Washington Square Book Review

A father is the first man in a woman’s life. No matter how old she gets or how many other men she may meet, he is the blueprint for how she will react to other men.

In Henry James’s classic novel, Washington Square, Dr. Austin Sloper has been hit early on in his life with two major losses: his son and his wife. His only consolation is his sole surviving child, Catherine. According to her father, Catherine’s charms lie solely in the money she is to inherit upon her father’s death. Catherine is neither intelligent, witty or easy on the eyes, according to her father. When Morris Townsend, a young man who is long on charm but short on cash starts to pay attention to Catherine, Dr. Sloper’s starts to suspect the real reason that young Mr. Townsend is coming to visit. Will Catherine follow her heart or will she continue to live as her father wishes?

This book is flawless. It is not just about a young woman choosing between loyalty to her father and the man she loves. There is a real psychological element to this novel. At stake is not just Catherine’s heart and mind, but also her future. What also struck me, as both a student of history and a student of this era, is that I grateful that I no longer live in that era. I am grateful that my only option in life is marriage and that I am not bound to marry a man that would be approved of solely because of his family or his income.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

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