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Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan

Portrait of Jennie (edition 1979)

by Robert Nathan

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202558,111 (3.81)23
Title:Portrait of Jennie
Authors:Robert Nathan
Info:Laurel-Leaf Books by Dell Publlishing Co. (1979), Paperback, 124 pages
Collections:Your library

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Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan


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In [b:Twelve short novels|2629807|Twelve short novels|Thomas B. Costain|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1259280404s/2629807.jpg|2654508] by [a:Thomas B. Costain|1391020|Thomas B. Costain|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1248986582p2/1391020.jpg].

Well, to a science-fiction reader, this is totally unsatisfying. I have no idea what was behind the time-travel or between the characters. Maybe somebody who reads *L*iterature, with the allusions, symbols, etc., would get more out of it. Or maybe somebody with an artist's soul would empathize more with Adams.

Poor Miss Spinney, though. She and the other secondary characters - Gus, Arne, Jekes, Moore, Mathews... - were much more interesting than the main ones, imo.

The ending was a less-subtle literary metaphor, with the storm, and that was good.

And there were some interesting ideas & language, for example about the business and the spirit of Art. For example, Adams' friend Arne does bold abstracts in vivid colors, and his persona is similarly exuberant. His mind was a cave of winds, color, he was like a Viking gone berserk in a rainbow."" ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
I decided to read this novella because I remembered watching (and enjoying) the 1948 film starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones which was based on the story.

So which is better, the novella or the film? The novella, of course! I liked Nathan's writing so much that I'm going to make a point of looking up his other works. In a short period of time, Robert Nathan delineated some memorable characters. Besides Eben himself, I particularly enjoyed the gallery owner Henry Matthews and his assistant Miss Spinney.

Portrait of Jennie comes to life when Eben talks about art, and the scenes describing a hurricane are so vivid that I felt as though I were there. There is a paranormal aspect to the story because Jennie is actually a spirit, but those scenes are so fleeting that I scarcely noticed them. For me, it was all about Eben, and Eben makes it a very good story indeed. ( )
  cathyskye | Apr 21, 2016 |
Alternated between being annoyed by the somewhat (to us in our time) cloyingly romantic elegiac tone of it, and being impressed with the writing which is very good, occasionally excellent, but has a compelling quality to it also, a flow, you might say. I can see why, in his time, Nathan was a very popular author, very successful. It's dated though and the plot is unthinkable now. Our protag. is a painter, struggling, of course. He meets a very young girl on a winter's day and they make friends (unthinkable, as I said). During an unspecified time which I assume is not even a whole year for Adam, they meet about five or six times, during which he sketches or paints her. The "catch" is that every time he sees her she is significantly older. By spring she is a young woman. Most of the story takes place in NY, the final part in Truro. (As someone who lived on the Cape and loves it dearly, I can only say he describes it so well it is almost painful to read.) There are sexist/dated irritations, amazing how unacceptable it is now for anyone to refer to "artists" as "he". You just can't do that anymore. Nor can you make this kind of fatuous generalization: There ought to be something timeless about a woman. Not about a man--we've always been present-minded. The person speaking then goes on and on about how women in portraits seem more 'alive' than portraits of men, which is utter nonsense! On the weather on the Cape: Sometimes in late summer or in early fall there is a day lovelier than all the others, a day of such pure weather that the heart is entranced, lost in a sort of dream, caught in an enchantment between time and change.. Apparently the old Cape Codders call that kind of weather a "weather-breeder" a wonderful expression that makes perfect sense! That might be a characteristic of New England, in fact. There are, at the end of summer, a handful of days like that which make it hard to believe that it could ever be other than the way it is, except you know that winter is not far off and will come. The time travel piece of it is more a suggestion and a window into musing about the ironclad fact that only the present exists, past and future, both unreachable and basically unknowable therefore. Kind of a long review, but it is interesting to read a book like this, from another time, which is likely why I picked it up, wherever and whenever I did! ***1/2 ( )
  sibyx | Feb 7, 2015 |
Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan

Reading anything by Robert Nathan is like reading poetry. His words are so beautifully scripted on the page. It is unfortunate that his work goes so unappreciated in our time and that so many of his works are no longer in print.

This lovely short novella was written in 1939 and is an odd & haunting story. I found it to be beautiful & moving. It is about a young struggling & starving artist, Eben, who meets a mysterious little girl, Jennie, playing alone in the park on a misty, foggy late afternoon. They befriend one another and when they part she asks him to wait for her telling him that she will hurry. As they walk away from each other Eben turns for a last glimpse at this remarkable child, he finds that she has vanished in the mist.
Over the years Jennie returns to Eben and always it seems to him that she has grown so & each time she seems much older than when he last saw her. Jennie seems rather disconnected from time and tells him of living in a place that Eben knows is no longer there. She is so eager to finish growing up so that she can be with Eben always. He is fascinated and perhaps obsessed with her.
Eben sketches her over these years and these works are practically the only paintings/sketches that he can sell. They allow him to continue & to improve his painting.
Jennie has become Eben's muse. One time when she comes to him he begins painting her. This Portrait of Jennie takes a very long time to complete as her visits are sparse & short. I was enthralled by each appearance of Jennie and so eager for the next meeting between Eben and Jennie, the mysterious girl/woman.
The author has created wonderful minor characters in the gentleman & lady who own the gallery where he sells & attempts to sell his work. Also the character of Gus, the taxi driver, the owner of the cafe, & Eben's painter friend are marvelous characters.

When I reached the end of the book I wanted to take it up and read it again. It is a book in my collection that I am certain I will be reading again and again as time passes. This is truly a timeless classic, a lovely story. ( )
3 vote rainpebble | Jan 26, 2014 |
A delicate and subtle story that seems not quite real. First found in high school, and loved ever since. The story of an artist and his muse - a little girl he meets at twilight, who is more than she seems. ( )
1 vote MerryMary | Feb 20, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Nathanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Knapp, Bettyemain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Eben Adams is a young painter in Depression-era New York just looking to make a living. His work has thus far left influential art dealers unimpressed. Then Eben happens upon a young schoolgirl named Jennie in Central Park. Intrigued by her mystical quality and her knowledge of things that happened well before her time, Eben begins to sketch a portrait of the young girl. The drawing turns out to be the most emotional piece Eben has ever done, and he finally gets the boost in his career he's been seeking. But before he can finish the portrait, Jennie vanishes.Saddened by the loss of his muse, he begins to scour the city for her, and when he does find her again, he is shocked to discover that she has aged several years since their last meeting. Who is this girl, and where did she come from?This supernatural love story is a masterpiece of modern fantasy.… (more)

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