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The Portrait of a Lady by Henry

The Portrait of a Lady (1881)

by Henry

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9,039103561 (3.9)9 / 703
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.
Title:The Portrait of a Lady
Info:Penguin Classics
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (1881)

  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 (Wordsworth Classics) 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.
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English (95)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
I probably do not do the book or the author justice when I say that I didn't like the book. I found it not a compelling read, not very interesting and while reading my mind kept wandering to other things (tasks to do, conversations I had etc. etc.). That's no good sign at all.

I think it is the book itself. I'm through reading about women, men, their relationships, marriages that are (un)happy and how in a particular circumstance things worked out for both parts of the pair. I think I need to stop reading books with this subject and find other, more compelling ones on the 1001-list. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Nov 22, 2019 |
A bit of an abrupt ending, but it was, after all a portrait of a lady and not the life of one. Beautiful and complex without being too downcast. ( )
  slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
The story of a young, orphaned woman, Isabel Archer who arrives in England with her aunt. She is 23 years of age and is filled with bright optimism and doesn't want to settle but desires freedom. Men fall for her and she refuses them. Isabel had no money but when she inherits a large sum that she had no idea was going to come her way, this changes everything. She is no longer free but burdened by the burden of this inheritance. She is taken in by some two ex patriots who have their eye on this fortune. The rest of the story is about the choices she made and will make and the effects it has on her. I loved the prose, the characters, and the themes. ( )
  Kristelh | Jun 15, 2019 |
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 |
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» 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
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Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
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Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
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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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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