single woman--the young reformer Verena ...more
Alison
I don't know what to think of this book. I must admit I read most of it under the influence of strong cough medicine (the kind that requires a prescription, if you know what I mean), with time out every other page to cough. On the one hand, there's the wicked satire of late nineteenth-century feminists. On the other hand, the major critic of the feminists, a reactionary Southerner, doesn't come off very well either. Just when the satire heads off into caricature, James pulls back and shows his s ...more
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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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The Portrait of a Lady The Turn of the Screw Daisy Miller The Wings of the Dove Washington Square

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“Wherever you go, madam, it will matter little what you carry. You will always carry your goodness.” 4 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.” 3 likes
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