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The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,210121570 (3.91)9 / 744
Young Isabel Archer, a beautiful American, travels to Europe where her naivete - and recent inheritance - attracts many suitors. But despite her great promise, she falls victim to her own provincialism. Exposing the differences between the New and the Old Worlds, James's masterpiece examines the themes of freedom, sexuality, and betrayal.… (more)
  1. 80
    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. 70
    The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (carlym)
  3. 81
    Howards End by E. M. Forster (carlym)
  4. 81
    Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (roby72)
  5. 41
    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Nickelini)
  6. 20
    The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (Crypto-Willobie)
  7. 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.
  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)
Read (85)
Europe (168)
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English (112)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (120)
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
I have read the first two chapters of this book no less than 5 times. Every year in college, there would be some Saturday evening where, for one reason or another, I would not want to hang out with other people. I would go down to the cafe, buy some pizza, grab Portrait of a Lady and starting reading. The first year it was a random choice. The second year, I wanted to read more of it and never got past rereading the first chapters. After that, it was just tradition.

After years of being charmed by the first couple chapters of the book, I was quite disappointed. This is through no fault of the book itself. The plot was excellent and James can present characters vividly enough that you feel like you know them (and, generally, would not really like them). What bugged me was the way the book was paced. James would spend a chapter describing a single conversation in all of its detail and then skip ahead two years and tell us that in the intervening time someone had been married, had and lost a child, and become miserable. It just bugged me. However, I am glad I finally read Portrait of a Lady; it was engaging, and I have not been reading enough books by dead people lately anyway.
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
stowed behind the Golden Bowl of top shelf of Bay 4 ( )
  Overgaard | May 6, 2022 |
4/26/22
  laplantelibrary | Apr 26, 2022 |
Miss Isabel Archer, a young lady from America, goes with her aunt to visit England and then the continent. She rejects two offers of marriage in the name of trying out a life of freedom, but then irrationally accepts a third offer, much less impressive than either of the previous ones, and things go downhill from there quite quickly.
James is hit or miss for me; this one is a bit of both. For the first third of the novel I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was enjoying it, but the rest of the story was quite a slog, especially once James' trademark dreariness kicked in. I don't at all mind a sad story, but a dispassionately bleak one is certainly not my cuppa. ( )
  electrascaife | Mar 31, 2022 |
That ending though...!
Not my favorite "classic" but I'm glad I read it
  roseandisabella | Mar 18, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 112 (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
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Young Isabel Archer, a beautiful American, travels to Europe where her naivete - and recent inheritance - attracts many suitors. But despite her great promise, she falls victim to her own provincialism. Exposing the differences between the New and the Old Worlds, James's masterpiece examines the themes of freedom, sexuality, and betrayal.

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Average: (3.91)
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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.

» Publisher information page

 

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