Witty, wise and the best women in literature. So why doesn't Henry James inspire the widespread devotion that Jane Austen and the Brontës bask in? Sarah Churchwell is on a mission to solve that mystery and turn readers on to the limitless charms of the Father of the modern novel.
With the help of 'Brooklyn' and 'House of Names' author, Colm Tóibín and literary biographer Hermione Lee, Sarah will showcase the very best of his work and prove that James isn't just an 'important' novelist but a thoroughly enjoyable read.
As an American who travelled through Europe and took up British citizenship during the First World War, James was well-placed to chronicle the shifting relationships between the continents. Americans, by turns naïve or arrogant, clash time and again with stubborn Brits and wily Continentals. In an age of Drumpf and Brexit his penetrating gaze and snarky asides are needed more than ever.
But it's Henry's women that keep bringing film-makers and fans to his work. No male novelist before or since has spent an entire career faithfully placing himself within the consciousness of women. Alone amongst the great men of Victorian and Edwardian literature he assumed that a woman could feel as he did and experience the same powerful drive to act. Those wishes, however, are again and again thwarted by the constraints of society and the moral sense of his characters.
As a curtain-raiser to a season of Henry James dramas on BBC Radio Four Sarah Churchwell reassesses those great characters and offers up their magnetic attraction and fatal flaws for the new audience that he so richly deserves.