Isabel Archer's main aim in life is to protect her independence. She is not interested in settling down and compromising her freedom for the sake of marriage. However, on a trip around Europe with her aunt, she finds herself captivated by the charming Gilbert Osmond, who is very interested in the idea of adding Isabel to his collection of beautiful artworks...
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This subtle, beautifully constructed study of an attractive, intelligent, spirited young woman's transition from insouciance to enlightenment is a classic. Passion, intrigue, betrayal - it sounds like a potboiler, but James's observations of Victorian manners, understanding of human nature and exquisite prose elevate it to another league - Guardian
The Portrait of a Lady is entirely successful in giving one the sense of having met somebody far too radiantly good for this world -
Subtle and sophisticated and concerned with psychological nuance and social acceptability -
James is the master of making what is not said the most important thing on the page -
I read Portrait of a Lady by Henry James maybe once a year. I just love the story. I love the pace of it -
James's formidable powers of observation, his stance as a kind of bachelor recorder of human doings in which he is not involved make him a first-class documentarian, joining him to that great body of storytellers who amass what formal history cannot -
He was a pioneer of the psychological novel - Guardian
James created admirable women characters (often a weak point in a male novelist) and his book explores the old-fashioned but nevertheless sound idea that there are fine souls and absolutely appalling people in a world which is not composed of similar self-seeking anti-heroes and anti-heroines. Evil is always present in James and it appears in this book charming, insidious and poisonous to all the good things in the world. A chilling but compelling book to read in the sun -
Fear stalks James's pages like grotesquerie in Dickens, like testosterone in Hemingway, like magic in Angela Carter - Independent on Sunday
Henry James was born on 15th April 1843 in Washington Place, New York to a wealthy and intellectual family and as a youth travelled between Europe and America and studied with tutors in Geneva, London, Paris, Bologna and Bonn. He briefly and unsuccessfully studied law at Harvard but decided he preferred reading and writing fiction to studying law. His first novel, Watch and Ward, was published in 1871 after first appearing serially in Atlantic Monthly. After a brief period in Paris, James moved first to London and then later to Rye in Sussex. He became a British citizen in 1915 to declare his loyalty to his adopted country as well as to protest against America's refusal to enter the war on behalf of Britain. Henry James was a prolific writer and critic and from around 1875 until his death he maintained a strenuous schedule of publications in a variety of genres: novels, short story collections, literary criticism, travel writing, biography and autobiography. He died in 1916.