Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Bostonians” as Want to Read:
The Bostonians
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Bostonians

by
3.59  ·  Rating details ·  5,726 Ratings  ·  339 Reviews
From Boston's social underworld emerges Verena Tarrant, a girl with extraordinary oratorical gifts, which she deploys in tawdry meeting-houses on behalf of 'the sisterhood of women.' She acquires two admirers of a very different stamp: Olive Chancellor, devotee of radical causes, and marked out for tragedy; and Basil Ransom, veteran of the Civil War, with rigid views conce ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 457 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Oxford University Press (first published 1886)
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 The Bostonians, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Fionnuala
At first glance, The Bostonians is as impenetrable as a closed circle. Everything in the story seems designed to keep the reader out. There is little action, and few characters the reader can care for, and the one or two interesting ones disappear from the narrative for long stretches. The background of the story, the rise of reform movements in the US in the nineteenth century, and specifically in the 'reform city' of Boston, has great potential, but is instead obscured by the personal dilemmas ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 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
...more
Evripidis Gousiaris
Εκτιμώ λίγο παραπάνω τα βιβλία που με κάνουν να μιλάω μόνος. (Και εξηγούμαι: είναι η στιγμή όπου το βιβλίο έχει καταφέρει να σε απορροφήσει πλήρως και τότε ένας χαρακτήρας κάνει/λέει κάτι συνταρακτικό, οπότε σου ξεφεύγει στον αέρα ένα "Οχιιιι, μην το κάνεις!" ή ένα "Ναιιι" κλπ) Με τις Βοστονέζες μου ξέφυγαν πολλές (παρόμοιες) φράσεις.

Λίγο μετά τον εμφύλιο πόλεμο της Αμερικής, σε μια περίοδο πολιτικής αναδόμησης, όπου παράλληλα εμφανίζονται οι πρώτες φεμινιστικές κινητοποιήσεις , ένας συντηρητικ
...more
Joseph
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Henry James’ The Bostonians takes place in Boston a decade after the Civil War. Basil Ransom and Mississippian and a former Confederate officer who now works in New York City as a lawyer plays a central role in the triangle of characters. The story begins as he visits his cousin Olive Chancellor in Boston. Olive is involved in the women’s rights movement and a member of Boston Society. During his visit, he attends a meeting with his cousin and falls in love with the voice of the speaker, Verena ...more
Kelly
Aug 05, 2007 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
AC
Sep 06, 2013 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
...more
Lobstergirl
Mar 18, 2010 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
...more
Kaloyana
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Бостънци е може би най-голямата, най-епичната и най-заплетена творба на Henry James. Една история на няколко души, повечко еманципация, интриги, борба за любов - повече от самата любов, осмиване на силата, която женската природа може да покаже в един мъжки свят.
Харесва ми как Джеймс оставя читателя да прецени дали любовта е по-силна от всичко или просто женската сила е съвсем немощна. Обичам, когато авторите ни оставят сами да преценим написаното, според възможностите си и според собственото ве
...more
Mike Lindgren
Jun 15, 2011 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
Craig
Aug 18, 2010 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
Roman Clodia
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
' "Just sit down here and let me ask a simple question. Do you think any state of society can come to good that is based upon an organised wrong?" '


This book, somewhat unfairly, has a reputation as being James' satire on the early suffragette/feminist movement in 1880s Boston - I say unfairly because while it's without doubt poking lots of pointed fun at a lot of things, I don't think the question of giving women an equal education, vote and social voice is one of them. And, just to back up a
...more
Magrat Ajostiernos
3,5/5
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
...more
dianne
Jan 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-uy
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
...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
Cristina
May 05, 2012 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
...more
Tittirossa
Ironicamente tragico.
La storia dell'incapacità di credere nella felicità (anche solo per un istante) ma solo nel possesso dell'altro, che per amare deve annullarsi.
Due eroine, Olive e Verena, unite da un amore non detto ma straziante e gelosissimo da parte di Olive. Gli eventi narrati sono un po' forzati (Verena è una strana 'oratrice' che parla ispirata da non si sa quali 'forze', in realtà ben diretta da due genitori disgraziati!), quando entra in gioco Basil - cugino sudista di Olive innamo
...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
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
Nazirah Idris
Aug 12, 2011 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.
Liza
Dec 03, 2007 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
Shauna
Nov 05, 2014 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.
Tor McIver
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
classic reverie
I loved this story and the thought provoking battle of the sexes written before suffrage. Wonderfully written. Henry James is a wonderful writer.

--This is my third novel that I have had the pleasure reading by Henry James & I was absolutely drawn into this story. I first heard about him many years ago when I had heard that the movie "The Heiress" was based on his novel Washington Square. This movie is a favorite of mine & Olivia de Havilland was so expressive playing the dowdy young old
...more
Briynne
Aug 10, 2010 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
Illiterate
History has flowed against this satire on feminism.
Justin Evans
Aug 21, 2009 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
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
Andrea
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 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.
Nick Jones
Nov 21, 2016 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Founding America: Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights
  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Tales of New York
  • A Modern Instance
  • Billy Budd and The Piazza Tales
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories
  • Cousin Pons
  • The House of the Dead/Poor Folk
  • Ayala's Angel
  • Blind Love
  • Silas Marner and Two Short Stories
  • The Reef
  • The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
  • The Leavenworth Case
  • The Pit: A Story of Chicago
  • Great American Short Stories: From Hawthorne to Hemingway
  • Heart of the West
1,973 followers
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

Fiction Deals

  • Mercy Among the Children
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Darkness There: Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe [Kindle in Motion]
    $1.99 $0.99
  • An Empty Cup
    $3.99 $1.99
  • I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Abby's Journey
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Underground River
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Word Game
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Fraulein M.
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Sister of Mine
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Bury What We Cannot Take
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Chomp
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Searching for Grace Kelly
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Bricking It
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre (Great Episodes)
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Starfish
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Thunder and Rain
    $9.99 $2.99
  • All Grown Up
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Light of Hidden Flowers
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Olive's Ocean
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Ecstasy
    $13.99 $1.99
  • The Elephant Keeper's Daughter
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Virtues of Oxygen
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Home to Harmony (Harmony #1)
    $11.14 $1.99
  • Dog Crazy
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Towers of Tuscany
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Who We Were Before
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Reluctant Midwife (Hope River, #2)
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Sin No More (Reverend Curtis Black)
    $10.39 $1.99
  • The List
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Lost & Found
    $5.74 $1.99
  • A Watershed Year
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Savage
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Designer
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Novice: A Story of True Love
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Go Away Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Leaving of Things
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Train I Ride
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Weight of Ink
    $10.99 $2.99
  • We'll Always Have Paris: Stories
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Hidden Flower
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Greyhound
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Take Two (Above the Line, #2)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Lisette's List
    $11.99 $1.99
  • This Burns My Heart
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Journeys of Socrates
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Annie on My Mind
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Oceans Apart
    $7.99 $1.99
  • An Absent Mind
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Book of Ruth
    $18.99 $1.99
  • Smoke
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Where We Belong
    $5.99 $1.49
  • Cashelmara
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Sisterhood of Blackberry Corner
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Covenant
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Digging In
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
    $11.99 $12.99
  • The Traveling Vampire Show
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Long Way Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Going Home
    $3.99 $1.99
  • In Between Days
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Girl in the Glass
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Sugar Men
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Last Storyteller: A Novel Of Ireland
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Vengeance Road
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ungifted
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Julie of the Wolves
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Mrs. Saint and the Defectives
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Stiltsville: A Novel
    $10.99 $1.99
  • To the Bright Edge of the World
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Patriots
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Flicker of Old Dreams
    $9.99 $1.99
  • All the Good Parts
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Food of Love
    $3.99 $1.99
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow
    $11.99 $2.99
  • A Scattered Life
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Every Ugly Word
    $3.99 $1.99
  • A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Desert God (Ancient Egypt, #5)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1)
    $8.99 $2.99
  • The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (Malayan #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • An Amish Buggy Ride
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Old Yeller
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Secret Healer (The Secret Healer #1)
    $3.49 $0.99
  • Elizabeth Street
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Gates of Rome (Emperor, #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane
    $4.99 $1.99
  • It Is Well
    $4.99 $1.99
  • A Sinful Calling (Reverend Curtis Black #13)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • On a Cold Dark Sea
    $4.99 $1.99
  • My Lady Viper (Tales from the Tudor Court #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Kings of Broken Things
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Edward Adrift
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Restaurant Critic's Wife
    $3.99 $1.99
“Wherever you go, madam, it will matter little what you carry. You will always carry your goodness.” 6 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
More quotes…