Friday, August 3, 2018

The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a LadyThe Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"He took down the picture, carried it toward the window, related some curious facts about it. She looked at the other works of art, and he gave her such further information as might appear most acceptable to a young lady making a call on a summer afternoon. His pictures, his medallions and tapestries were interesting; but after a while Isabel felt the owner much more so, and independently of them, thickly as they seemed to overhang him." p. 311
Henry James is a writer who generates great passion among both his admirers and those who despise him. I fall into the first camp, but can appreciate that his prose is not for everyone. I need to be in the right mood for the meanderings through every thought and all the tiny details James sets before his reader but if I am I find them quite wonderful.
Isabel Archer, the "lady" of whom this is a portrait, is a character I found it difficult to identify with. This may be a difference of time as much as character as she makes choices and sees obstacles that seem ridiculous to my modern sensibilities. The architecture of this tale, how the various people she interacts with influence Isabel's choices, is fabulously constructed and kept me intrigued through 600+ pages. 

This book is on my Classics Club List. It also counts, since it was published in 1881, toward the Back to the Classics Challenge as a 19th century classic, 


  1. I'm one of those who is not a fan of Henry James (wouldn't go so far as to say I despise him), but I did find this to be much more accessible than his later works.

  2. I liked this one well enough at the time, but I'm not sure I will ever revisit it. I prefer Edith Wharton's take on this period of time and her women feel more real.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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