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The Portrait of a Lady : Penguin English Library - Henry James

The Portrait of a Lady

Penguin English Library

Paperback Published: 6th December 2012
ISBN: 9780141199122
Number Of Pages: 696

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The Portrait of a Lady is an intensely moving masterpiece on the destructive power of love, and features Henry James's most magnificent literary heroine.

Isabel Archer, a wealthy, beautiful and spirited American, is expected to marry when she travels to Europe with her aunt. But Isabel is resolved to enjoy the freedom that her wealth brings, and must somehow choose between suitors who may all be hiding sickeningly different motives behind their avowals of love.

About the Author

Henry James (1843-1916), the son of the religious philosopher Henry James Sr. and brother of the psychologist and philosopher William James, published many important novels including Daisy Miller, The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl, and The Ambassadors.

Review by John Purcell

This book has words in it. Lots and lots of words on lots and lots of pages. I know there are people out there who have no patience with words in books, so I just want to be upfront about this one. You've been warned.

So, having said that, let me introduce you to one of the most beautifully written and intelligent books you'll ever read - Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady.

James does not deal in generalities; his pen is ever poised above particularities. The inner worlds of his characters are complete. The world in which they move is solid. We are invited into the society of the very elite - not the plodding moronic morass of today's elite - but the refined, highly educated, morally dexterous, eminently enviable elite of a lost age. (Okay, these people may never have existed in life, but they should have.) In an age when women were not considered the equal of men, Henry James gives his heroine, Isabel Archer, intelligence, wit, emotional strength, health, wonder and the right to choose.

Forgot the way of reading we've become used to. Do not turn pages quickly. Linger. Enjoy the extraordinary use of language, the sharp insights, the clarity of thought. I found myself reading pages aloud. Jotting down long passages. Rereading scenes again and again. This is what art should always aim at achieving. Immersion.

James at his most Jamesian.


How easy to forget just how long-winded Henry James was. Portrait of a Lady was written for a certain class of reader at a certain time, and as such reflects back to that reader the mores and values of their society. However, early 21st century readers have a different relationship with language and fiction, and James's penchant for using 50 words when five would do nicely gets tiring very quickly. I suggest that Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence is a much more interesting and informative read about young women in America at the end of the 19th century.

Sydney AU


The Portrait of a Lady

2.0 1


ISBN: 9780141199122
ISBN-10: 0141199121
Series: The Penguin English Library
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 696
Published: 6th December 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.6 x 13.1  x 3.1
Weight (kg): 0.49
Edition Number: 1

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