Friday, 30 December 2011

Washington Square by Henry James

I was pre-warned that Henry James is not an easy writer to get on with and his style is not to everyone’s taste. To illustrate this point, here is the first line in the book; “During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it...” Oh dear I thought, but I carried on undaunted and I really enjoyed the book.

Set in 19th century New York Catherine Sloper lives with her wealthy father and aunt. Their lives are not remarkable, indeed Catherine is considered dull and plain by her well meaning but sometimes callous father that is until she is courted by a young man named Morris Townsend. Townsend doesn’t have a penny to his name and is suspected, by Catherine’s father, of being after Catherine’s inheritance money. To balance out the cold, cynical suspicions of the father Catherine’s aunt (a stupid, meddlesome woman) sides with the young couple and views Morris through romanticised rose-tinted glasses; fantasising that he is the son she never had.

The story is entertaining, gripping and easy to get swept up in. The characters are brilliant and I found it impossible not to feel personally involved with them. I often found myself giving little cries of surprise or elation whilst reading it (resulting in strange looks from passers by) but it is a story that really sucks the reader in and fires up the imagination. The drama of it all kept me on the edge of my seat.

Highly recommended and not at all difficult to get on with.

Final verdict 4/5



  1. I like the first line to be honest. Kind of catchy.

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  2. I just read this earlier myself and I was a bit daunted by that opening; however I had read Portrait of a Lady (which is much longer and in the end, was more enjoyable for me) so I kept pushing through. Unfortunately I LOVE the film adaptation The Heiress starring Olivia de Havilland so I kept thinking about that instead of the book. Highly recommended film for you if you ever have the chance to see it.

  3. I read this a couple of years ago and remember really enjoying it. I actually think I was seriously frustrated during certain scenes (and if that doesn't say something I don't know what does). Glad you enjoyed this. I need to pick more of his titles up.

  4. I'm glad to see this one isn't too hard to get on with. I haven't read any Henry James yet, although I have a nice omnibus of his work sitting on my Kindle. I'm definitely intimidated by him.

  5. @ Man of la book: I found it worrying! lol

    @ Bookworm 1858: Thank you for that, i'll keep an eye open for that movie

    @ Beth: I've only recently discovered Henry James, i'm going to read 'The American' next. I enjoyed Washington Square more than I thought, I know exactly what you mean about some scenes frustrating!

    @ L.L.: Please don't be intimidated by him, if Washington Square is anything to go by he is not any sort of elitist writer


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