1886, Books, Fiction

The Bostonians by Henry James (1886)

I haven’t fallen in love in the teenage / young adult sense in some time. The last time I was 26 I think. But that being said, I still think I have a good idea of what it is like.

Now, I’m not trying to say love is rational, as it totally isn’t. But I’m not sure it’s entirely self-destructive, as some writers try to claim, either.

And the love that is at the core of this novel I just don’t buy on any level. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Not just on a rational level but on an emotional one. And because I can’t buy this love, I can’t really buy the novel.

Sure, it’s interesting how he plays around with perspective (for the 1880s, anyway) and sure it is interesting how he alludes to himself (again, for the 1880s).

But is this enough to have to sit through 400+ pages of constructing a romance that doesn’t work? And which manages to, quite by accident I’m sure, piss off those of us who think women are the equal of men? (I think this is an accident because I’m sure James was extraordinarily progressive for his time.) The answer to that first question is no.

The more I read James’ novels – as opposed to his stories and novellas – the more I don’t like him as a writer. He is boring. He is unrealistic. He is entirely preoccupied with his time and place and not with anything larger. And his language seems to be elaborate for the sole purpose of being elaborate, and not even for the joy of utilizing the language to its full extent.

Because of this novel (and also Washington Square, which was also a waste of my life) I am putting off the other James novels I have inherited for the time being. Who knows if I will ever read them? [Editor’s Note: I have and I hate them even more than this.]

Hopefully his brother is a better writer…


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