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, a veteran of the Civil War who holds rigid views concerning society and women's place therein. Is the lovely, lighthearted Verena made for public movements or private passions? A struggle to possess her, body and soul, develops between Olive and Basil.
The exploitation of Verena's unregenerate innocence reflects a society whose moral and cultural values are failing to survive the new dawn of liberalism and democracy. When it was first published in 1886, The Bostonians was not welcomed by Henry James's fellow countrymen, who failed to appreciate its delicacy and wit. But over a century later, this book is widely regarded as James's finest American fiction and perhaps his comic masterpiece.
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This brilliant satire of the women?s rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. Will the privileged Boston feminist Olive Chancellor succeed in turning her beloved ward into a celebrated activist and lifetime companion? Or will Basil Ransom, a conservative southern lawyer, steal Verena?s heart and remove her from the limelight?
? The Bostonians has a vigor and blithe wit found nowhere else in James,? writes A. S. Byatt in her Introduction. ?It is about idealism in a democracy that is still recovering from a civil war bitterly fought for social ideals . . . [written] with a ferocious, precise, detailed?and wildly comic?realism.?
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