Reading Henry James in the Suburbs

A Story

by Heather Brittain Bergstrom

I read this last night and find myself still thinking about it this morning, maybe because Helen reminds me of what may happen to some of my students. I love the way she sinks into herself and finds herself there. I also love that Ethan won't go away.

Beautifully crafted!

It is sometimes impossible for me to believe that anyone could go that far inside the head of a character and it not be the author herself. Just beautiful, Heather.

Very engaging. I completely related to Helen and her quandary between her literary versus real life. Sometimes reminiscing, even when it's painful, is what we have.

I like the sincerity of the story and the fact that it dares to have a plot structured around what happens in a person's life. I also appreciate the straightforward writing that doesn't bombard the reader with finely crafted similes. I would have liked to see more tension in the relationship with Jesse. And what about the kids? They didn't seem to matter much and that made Helen a less sympathetic character (not that a character has to be sympathetic).

Beautifully written and told. An excellent short story about a person we can all relate to, be it a man or woman. The characters were well developed and the evolution of Helen and Jesse really kept the story going forward. Bergstrom's story represents a job well done.

Very smart writing about social class, something we don't see enough of in fiction. Really impressive.

This was brilliant. Well done, Heather. Keep writing!

I loved this story. Helen's experiences are in many ways a mirror of my own. It's good to see someone working out the way to integrate higher learning into the lives of people with no money. I hope she keeps writing the truth of her life even if people don't understand.

I read this story a few days ago and found it to be very powerful. Helen's experience moved me deeply. I teach and have written on James, so the title caught my attention. In fact, I was jealous! I too especially liked the take on class, but as a Jamesian I wished that Helen would not abandon him. There is an important part in Portrait of a Lady where Isabel comes to realize how small she has made herself for Osmond. I think something could be done with this. It might also be an idea to have Helen discover a woman writer whose experience guides her. In any case, I hope Bergstrom keeps writing as she has a powerful voice. I look forward to reading her again.

Thank you for transporting me to a different place and time at a moment when I needed an escape from reality. I was left mesmerized after having read such an elegant piece of work.

Terrific story that melds the influences that affect Helen in the trajectory of the story--the Jamesian issues of class, Twain's sense of adventure, setting off into the unknown, Dickinson's emotional depth and distance, even Jesse's sister, the spokesperson for Poe. But always a story, not a showcase or polemic. Going to read everything I can of hers.

I loved this story. I loved how Helen's internal voice is so much stronger, full of longing and turmoil, and her external voice in her workaday world is so normal. I loved that contrast. Thank you for this beautiful glimpse of hope and longing and desperation and fulfillment and joy and sorrow and writing.

Good beginning. Great tension. The reader is waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen. And the ending is Alice Munro and true to life in the suburbs.


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