National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
Washington Square

Washington Square

by Henry James

We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

Henry James, 1880 (Library of Congress)

Henry James is one of the monuments of American literature. He is so monumental in fact, that many people never read him. He seems too detached, forbidding, and Olympian. If you have been intimidated by James's formidable reputation, read the first few pages of Washington Square.

This compelling novel presents Catherine Sloper, a young society woman, in her thwarted search for love—from her cold, disapproving father and the man he forbids her to marry. With psychological insight and perfect narrative pacing, James creates the heartbreaking story of a woman unable to escape the past that imprisons her or to create the future she desires.

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