This novel tells the story of Catherine Sloper, the plain, obedient daughter of the widowed, well-to-do Dr. August Sloper of Washington Square. When a handsome, reckless man-about-town proposes to Catherine, her father forbids the marriage because he believes the man to be after Catherine's fortune and future inheritance. The conflict between father, daughter, and suitor provokes consequences in the lives of all three that make this story one of James's most piercingly memorable.
James is the acknowledged master of the psychological novel. The power of his prose and the skill with which he marshals small details to accomplish his purpose, sustains the listener's attention.
Considered an "unhappy accident" by its author, the august Henry James, the novel Washington Square is nonetheless one of the perennial favorites of James’ fans. Performed here by the sensitive and mature Donna Barkman, herself a noted author of literary fiction, Washington Square is a tragicomedy about a young woman’s choice between her father and her unapproved fiancée.
Set mainly in a wealthy household in lower Manhattan in the late 19th century, the novel follows "poor Catherine" Sloper through a tour of Europe in her youth and back to New York in her middle age. Richly detailed and elegant, the novel is also an inquiry into the human heart.
"Though it has a far less complex plot than many other James novels,
Washington Square still remains a classic psychological study of a rich family in the throes of conflict, a clash of wills over a daughter's desire to marry an apparent fortune hunter. Donna Barkman's reading of the story is excellent; she at once captures the whole brooding nature of the book and brings an added feeling of realism to its characters. An interesting study in values that ultimately pits romantic dreams against reality." (
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