On New York City's Washington Square lives Catherine Sloper, a shy and plain-looking young woman who is tyrannized by her wealthy, overbearing father. When young Morris Townsend begins to court her, Dr. Sloper, distrusting his motives, threatens to disinherit Catherine. In accordance with her father's suspicions, young Townsend disappears, leaving Catherine to humiliation, heartache, and lonely spinsterhood.
The Portrait of a Lady tells the compelling and ultimately tragic tale of a beautiful young American woman's encounter with European sophistication. Set principally in England and Italy, the story follows Isabel Archer's fortunes as a variety of admirers vie for her hand. Her choice will be crucial, and she is not wanting for advice, whether from the generous-spirited Ralph Touchett or the charming Madame Merle.
First published in 1893, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is the first published fiction work of American author Stephen Crane. A harrowing depiction of a pretty young girl's life in the slums of turn-of-the-century New York City and her eventual decline into prostitution, Crane's novel is a starkly realistic examination of poverty and the challenges brought about by the rapid industrialization the United States underwent in the late 1800s.
When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to enjoy the freedom that her fortune has opened up and to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. It is only when she finds herself irresistibly drawn to the cultivated but worthless Gilbert Osmond that she discovers that wealth is a two-edged sword and that there is a price to be paid for independence.
"An American Jane Austen"
There may never have been a novel written about love and loss with more irony of poetry than Ethan Frome. Written almost exclusively in flashback, Ethan Frome has continued to draw attention and accolades since its publication in 1911 by famed writer Edith Wharton. When we are introduced to the novel's protagonist, we discover that he is married yet inconveniently in love with his wife's cousin, who is spending time with the family to help care for Ethan's sick wife.
Maisie is an innocent six year-old, torn between her divorced parents, pathetically isolated yet tragically involved.
"A great reader reads a great writer"
One of the wittiest and most scathing of Henry James' novellas, The Aspern Papers chronicles the attempt to extract the valuable letters of the famous and recently deceased poet Jeffrey Aspern from the hands of his past lover and formidable adversary in the battle Juliana Bordereau. The plot was reputedly suggested to James by a story he heard of an illicit attempt to get hold of several of Lord Byron's letters.
Countess Olenska, separated from her European husband, returns to old New York society. She bears with her an independence and anawareness of life which stirs the educated sensitivity of Newland Archer, engaged to be married to May Welland.
"Reader is mostly excellent save for a few hitches—"
The Aspern Papers, one of Henry James best-known shorter works, is based on a story he heard about a collector of Shelley's manuscripts who attempted to acquire valuable letters from a mysterious old woman living in Florence. Set in beautiful Venice, James' elegant tale of suspense and romance takes the reader down the canals and inner chambers of a bygone era.
"One of the great novellas"
Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Emmy winner Emma Thompson lends her immense talent and experienced voice to Henry James' Gothic ghost tale, The Turn of the Screw. When a governess is hired to care for two children at a British country estate, she begins to sense an otherworldly presence around the grounds. Are they really ghosts she's seeing? Or is something far more sinister at work?
"Great, but Mightn't be the Best on Audible"
The Beast in the Jungle is the tale of a man's habitual obsession with himself and his fate.It is is considered one of James' finest short narratives. The story deals with four universal themes: loneliness, fate, love and death. The saga of John Marcher and his peculiar destiny has inspired many readers who have speculated on the worth and meaning of human life.
From Boston's social underworld emerges Verena Tarrant, a girl with extraordinary oratorical gifts, which she deploys in tawdry meeting-houses on behalf of "the sisterhood of women." She acquires two admirers of a very different stamp: Olive Chancellor, devotee of radical causes and marked out for tragedy; and Basil Ransom, a veteran of the Civil War who holds rigid views concerning society and women's place therein. Is the lovely, lighthearted Verena made for public movements or private passions?
Kate Croy is secretly engaged to Merton Denscher, a journalist who lacks money. By chance, Kate befriends Milly, an American heiress, and learns she is suffering from a fatal illness. Kate devises a scheme to maximize their combined assets: she encourages Merton to take an interest in Milly and marry her. Kate intends to make him a rich widower whom she herself can marry. But such well-laid plans are not enough for the subtlety of the heart.
Sexually innocent Jude Fawley is trapped into marriage by seductive Arabella Donn, but their union is an unhappy one and Arabella leaves him. Jude's welcome freedom allows him to pursue his obsession with his pretty cousin Sue Bridehead, a brilliant, charismatic free-thinker who would be his ideal soul-mate if not for her aversion to physical love. When Jude and Sue decide to lead their lives outside marriage they bring down on themselves all the force of a repressive society.
In this piece of social comedy, E. M. Forster is concerned with one of this favourite themes: the 'undeveloped heart' of the English middle classes, who are here represented by a group of tourists and expatriates in Florence.
"One Italian Spring"
In Madame Bovary, one of the great novels of 19th-century France, Flaubert draws a deeply felt and sympathetic portrait of a woman who, having married a country doctor and found herself unhappy with a rural, genteel existence, longs for love and excitement. However, her aspirations and her desires to escape only bring her further disappointment and eventually lead to unexpected, painful consequences. Flaubert’s critical portrait of bourgeois provincial life remains as powerful as ever
"Excellent narrator, beautiful writing"
Handsome, wealthy, and a veteran of service in India, Captain Edward Ashburnham appears to be the ideal "good soldier" and the embodiment of English upper-class virtues. But for his creator, Ford Madox Ford, he also represents the corruption at society's core. Beneath Ashburnham's charming, polished exterior lurks a soul well-versed in the arts of deception, hypocrisy, and betrayal.
"A tragic, dramatic classic"
Sister Carrie is an epic of urban life, the story of an innocent heroine adrift in an indifferent city. When small-town girl Carrie Meeber sets out for Chicago, she is equipped with nothing but a few dollars, a certain unspoiled beauty and charm, and a pitiful lack of preparation for the complex moral choices she will face. Her story is one of struggle, from sweatshop to stage success, and of the love she inspires in a married man twice her age, whose obsession with her threatens to destroy him.
Daisy Miller is one of Henry James' most haunting characters. In this reading, Mullen brings her to life in all her innocent playfulness and melancholic yearning.
Public Domain (P)2012 Wendy Ellison Mullen
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