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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "An Englishman's never so natural as when he's holding his tongue."
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...
Published on 11 May 2006 by Mary Whipple

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars missing pages
I was enjoying the book, but when I had read up to page 432, the next page was 193, and 20 pages later it jumped back to page 140. About an eighth of the book was missing!
Published 11 months ago by Eleanor Smith


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "An Englishman's never so natural as when he's holding his tongue.", 11 May 2006
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Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Portrait of a Lady (Paperback)
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 into 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
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful edition, 27 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The introduction and appendices by Philip Horne add enormous value to this edition of Portrait.

This edition is James' original version of the novel, and one of Horne's appendices lists significant changes James made to the final version many years later. It's fascinating. I was so grateful to have access to this level of scholarship, and for its quality. The timeline of James's life and writing is also valuable - I am now reading a biography of James which is centred on Portrait of a Lady, and referring to Horne's appendices to supplement the biographer.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars missing pages, 7 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I was enjoying the book, but when I had read up to page 432, the next page was 193, and 20 pages later it jumped back to page 140. About an eighth of the book was missing!
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The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Classics)
The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Classics) by Henry James (Paperback - 7 April 2011)
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