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The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,698112565 (3.9)9 / 716
Follows the story of American heiress Isabel as she visits Europe to find her own destiny, is pursued by suitors, and ultimately must make a tragic choice.
  1. 70
    Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (ncgraham)
    ncgraham: Surprised this recommendation hasn't already been made ... scholars throughout the years have noted Gwendolen Harleth's influence upon James in creating Isabel Archer.
  2. 60
    The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (carlym)
  3. 71
    Howards End by E. M. Forster (carlym)
  4. 71
    Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (roby72)
  5. 20
    Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Non-fiction work detailing the story behind the novel's writing.
  6. 31
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Nickelini)
  7. 10
    The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (Crypto-Willobie)
  8. 10
    The Reef by Edith Wharton (noveltea)
  9. 11
    Indian Summer by William Dean Howells (Bjace)
    Bjace: Howells ventures into Henry James territory with this tale of an American expatriate in Florence who is caught between two women. Howells teases the reader by starting to write a Henry James ending and then doing something quite different.
1880s (1)
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English (104)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
Henry James pursuit of the exact meaning of his sentences does a great deal for his word count. None the less, he does convey nuanced communication. the portrayal of the principal character of this novel does leave me with a good deal of pity for the lot of even upper class women in the time period. Am I left with a number of clear and striking images from this effort? Sadly, not at this remove in time. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 13, 2021 |
I decided to read “Portrait of a Lady” because it was mentioned several times at the Napa Writers’ Conference I attended this summer. I have read very few 19th century novels. I do remember reading and not enjoying “The Ambassadors” by Henry James in college but that was decades ago.

Kindle had a free two volume edition of Portrait so I downloaded it in early September and read a chapter or two each day. I enjoyed the book a lot more than I expected. Personally , I didn’t see why all those men were falling in love with Isabel Archer – but nevertheless it was fascinating to see her grow up.

There was a lot of excellent snarkiness in the conversations and it was interesting to tour Europe and England in those “idyllic” years before the Wars. A world where “gentlemen” (and ladies) literally didn’t do anything productive while characters who actually worked for a living (like Isabel’s maid) aren’t even given a name.

After I finished it I did some reading by critics who are far more expert.

The critic Arnold Kettle called the Portrait “a 19th-century version of Paradise Lost, a book about the end of a dream, about the loss of faith in the idea of individual autonomy.”

I don’t think I can improve on that. Glad I read it.
( )
  LenJoy | Mar 14, 2021 |
I'm sure this is one of those books that is supposed to be studied for greater meanings, but I didn't do that. I'm so aggravated at Isabel. She had so many people in her corner and still ends up with a POS man. I love her sweet cousin. ( )
  ToniFGMAMTC | Feb 17, 2021 |
A style of narration taken to such an extreme that it demands a glace for anyone interested in the history of English Literature. Yet, how can such a great eye for detail spend so much time on such the silly questions of who should I marry and can I put her flower in my buttonhole. This novel was a real chore to read and ultimately I felt it said surprising little in six-hundred thirty some pages. Money and marrying poorly will doom you. Be more careful when dealing with charming people. Having experienced his style, I don't think I'll be reading anything else by James. ( )
  ProfH | Feb 3, 2021 |
I just cannot believe in James' female characters--they are dead from the neck down.
  ritaer | Jan 6, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (96 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Aiken, JoanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anderson, Charles RobertsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cargill, OscarAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohn, JanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edel, LeonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heer, Inge deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, JohannesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krüger, LoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luckhurst, RogerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaddon, WandaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McGovern, ElizabethNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Millett, Fred B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Millett, Fred B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, GeoffreyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neilson, William AllanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stallman, R. W.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toibin, ColmAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Updike, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Hageland, A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
Dedication
First words
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
Quotations
Her reputation of reading a great deal hung about her like the cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic.
It may be affirmed without delay that Isabel was probably very liable to the sin of self-esteem....
You are rich when you can meet the demands of your imagination.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Follows the story of American heiress Isabel as she visits Europe to find her own destiny, is pursued by suitors, and ultimately must make a tragic choice.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141441267, 0141199121

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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