The Portrait of a Lady tells the compelling and ultimately tragic tale of a beautiful young American woman's encounter with European sophistication. Set principally in England and Italy, the story follows Isabel Archer's fortunes as a variety of admirers vie for her hand. Her choice will be crucial, and she is not wanting for advice, whether from the generous-spirited Ralph Touchett or the charming Madame Merle.
The Portrait of a Lady was an immediate success upon publication; it remains the most popular of James' longer works and is generally regarded as the masterpiece of his early period.
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personal, deep, real
Portrait of a Lady is so singular that I would be hard pressed to find a comparison, but I suppose "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë comes closest because they both feature strong, independent women. Portrait of a Lady is groundbreaking in its realism, pulling away from the romanticism of Jane Eyre.
I enjoyed the dialogue both exterior and interior the most. It sounded fresh and real like people today. I could not believe what I was hearing. Isabel Archer's thoughts were my thoughts. I felt like she spoke to and for me. How Henry James got into the mind of this female character amazed me. She is among the most complex women in English literature.
Do not put off reading this for four years like I did. Read it now. You will be rewarded with one of the richest and most nourishing novels in the English language. I can see why James' masterpiece was voted high as one of the hundred greatest novels of all time.
- Andre "I am a live storyteller who devours huge amounts of audio books to study classics and new books so I can tell new stories."