Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
54
4.1 out of 5 stars
Format: Kindle Edition|Change
Price:£0.99
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 23 May 2008
Readers should note that the green Penguin Pocket Classics edition (and the old budget Popular Classics one to which this is the successor) use the original 1881 edition of the novel. James subsequently revised his work for the 1908 New York edition, and this latter one is used by most current paperback versions including Penguin's full-price Classics edition, along with those of Vintage and Wordsworth and others. Among many changes the final paragraph of the novel is substantially longer and less abrupt in the 1908 version.
0Comment| 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 28 March 2006
Re-reading this novel again so closely after reading Trollope's Can You Forgive Her? I can't help being struck by the similarity between Isobel Archer and Alice Vavasour. Both characters have financial freedom but crave social and spiritual freedom. Alice has the common sense to realise just in time, that her dependable John Grey, despite giving the appearance of a conventional man keen on a quiet life within the confines of what society expects, is far more likely to allow the freedom Alice craves, after their marriage.

Isabel Archer however, mistakes a bohemian lifestyle on offer with Osmond for the freedom she seeks. Her stubborness and to a certain extent, her inverted snobbery, prevent her from taking Lord Warburton seriously, a man ready and willing to allow her to live as she craves. Osmond plays Isabel like a harp, appearing to offer what she desires and then closing the door on life forever using the very social conventions and expectations that Isabel has feared she would find with Lord Warburton. It is superb writing. Compare this piece of art with it's cleverly calibrated plot and clearly drawn characters with rubbish like the Shadow of the Wind and you despair that people don't take the time to really read something worthwhile.

Henry James must have read Trollope's novel. He's taken the same basic story and converted it very skillfully for his own needs.
It's probably the best of Henry James' novels, so if you have limited time, read this one. The book's structure is nearly perfect, the writing is sublime in the same closely worked way that Jane Austen's prose enthralls. It's well worth the effort.
33 comments| 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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 strict rules of behavior. 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, 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
0Comment| 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 August 2014
So often 19th century literature tells us about beautiful, smart women whose main purpose in life is finding love and the perfect husband. Isabel is different. She thinks there is more to life than getting married, she doesn't want to settle down before having explored what the world has to offer: "I don't see what harm there is in my wishing not to tie myself. I don't want to begin life by marrying. There are other things a woman can do." How refreshing and modern for her time! Isabel's cousin Ralph, who loves her without hope, is the only person who really understands and supports her. In fact, thanks to Ralph she becomes a rich heiress. Ralph wishes her to have the means to do everything she wants in life, to have choices, but unfortunately with wealth come deceitful false friends and fortune hunters...I admit there were moments in the book where I thought it heavy, especially the part where Osmond courts Isabel. I disliked him so much that I found it frustrating to see her fall into the trap. I am so glad I decided to continue until the end! The relationship between Isabel and Ralph is one of the most beautiful I have ever read about. At the end of the story you feel like you know these characters so well that it makes you think that all the words that you thought were superfluous and made the reading at times hard-going were exactly right and necessary for you to understand. The ending was at first disappointing, it was not what I had hoped for. At the same time it made me think and wonder for many days after reading the last page. This is one of the best books I've read recently and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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
0Comment| 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 October 2002
What makes this book a masterpiece is the incredible art of creating characters. The complexity, the nuances and the strength of the characters created can only be compared with stendhal or flauber. James also succeeds in portraying british and american society in the beginning of the century forming a comparison still quite relevant. The language is brilliant and the story beautiful. A must-read.
0Comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 September 2013
this book is I think, a work of genius. A rather brash American girl is flung into an American family in England and wishes to be cultured. She is left money and goes to Italy where she meets and marries a cultured man. He is really interested in her money. She had an admirer Lord Warburton who her husband wants to marry Pansy his daughter. From then on all is explained to her and what follows is .....
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This novel has always done well, from its first serialized publication in two magazines and then its publication in book form in 1881, it has also been met with lots of critical acclaim. The basic storyline is relatively simple, Isabel Archer is brought from America to this country and then on to the Continent by her aunt. When she comes into some considerable money of course things get difficult. With Machiavellian manipulations this young free woman finds herself nothing of the sort, especially when she gets married.

I have read this story so many times, and indeed I don't know how anyone could ever tire of it, but trying to explain what it is about to others is really difficult. The problem is that you don't want to give too much away and spoil it for anyone reading it for the first time. What I have written in the above paragraph is of course very basic and there is a lot more to this novel than that. The characters, situations and reactions are what bring this to life, and the psychology of the characters. This is really a deeply psychological and existentialist novel that literally comes to life, as alas few books do. After you have read this you really know why James was known as 'The Master', and let’s be honest this is the type of book that we all wished that we could have written. Of course James wrote a lot of very good books, but if he had only written this he would still be known today.

This deals with one of James' pet themes, the clash between the New and Old World, and also there is a deep level of underlying sexuality here concerning Isabel Archer. This book will certainly stay in your mind and make you ponder about what is meant by freedom and duty/responsibility. This is really a must read book.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 March 2016
Beautifully written and elegant pose but feels very long and maybe this is from a female perspective but the romances don't ever quite feel developed enough that they make sense. I would read again though and imagine it was wonderful to read in installments as initially written (it might even be better to read it that way)
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 2 October 2014
Wonderful book that I have re-read several times. James is a real wordsmith and I find myself in awe of his ability to describe moods and feelings so capably. The story revolves around Miss Isabel Archer, a young American who finds herself in reduced circumstances and is 'taken up' by her wealthy Aunt who takes her to Europe and to her home in England. Here she meets her cousin Ralph and Lord Warburton who falls in love with her. The rest of the book relates what happens to Isabel after she rejects Lord Warburton's proposal of marriage, becomes a wealthy heiress and falls prey to a fortune hunter.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)