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When published in 1862 it was condemned by critics as immoral, today it is regarded as a novel of outstanding social insight. It is the story of two sisters, Magdalen and Norah, who discover that their parents were not married at the time of their birth and that they are, therefore, illegitimate. They are disinherited and expelled from their family estate. They either adapt to their new station in life, or attempt to recover their wealth by any means...
One of James' best-known and most acclaimed longer tales follows an un-named narrator as he goes to almost any lengths to obtain a dead poet's papers and letters from his widow. James lovingly creates a Venice where the unexpected seems an everyday occurrence and the unrelenting tension mounts until the final page.
Historical fiction novel. The story begins with an actual historical tragedy - the 1672 lynching of the Dutch Grand Pensionary (roughly equivalent to a modern Prime Minister) Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis, by a wild mob of their own countrymen - one of the most painful episodes in Dutch history, described by Dumas with a dramatic intensity.
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