Jump to content

Henry James - The Portrait of a Lady

Recommended Posts

:D Go for it Meg!


Meg, The Portrait of a Lady is virtually a quick-read potboiler compared to his The Golden Bowl which I've just given up on and not even a quarter way through. Just warning you in case you see it in Oxfam for 50p.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Oh dear, that doesn't sound good. :confused:


What other Henry James should I try, apart from that, and Portrait of a Lady which I have read?


I seem to remember somewhere that David suggested Washington Square and The Turn of the Screw. I've read the afore-mentioned and I'd go along with that:I've yet to read the second.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

How wonderful to find a thread about this novel. It's one of my favourite ones. As someone said in the previous messages, this novel is not an easy reading. I believe that this problem is mainly marked at its beginning, but, continuing in the reading, the reader soon becomes more interested in the development of the plot. And even the descriptions of the main characters, and their thoughts and dialogues, become less heavy...I'd say they become more rich of nuances.

Henry James gives us, at least, three characters of which literature will have to remember in the future, i.e. Isabel, Madame Merle, and Osmond.

But is Isabel that is one of the greatest figures ever appeared in the 19th century's Literature: her soul torn between a thousand desires and decisions, between what she really wants and what, on the other hand, she believes is her duty to do; all these thing give to Henry James the opportunity to depict a character with a great tragic side.


Marvellous! But I wonder if I have the strength to read other novels written by him. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 7 months later...

Just adding my thoughts.


This book took me about 14 hours to read. That in my opinion is a loooooong book. Especially considering it's only about 600 odd pages.


On first reading I was bored to tears (apart from a love of Ralph) and I loathed the ending. Would have been happy to never look at it again.


I have just finished a study unit on it (open uni) and I am starting to appreciate its aims and why it's held in such high regard. I now find that I have to reread it and I think I am enjoying it more -now that I see what the point is.


Things that helped were...reading the intro and James's preface;the preface makes his intention clear and explains some of his techniques.

Also a piece about the book written by Arnold Kettle.


If you are reading expecting to find exciting plot then you will be sadly dissapointed. If you are reading with an aim to see how James deals with the psychological representation of one character and how he uses clever methods to achieve effects etc then you will be rewarded.


At the end of the day not everyone's cup of tea. Background reading is almost definately required......well it was for me anyhow-I seem to be hard wired for exciting plot otherwise.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Similar Content

    • By Cathy
      Someone gave me 'Author, Author' by David Lodge for my birthday, I'm already finding myself swept along with the story of it, but feel I should also make the effort to read one of his novels to get the most out of it - any recommendations for where to start?
    • By lunababymoonchild
      Not quite sure about this.
      I enjoyed it, which is why I finished it, but if I hadn't seen a recent programme based on the story I wonder if I would have been able to keep track?
      The prose is dense and sentences are long with far too many commas imho, and there were one or two sentences that I just didn't get a sense of. A story that requires effort, but worth said effort.
      It is a ghost story of sorts about a young governess who takes on two charges in a large house out in the country, who determines that the ghosts of her predecessor and the predecessor's lover are trying to possess the children and that the children know about it and are somehow complicit.
      It did make me think and I also wondered if the governess, whilst not mad per se, was suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia, which would explain a lot.
      Well worth a read, and I'm sure that I'll go back to it at some point
  • Create New...