Washington SquareWashington Square by Henry James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

have we got the correct edition here? read by Jennifer Ehle, which will be important later in the review.

as for the book itself! i can’t quite understand why James so disliked this book, unless it was inadequately ornate for him. i found it a rather harrowing depiction of ways people can be cruel to those they are supposed to love best.

the logline: when a feckless fortune-hunter zeroes in on the rather dense young heroine, her father suddenly turns out to be her worst enemy, followed closely by her drama queen aunt.

it’s the minutiae in description of emotion and relationships that shines so well in this book. James was surely one of the great observers of people–how they speak under great emotion, how they dissemble, how they lie. the book’s a master class at telling all the truth, slant: James rarely mentions outright what a pure jerk Dad can be, nor how Aunt Lavinia is an emotional vampire, nor how Morris Townsend is a creepy jerk. he lets them speak for themselves.

however! the reader of this audiobook… oy.

she read with the weirdest enunciations, pauses, stops. i felt like i was listening to a little brook–ever pay attention to one? the water isn’t constant, it stutters and rushes, chortles and crashes. a very charming habit in a brook, not so charming a habit in an audiobook. sort of like this line:

She was not absolutely veracious; but this defect was of no great consequence, for she never had anything to conceal.

being read like this:

She… was NOT ab.so.lute.ly veracious; but. this DEfect was–of–no great CONsequence, forSheNever had anything. to. CON.ce.al.

something like that. it’s weird. in a couple of places it seems perfectly apt for the emotion being read, but usually it’s just kind of fascinating in an uncomfortable way, like rubbernecking at a car wreck.

and she reads the heroine’s lines so flat, robotic, almost throughout the book. ya, i get that the heroine is supposed to be a rather dull sort, but there was no need to make her positively bovine.

so! read the book. just, read it on paper, not the audiobook.

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