washingtonsquareI’ve been reading too many “it was ok” books this year. I partially blame my absence from the blogging world that hasn’t expertly guided my choices, but I also need to convince myself once and for all that 2009 was a once-in-a-lifetime year. After all, you can only discover Dorothy Dunnett, Gone with the Wind, The Hunger Games and The Queen’s Thief for the first time once. And listening for the first time to Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter series… 2009 was my perfect literary storm.

Still, 2014 has had some unexpected good surprises, with Washington Square standing out. When I picked it up I was bracing myself for the tragedies and thick language of The Portrait of a Lady, The Wings of the Dove and The Turn of the Screw but ended up with something closer in style to Jane Austen.

Henry’s characters in Washington Square are not new: the naïve and plain heiress, the handsome opportunistic cad, the neglecting and cynical father, the dramatic and silly aunt.

I loved none of them, but could eat popcorn reading their stories, I was so entertained! It was wicked of me really, because some of the characters really suffer, but James has such a sharp sense of humor, such a clever sense of inequalities in society and between man and woman that I couldn’t help it. I laughed several times as James sarcastically pokes fun at his own characters.

The language is clear and witty, very unlike the other of his books I’ve read. He probably regretted this step away from a dignified intricacy, because he tried to remove Washington Square from a collection of his works.

Washington Square was a book where I’ve fallen for the style more than the story. There’s lots of room for deeper analysis of the plot, characters, society, gender, marriage, etc, etc, but my lasting impression of it will be: I had fun!


Other thoughts: 17th Street, Nishita’s Rants and Raves, Eclectic Indulgence, The Allure of Books (yours?)