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Basil Ransom, the hero of Henry James's 1886 novel, The Bostonians, is every inch the traditional Southern gentleman. Having served in the Civil War, Basil transplanted himself from Mississippi to set up a law office in New York. As the story begins, Basil is traveling to the quintessential Northern city, Boston. There, his cousin Olive brings him to see a feminist speaker—the fiery Verena Tarrant. As we might suspect, Basil is completely out of his element at the political event, but something about Verena catches hold of him and won't let go. Olive, herself a staunch feminist, is likewise taken with Verena, so much so that she invites the charismatic speaker to stay at her home so they can work together on plans for the women's movement. Although Basil returns to New York, he cannot get Verena out of his mind. Upon further encounters with Basil in Boston, Verena finds herself inexplicably falling for her unlikely suitor. Nothing about such a match—conservative, southern, Basil and liberal northerner Verena—makes sense. A marriage between the two would certainly scandalize Verena's supporters and rob her of her credibility. How could she settle down and become the kind of wife that a traditional gentleman like Basil would expect? Vivid characters and a complex, intelligent, plot combine in this delightful and moving tale of modern love and age-old dilemmas on the cusp of progress, change, and liberation.
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Henry James (1843-1916) was born in New York City to a wealthy and prominent family. His father was a well-known writer and thinker, and James’s parents offered their son a solid education and frequent travel to Europe. James began to write as a young man, publishing his first novel, Watch and Ward, in 1871. Over the next several years, James produced a wealth of short stories, novels, plays, and non-fiction prose, among them such celebrated titles as The Portrait of a Lady, Roderick Hudson, The Bostonians, and What Maisie Knew. Living most of his life abroad, James moved in many prominent intellectual circles, befriending many of the great artists, writers, and thinkers of his day. In a move that shocked many, James took British citizenship in 1915 in order to express his disappointment with the United States for not yet having entered the First World War. Feeling more at home abroad than in America, James spent the rest of his life in England. To this day, he is known as “the Master” for his intelligent, intricate writing that explores the dramatic psychological machinations beneath even the simplest of human interactions and events.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
"Olive will come down in about ten minutes; she told me to tell you that. About ten; that is exactly like Olive. Neither five nor fifteen, and yet not ten exactly, but either nine or eleven. She didn't tell me to say she was glad to see you, because she doesn't know whether she is or not, and she ...Back to top
Ratings for 'The Bostonians' by James, Henry