Customer Review

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be careful what you ask for..., 28 Mar 2006
This review is from: The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Popular Classics) (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Aug 2009 20:41:22 BDT
Juliet says:
Its carefully calibrated plot . not it's.... a very good review until you hit this basic grammatical error

Posted on 30 Nov 2009 22:43:08 GMT
Last edited by the author on 30 Nov 2009 22:43:49 GMT
Eileen Shaw says:
Sorry to carp and I am enjoying reading your reviews, though I don't agree with all of your opinions - we're all different after all. But - sorry, but it is impossible for Henry James to have borrowed Trollope's Can You Forgive Her plot. James wrote Portrait of a Lady in 1880 - it was serialised in an American magazine from that date, and Trollope didn't write CYFH until 1864.
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