Title: The Bostonians
Author: Henry James
Rating: 3/5 stars
Reading Challenges: TBR Pile; Modern Mrs Darcy - Classic I've Been Meaning to Read; A to Z - B
The Bostonians is a bittersweet tragicomedy that centers on an odd triangle of characters: Basil Ransom, a political conservative from Mississippi; Olive Chancellor, Ransom's cousin and a Boston feminist; and Verena Tarrant, a pretty, young protegee of Olive's in the feminist movement. The story-line concerns the struggle between Ransom and Olive for Verena's allegiance and affection, though the novel also includes a wide panorama of political activists, newspaper people, and quirky eccentrics.
Hmmm... so I wanted to like this novel as it deals with some interesting themes, but I just couldn't get over James's seeming derision of the feminist movement. I was very interested in the dichotomy between the Basil and Olive's cultures. The novel is a fascinating look at the North/South divide, the conservative/progressive struggle, and in general men and women. I was fully into the premise of setting the two main characters up as competitors for Verena's affections and loyalty. What I wasn't too keen on is the portrayal of the feminists and as silly and even caricatures of people. In the end, Verena's choice is presented as a possible mistake, but James plays it coy. So I felt like James wasn't really taking either side in the debates he set up on the book. Overall, a bit of a disappointment for me.
Next up on the TBR pile: