Washington Square (Recorded Books Edition)

Narrated by: John McDonough
Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (41 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Henry James’ stories are classic gems of subtle wit and irony. Set in the exacting social landscape of New York City at the turn of the century, Washington Square is the tale of a wealthy but shy young woman caught between conflicting family expectations. John McDonough’s warm narration traces her remarkable inner journey.

Public Domain (P)1997 Recorded Books, LLC

What listeners say about Washington Square (Recorded Books Edition)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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Outstanding performance by John McDonough

I will be totally honest. This Henry James's work is really the only one I enjoy reading.

Yes, please forgive me Henry James fans.

However, I do enjoy watching the movie versions of his work and I REALLY LOVE John McDonough's narration.

He is EXCELLENT in performing each character from Dr. Sloper and Morris Townsend to the feminine Catherine and her meddlesome Aunt Penniman so uniquely and so beautifully distinct.
I even looked him up for any other audio books he has recorded.
The pace of the narration gives the proper respect to such a revered work.

I totally encourage investing this excellent recording.

1 person found this helpful

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if you are going to be pushed you had better jump

“if you are going to be pushed you had better jump”
― Henry James, Washington Square

In the spirit of Jane Austin or Brontë, Henry James gets his family love drama on. Washinton Square slowly unfolds the story of simple Catherine's romance with Morris Townsend. Set against this ill-fated relationship is simple Catherine's brilliant but cold father who suspects Morris Townsend of mercenary designs on simple Catherine's fortune (from her mother and eventually from him). Working to fascilitate this relationship is simple Catherine's aunt Lavinia, and Dr. Sloper's sister, who is romantic in her view of Morris Townsend, despite her brother's suspicions.

The novel, at its core, suspends simple Catherine between the judgement of her father and the narcissim of Morris Townsend. Trapped, Henry James gives her only one simple way of escape -- growth.

The narrative is straight. The prose is clean. It isn't the greatest James novel I've read so far, but it is still fascinating in its clarity and its power. I didn't like Dr. Sloper, but I respected him. Lavinia irritated me. Simple Catherine grew on my throughout the novel. And, as a father of a daughter, I couldn't view Morris Townsend with anything BUT contempt.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Henry James is a hoot

What did you love best about Washington Square (Recorded Books Edition)?

This edition brought out the deep and sly humour in this an early work of the master.

What other book might you compare Washington Square (Recorded Books Edition) to and why?

can't think

Have you listened to any of John McDonough’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes, he is the perfect reader for James. He has an old New England voice which gets the pronouncation of the vowels perfectly. A male Katherine Hepburn

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

A bit long, but I would if I could

Any additional comments?

This reading really brings alive an amusing tale by a master storyteller

1 person found this helpful

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Timeless Classic and insightful

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Our Book Club read this novel. We are a critical literary group and WS was an excellent study in early 1900's literature. We are now reading 'The Master' by Colm Toibin in a study of Henry James.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Washington Square (Recorded Books Edition)?

When the sister of the suitor told the Doctor 'Don't let your daughter marry my brother". That turned the tide.

What does John McDonough bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His deep well spoken voice was easy to listen to and suited the story.

1 person found this helpful

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Mixture of "satisfying" and "could be better"

There is nothing to complain about in Henry James text. It's a masterful deep dive into the psychological workings of its characters. During his time, few novelists had even attempted such minute dissection of people's every motive and fear and calculation and background and desire. If you want action, look elsewhere, because 90% of this story takes place among the thoughts of the characters.

The story may be familiar via the movie "The Heiress," which won an Oscar for Olivia de Havilland. Fans of the movie will be pleased by the book, although some climactic scenes's dialogue is less devastating in the book, possibly because we have plenty of time to be privy to the repercussions.

The performance by John McDonough is suitable--it's easy to imagine that this obviously mature male voice, with its patrician tones, is the voice of Henry James. On the other hand, the focus of the story is Catherine, who figures in most of the dialogue, so it's not ideal to hear her embodied in a thin, unconvincing falsetto. Aunt Lavinia speaks a lot as well, with similarly disappointing results (especially since there's far too little vocal acting of what is essentially a vaguely comic silly old woman). If I were to choose again, I would look for an edition read by a woman.

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Lackluster narration

I love Henry James but the story line in this novel has none of the relational complexity of his other novels. And the lackluster narration doesn’t help. It’s not a great listen.

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'One of the nicest old ladies I ever met'


On a lifetime goal of reading all the classics and at least one novel by each critically renowned author, I've repeatedly avoided Henry James. I finally started on Washington Square, choosing it primarily because it's the shortest of James' novels.

This is the unhappy story of a rich, controlling, widowed father and his only child, a daughter whom the dad considers unattractive, unintelligent and uninteresting to potential suitors. So when a suitor comes calling at a society party in Washington Square, NYC, and within a few weeks asks the daughter to marry, the father suspects monetary motives. After some investigation, the father forbids the marriage, else he'll disinherit the daughter. To say any more would ruin for you a story that's already both passionless and soporific, with characters so brittle that I could not care much about what happened to them in any event.

I no longer think William Faulkner was being unkind when he described James as "one of the nicest old ladies I ever met." Though I do believe President Teddy Roosevelt was overly cruel in labeling Henry James as "a little emasculated mass of inanity."

The narrator's performance was about as lackluster as the story.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Good listen

If you could sum up Washington Square (Recorded Books Edition) in three words, what would they be?

Enjoyable listening experience.

Which character – as performed by John McDonough – was your favorite?

John McDonough was a good narrator.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, this was not a book I planned to listen to in one sitting.

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Great Listen

Listened to the whole book in one day. I couldn't put it down until finished.

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    2 out of 5 stars

Washington Square

Loved the movie version. This was to long and not near as good as the play

1 person found this helpful