Book Review: The Birthplace by Henry James

Title: The Birthplace
Author: Henry James
Publisher: Hesperus Press
ISBN: 978-1-84391-207-1
Genre: Classics, Literary Fiction
Pages: 120
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

If there is one novelist whose entire body of work I am eager to read, it would but definitely have to be Henry James. Henry James as a writer is something else and I feel his works are either loved or hated. You cannot be in-between when it comes to Mr. James’ writing. Either you like it or you do not.

Henry James wrote of an era and time when manners were the key to discriminating in societies and classes. He wrote making fun of the culture and as one would say, provided the much needed, “black comedy”. His writing was unlike any of his contemporaries and maybe that’s why it turned out to be this different and sometimes difficult to read. Not everyone can get used to his style – the sometimes so called big choice of words and then others simply told with the much needed twist can be quite a challenging task for a reader.

In the two short stories in this book, “The Birthplace”, one can clearly see James’ style shining through. The title story is of a family moving in to the birthplace of their nation’s literary hero to become live-in guardians of a house, which reveals itself to be sinister in more than one way, thus diminishing their view and opinion of everything around them.

The story had the sinister feel to it for sure and more than that it had reactions from every character in the story that added to its presence. The second story, “The Private Life”, one of James’ lesser known works centers around the importance of an author in the literary grand scheme of things keeping in mind literary criticism and arts in general.

I think the second story must have been very close to Henry James’ heart given the context and the way it is written. Also it is my favourite now after, “The Spoils of Poynton”, which I think is his best work (but that’s just my opinion). Read Henry James if you haven’t read him before. He has a way with words like no other and an author you will not regret reading.


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