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The Portrait of a Lady [Hardcover]

Henry James
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1999 Oxford World's Classics (Book 12)
'Isabel Archer was a young person of many theories; her imagination was remarkably active...she had a fixed determination to regard the world as a place of brightness, of free expansion, of irresistible action: she held it must be detestable to be afraid or ashamed.' The Portrait of a Lady (1881) was described by F. R. Leavis as one of the two most brilliant novels in the language (the other being James's The Bostonians). Isabel Archer, young, American, and eager to embrace life, makes her choice from the suitors who court her as she explores Europe. She is true to her principles, but at what cost? John Updike has been writing fiction, poetry, and criticism for more than forty years. The author of eighteen novels and several hundred short stories, he has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for Rabbit Is Rich (1982) and Rabbit at Rest (1991).

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About the Author

John Updike has been writing fiction, poetry, and criticism for more than forty years. The author of eighteen novels and several hundred short stories, he has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for Rabbit Is Rich (1982) and Rabbit at Rest (1991).

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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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars James at his best! June 5 2001
Format:Hardcover
... Personally, I think that the movie was not as bad as people say it is, but the book is much better all the same. The Portrait is not for everybody. If you like Victorian era and its writers, if you love Edwardian age and its geniuses, then you'll love this book.
The Portrait is about a young American woman, Isabel Archer, whose destiny seems to be one of the most unforgettable ones in the history of literature. She stands before a choice, not wanting to lose her own identity, she struggles with both her husband and society to free herself from the chains of morality and emotional torture that she was used to while being married to Osmond.
I think that The Portrait of a Lady is James's best novel. He surely showed the world the true beauty of language and its colorful expressions.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great classic novel! Nov. 8 2001
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book,. I read it a few years ago, and it really stuck with me. I would give it more stars if I could.
It is so very well written and interesting to read.
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2.0 out of 5 stars good book... bad movie June 12 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Well i read this book in college, and then saw the movie as my first date with the girl I'm gonna marry. This hardcoevr addition was perfect for hidding a ring.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The real offense was her having a mind of her own at all." Feb. 16 2005
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When Isabel Archer, a bright and independent young American, makes her first trip to Europe in the company of her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, who lives outside of London in a 400-year-old estate, she discovers a totally different world, one which does not encourage her independent thinking or behavior and which is governed by rigid social codes. This contrast between American and European values, vividly dramatized here, is a consistent theme in James's novels, one based on his own experiences living in the US and England. In prose that is filled with rich observations about places, customs, and attitudes, James portrays Isabel's European coming-of-age, as she discovers that she must curb her intellect and independence if she is to fit into the social scheme in which she now finds herself.

Isabel Archer, one of James's most fully drawn characters, has postponed a marriage in America for a year of travel abroad, only to discover upon her precipitate and ill-considered marriage to an American living in Florence, that it is her need to be independent that makes her marriage a disaster. Gilbert Osmond, an American art collector living in Florence, marries Isabel for the fortune she has inherited from her uncle, treating her like an object d'art which he expects to remain "on the shelf." Madame Serena Merle, his long-time lover, is, like Osmond, an American whose venality and lack of scruples have been encouraged, if not developed, by the European milieu in which they live.

James packs more information into one paragraph than many writers do in an entire chapter. Distanced and formal, he presents psychologically realistic characters whose behavior is a direct outgrowth of their upbringing, with their conflicts resulting from the differences between their expectations and the reality of their changed settings. The subordinate characters, Ralph Touchett, Pansy Osmond, her suitor Edward Rosier, American journalist Henrietta Stackpole, Isabel's former suitor Caspar Stackpole, and Lord Warburton, whose love of Isabel leads him to court Pansy, are as fascinating psychologically and as much a product of their own upbringing as is Isabel.

As the setting moves from America to England, Paris, Florence, and Rome, James develops his themes, and as Isabel's life becomes more complex, her increasingly difficult and emotionally affecting choices about her life make her increasingly fascinating to the reader. James's trenchant observations about the relationship between individuals and society and about the effects of one's setting on one's behavior are enhanced by the elegance and density of his prose, making this a novel one must read slowly--and savor. Mary Whipple
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are two novels Dec 25 2010
By Jack Cade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There are two Portraits of a Lady 1881 and 1908--the novel is perhaps the most beautiful in the language--this edition is marked by John Updike's superb introduction and his gracious reference to Graham Greene's introduction to an earlier edition. Mr Updikes's introduction is wonderfully insightful though I would also suggest Prof. F,O, Matthiessen's brilliant essay exploring the 5000 revisions James made as lucid and essential--Mr Updike I hope will excuse me if I confess Greene's essay is the best I have read--though it unlikely to please academics.
So I urge readers to buy this edition. Having said that I also suggest the Norton edition which contains all the corrections James made in 1908. I have been looking for the 1881 edition--is it in print? Do please leave a comment if you know --thank you.
1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great classic novel! Nov. 8 2001
By Rosella Ann Myles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book,. I read it a few years ago, and it really stuck with me. I would give it more stars if I could.
It is so very well written and interesting to read.
0 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars good book... bad movie June 12 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Well i read this book in college, and then saw the movie as my first date with the girl I'm gonna marry. This hardcoevr addition was perfect for hidding a ring.
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