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Washington Square

Henry James

Book Overview: 

Washington Square is a short novel by Henry James. It is a structurally simple tragicomedy that recounts the conflict between a dull but sweet daughter and her brilliant, domineering father.

The book is often compared to Jane Austen’s work for the clarity and grace of its prose and its intense focus on family relationships. James was not a great fan of Washington Square itself. He tried to read it over for inclusion in the New York Edition of his fiction but found that he couldn’t, and the novel was not included. Other readers, though, have sufficiently enjoyed the book to make it one of the more popular works of the Jamesian canon.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Ah, well; you ask him and you will see."

"I would rather not ask him, if there is any danger of his saying what you think."

Morris looked at her with an air of mock melancholy.

"It wouldn't give you any pleasure to contradict him?"

"I never contradict him," said Catherine.

"Will you hear me abused without opening your lips in my defence?"

"My father won't abuse you. He doesn't know you enough."

Morris Townsend gave a loud laugh, and Catherine began to blush again.

"I shall never mention you," she said, to take refuge from her confusion.

"That is very well; but it is not quite what I should have liked you to say. I should have liked you to say: 'If my father doesn't think well of you, what does it matter?'"

"Ah, but it would matter; I couldn't say that!. . . Read More