HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Loading...

The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,726101556 (3.89)9 / 686
  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. 61
    Howards End by E. M. Forster (carlym)
  4. 61
    Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (roby72)
  5. 31
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Nickelini)
  6. 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.
  7. 10
    The Reef by Edith Wharton (noveltea)
  8. 00
    The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (Crypto-Willobie)
  9. 01
    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.
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

English (93)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
I did not enjoy The Portrait of a Lady, though I see its inherent worth as part of the Anglo-European canon of "classics". Henry James write compelling novels. I found Isabel Archer insufferable, although I did sympathize with her inevitable fate. ( )
  oacevedo | Apr 9, 2019 |
Henry James was a peripheral figure to me for a long, long time. I don't think I'd ever heard of him until AP English Literature in high school, and only then as a name mentioned in passing, a name too generic on the surface to capture my attention at the time. Later I picked up a copy of 'The Turn of the Screw' and it took me ages to get into that claustrophobic story, never getting past the first few sectons until last summer. Some rainy afternoon I read the first few chapters of 'The Portrait of a Lady' and was impressed, but ultimately distracted.

I've had a copy of this for a long time, during my Freshman year in college I had started collecting Modern Library editions because they were cheap, they were everywhere and it seemed like a practical thing to collect and fill my shelves with. It was finding a Modern Library edition of this novel, complete with its dust jacket, at a library sale that rekindled my interest. It's a modernist cover, with two views of a silhouetted face, the smaller with the shadows rubbed away and revealing an (I suspect) unintentionally dead-eyed young woman.

The extra-special something of this edition turned out to be the penciling and commentary written on the endpages and margins: due-dates, and character analysis and, best of all, the sometimes passionate underlining (some nearly piercing the page) of words and phrases that suggested an enthusiasm not wholly academic. I fancied I could construct from them the character of some distant co-ed learning and sharing my excitement in the story alongside myself. Whoever she was, and forgive me the assumption of gender based on abstract phrasing and handwriting, her name being rubbed out, she became another character, another point of view through which I viewed the story.

Isabel Archer may not be the brilliant ingenue she and others claim her to be, but James' sparkling narration of her character and her thoughts are the early highlight of the book. Isabel is frankly charming, seemingly winning over all who meet her. None of the other characters are as comprehensively sketched out as she, but are nonetheless complicated individuals with motivations and reasoning partially revealed to us and only guessed at by Isabel.

After her marriage we lose sight of her inner-life, a deliberate parallel with her loss of freedom, and makes the book a struggle for a time. But never was I dissatisfied, or uninterested. James confronts the dangers of marriage and propriety with Isabel's situation. There are characters with selfish motivations capable of manipulation, but the reader can't help but agree with Isabel that it was the result of her choices and her own will that she got into her situation. Therefore, it's fitting that a way out should come about on her own terms, or not at all.

This book, though much, much, more accessible than 'The Turn of the Screw' is densely written and psychologically rich in characters, conflicting motives and capable of being read in multiple perspectives. The 19th century was a great time of development in the novel, and 'The Portrait of a Lady's complexity and relatively clear style makes it a classic that I will be eager to reread. ( )
1 vote ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel's tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.
  JESGalway | Feb 12, 2019 |
Overwrought and unpleasant
  cstebbins | Dec 9, 2018 |
Many regard Portrait as James’ greatest novel. What they mean by this, of course, is that it’s the easiest to read. Written before James went off on the subordinate clause bender that was only derailed by his death, this is in fact a sensitive if somewhat contradictory portrayal of Isabel Archer, a young woman who, choosing freedom, finds that the ties of tradition are inescapable.

The contradiction I’m referring to is, for me, the most unsatisfactory aspect of the work and spoiled the novel for me. In rejecting the early proposals of marriage in the novel, Isabel is kicking against the goads. Add the epithet of wealthy heiress to those of already being young, free and single and you have a character set up to defy all the Victorian mores that can be thrown at her.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, she accepts a proposal of marriage which every reader knows is completely inappropriate. While James has her famously ruminating later on the mistake this is, it seems strange that he gives such scant regard to her motivations either for this or the earlier rejections of two far superior suitors.

In all three proposals we are, of course, party to information that Isabel isn’t. What we don’t get is any deep insight into her own thoughts in each instance. It’s not until the marriage becomes the cage that we all thought it would that we get an extended run of her meditations on the position she finds herself in. Had we seen this all along, I think the novel would have been stronger for it.

There’s a twist towards the end which anyone who is a well-read Dickens fan will probably see coming, and the novel ends ambiguously so that the told-you-so traditionalists can’t laud it over those who feel like Isabel might still make some desperate bid for her long-cherished freedom. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (99 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
Krüger, LoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luckhurst, RogerEditorsecondary 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
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439637, Paperback)

When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel's tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Explores the perilous allure of the older European civilization and its impact on the American character through the person of Isabel Archer.

» see all 39 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.89)
0.5 3
1 32
1.5 5
2 68
2.5 16
3 245
3.5 59
4 441
4.5 71
5 379

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.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 134,921,494 books! | Top bar: Always visible