The Portrait of a Lady - Volume 1
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The Portrait of a Lady (Volume 1)
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Jun 01, Leslie rated it liked it Shelves: guardian , kindle. Listening to the audiobook edition, narrated by Wanda McCaddon, has helped me but I still find Henry James' writing style not much to my taste. It isn't his verbosity, as I enjoy other verbose Victorian authors' books, and it isn't the subject matter, as I have found the film adaptations of James' books excellent.
But somehow, reading his books sends me to drowsiness; the audiobook avoids this difficulty to a great extent. View 1 comment. Apr 16, John rated it did not like it Recommends it for: Long-involved-sentence lovers. Shelves: probably-won-t-read. This is a free edition transcribed into Kindle format by volunteers. I've heard a lot about Henry James and The Portrait of a Lady is considered a classic by many and the book has high ratings from Goodreads readers.
So I thought I'd give it a try. If a book has a preface I always read it first, hoping to gain some insight about the book. In this case, the preface was written by the author himself and I have to thank him for saving me from reading the book. I hate to abandon a book once I've This is a free edition transcribed into Kindle format by volunteers.
I hate to abandon a book once I've started it and I suspect if I'd started this one I'd have either gutted it out to the finish or given up after spending considerable time wading through the initial part. So why does James merit my thanks?
Mainly for this sentence, written early in the preface, "I had rooms on Riva Schiavoni, at the top of a house near the passage leading off to San Zaccaria; the waterside life, the wondrous lagoon spread before me, and the ceaseless human chatter of Venice came in at my windows, to which I seem to myself to have been constantly driven, in the fruitless fidget of composition, as if to see whether, out in the blue channel, the ship of some right suggestion, of some better phrase, of the next happy twist of my subject, the next true touch for my canvas, mightn't come into sight.
But to me such sentences fall like mud on my ears. I admit that phrases such as "fruitless fidget of composition" and "ship of some right suggestion" are quite wonderful. Had they been presented in lighter, more readable sentences reminiscent of Willa Cather, for instance , I'm sure I would have a more favorable impression of James' prose. The preface lasts 32 pages and I slogged through maybe 10 or 15 of them before becoming thoroughly convinced that I would never survive all pages of volume 1, let alone an additional pages in volume 2.
It's probably my loss, but I suffer it gladly if the preface is any warning of how the book is written. Jan 28, Chris Cangiano rated it it was amazing Shelves: literature.
This review is of the entirety of Henry James' Portrait of a Lady and not just Volume 1 of this particular edition. I made my decision to reconsider Henry James with some small bit of trepidation. I first read two James novellas in High School - Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller - and found both to be over-written, long and on the whole tedious reads.
Portrait of a Lady was even more imposing as it is a massive tome. However, I am now firmly convinced that I was just too young at the time to This review is of the entirety of Henry James' Portrait of a Lady and not just Volume 1 of this particular edition. However, I am now firmly convinced that I was just too young at the time to truly appreciate James' style.
Portrait of a Lady is a beautifully written masterpiece. It delves into familiar thematic ground for James - the clash between Old World European mores and New World American sensibilities - but does so in a way that still seems fresh and alive today.
The Portrait of a Lady, Volume 1 by Henry James
The Lady in question is Isabel Archer. She travels first to England and then on to the Continent through the intersession of a beneficent Aunt.
Bright, charming, independent, prideful, naive, Isabel is a towering creation and her journey from innocence to experience is a powerful achievement. A wonderful testament to the importance of individual freedom and a reminder that freedom often means a freedom to make the wrong choice and that a person of true honor accepts the consequences of their choices without excuse or equivocation.
Definitely puts me in a frame of mind to revisit the prior James shorter works that I previously didn't appreciate especially Turn of the Screw. Highly recommended. I enjoyed over pages of this novel and wanted to know what would happen to our dear Isabel. However, the author chose to "jump the shark" in the final 40 pages. If the author makes his heroine fall in love with the fortune hunting, lazy, cynical, and insulting wanna-be artist; I will scream!
I don't know how a girl can go from suspicion to "Wow! He's in a class of his own," after talking over a few stupid objects for less than 30 minutes. And how does a man bragging about his baubles make I enjoyed over pages of this novel and wanted to know what would happen to our dear Isabel. And how does a man bragging about his baubles make him "shy". I'm thoroughly disgusted.
Suddenly I question the author's taste and his treatment of the reader. Having our heroine fall in love with a narcissitic prig twice her age and be the step-mother to his insipid daughter is so painfully shabby. It causes me to question the novel's premises. Why should I agree with the author that these characters are clever, sophisticated, and special? They certainly haven't spoken or acted in a way to prove the assertions. The final pages of Vol. I no longer care to know what happens to her, but I hate to leave things unfinished.
The book started well, I was intrigued by the various characters, particularly Isabel and Henrietta, and hopeful because of the way in which all the potential plot seeds were planted. This was a novel that had the potential to bear a lot of fruit. I read this on the Kindle and even though it was clearly labelled Volume 1, I deluded myself into thinking that as occasionally happens with free public domain downloads it was mis-labelled. Surely it was the whole book, and even though we were The book started well, I was intrigued by the various characters, particularly Isabel and Henrietta, and hopeful because of the way in which all the potential plot seeds were planted.
The Portrait of a Lady, Volume 1
We endured an extremely long drought and when we finished Volume 1, we had finally introduced all the characters of note. I hope. There are even more seeds of plot planted and there are myriad story lines that could grow from all of this sowing. And I don't care. I am so intensely bored I can not bring myself to read Volume 2. I love long and beastly books. So far Portrait of a Lady is shaping up to be just "meh" period literature.
Lee Child. Amor Towles.