The Bostonians is a novel by Henry James. This bittersweet tragicomedy centers on an odd triangle of characters: Basil Ransom, a political conservative from Mississippi; Olive Chancellor, Ransom's cousin and a Boston feminist; and Verena Tarrant, a pretty, young protégée of Olive's in the feminist movement. The storyline concerns the struggle between Ransom and Olive for Verena's allegiance and affection, though the novel also includes a wide panorama of political activists, newspaper people, and quirky eccentrics. Unlike much of James' work, The Bostonians deals with explicitly political themes: feminism and the general role of women in society. James was at best ambivalent about the feminist movement, and the early chapters harshly satirize Olive and her fellow ideologues.
Another theme in the book, much discussed recently, is Olive's possible lesbian attraction to Verena. (The term Boston marriage, apparently first used here by James, came to connote just such an ambiguous co-habiting long-term relationship between two women.) James is not explicit here, partially due to the conventions of the time. But this vagueness may actually enrich the novel because it creates possible ambiguity about Olive's motives.
Henry James (1843 – 1916) was an American-British writer who spent most of his writing career in Britain. He is regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism.