Summer Reading GuideIssue: Summer 2002
What follows are summer reading recommendations. For the most part, the suggestions constitute not light but enlightening fare. The editors will be pleased to learn in due course what our readers gain from them.
There could be no more foolhardy an undertaking than to name a candidate for the most important novel of Henry James-something I shall now all too incautiously do. The novel I wish to name is The Bostonians, in essence the story of a war for the soul of a charismatic young woman. The combatants are, on the one side, a fierce suffragist who wants to possess her completely as well as to exploit her powers for the cause of women's rights, and, on the other, an intelligent and serious man who wants to make her his wife. The Bostonians was published in 1888, and yet nothing need be added to James' account in describing the emotional duplicity of the movement nowadays known as women's liberation, or the terrible tug-of-war in the hearts of young women between what they want and what they are now told it is their duty to believe. Great novels illuminate permanently, which is why we call them great.