|Henry James at 16|
Washington Square completely took me by surprise by just how suspenseful it was. It was originally published in serial fashion and if I had been reading this back in 1880 I would have been at the store waiting for each new chapter. I know some readers will not associate this feeling with Henry James but I was so interested in finding out how the story would end that I was very tempted to skip to the last chapter!
There are four main characters in the novel. Dr. Sloper, a very successful quite brilliant New York City physician, his daughter Catherine who is about twenty when we first encounter her, Morris Townsend, her suitor, and her widowed aunt, the sister of the Doctor, who lives with the Doctor and his daughter. The doctor is a widower and had another child that died at an early age. His daughter has been left $10,000 a year by her mother (a lot of money in 1880) and her father has told her he will leave her another $20,000.
The doctor dearly loves his daughter but as a man who prides himself on knowing the truth about people, he sees her as quite plain looking, dull in her personality and perhaps not as intelligent as he would have hoped. When Morris Townsend begins to call on her and in time professes his love he at once assumes he is a fortune hunter and tells his daughter that no man as handsome as her suitor would be interested in her if it were not for her money. The doctor investigates the suitor a bit when his daughter insists they will be married and he finds the man lives with and from his sister. Her near conniving aunt is very taken with Morris and encourages the relationship and does what she can to keep the couple in communication even though her brother forbids this. The relationship of the aunt (herself a widow) and Morris is just brilliantly depicted and is a masterpiece of character development.
The ending is really heartbreaking. Washington Square is not a difficult book at all. There are no 60 word sentences or anything like that. I really enjoyed this book so much. I read the very well done Barnes and Noble edition but you can easily download it or read it online.