Book Review: The Bostonians –part two by Henry James

ah, here I am–with time to tell you how things go with Olive and
Basil and Verena in the second part of the book.  As I said, the story
picks up a little in this half . . .

The Bostonians by Henry James 001









Basil Ranson (BR) is living in NY, in a seedy building, eating poorly,
his law business not going well.  He sees Mrs. Luna often, and she
begins to look halfway good to him, if he were to fall under the
“yoke of matrimony”.  She has a nice home, comfortable income,
life could be worse . . .But—!  just then she tells him that Olive and
Verena will be coming back from Europe, and BR is once again smitten
with the idea of gaining Verena’s attention.

Pages follow—cat and mouse, mouse and cat—BR trying to spend time
with V behind Olive’s back.  V seems willing, but then has wrenching
guilt feelings about leaving Olive in the lurch and alone.

Back/forth/back/forth–with whole pages passing by with no breaks
for paragraphs . . .aaaaargh.

At one point, Basil, again trying to dissuade Verena of her bent on
promoting women’s suffrage issues, is confronted with Verena’s
insistence that she “has great use” and cites her brilliant series of

“The use of a truly amiable woman is to make some honest man
happy, ” Ransom says.    (Got the picture?)

The trouble is, he can’t propose marriage because he’s broke.

In the meantime, young Burrage is courting V and his mother would like
to sponsor her–even Olive prefers that arrangement–though she herself
would lose her, it wouldn’t be to Basil.  Actually, it’d be a good deal for
Verena in my humble opinion!  AND the book would end EARLIER!  It
would save about 140 pages!

But V stays with O and meets BR intermittently and for quite a few weeks
in August at Cape Cod.  But then, trouble in Paradise–Verena still won’t
leave Olive for Basil.

It’s getting tiresome—yes, for you, too, but how about for ME?  James could
have pulled the plug again with the character Doctor Prance who is also
summering at the Cape–providing care for frail old Miss Birdseye (nothing
to do with the frozen vegetable chain.)

BR and Doctor Prance spend many agreeable mornings out fishing . . .did
I mention that Doc Prance is a *woman* with “short hair” (oh, the horror).
In my mind, I toss around BR and DP taking off and leaving weeping, weakling
Verena to Olive, but that’s not to be, of course.

Months go by!  BR has not seen Verena in all that time.  It’s the night of her big
speech—the long-awaited lollapalooza at the Music Hall.

Basil has a ticket and has a seat, but “he was not one of the audience; he was
apart, unique, and had come on a business altogether special . . .”

Twenty-three pages remain.  James has another big chance to redeem himself
in my eyes.

Does Verena come away with Basil?  Does she stay with Olive?  Does she
give her speech?  Does she live through the night?

I wouldn’t for the world spoil the ending for you.  You’ll have to read the
book, too!

Highlight of this edition was this pleasant ad in the back for a dictionary:

The Bostonians 002

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2 Responses to Book Review: The Bostonians –part two by Henry James

  1. Stefanie says:

    Oh, that is a nice ad. Doctor Prance is a woman with short hair? *Gasp* She she wear pants too? That would be so over-the-top!

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Ha—good point–I’d have to go back and see how Henry
      James describes Doctor Prance’s apparel . . .thanks for
      the fun comment!

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