Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review- The Portrait of a Lady

For the Classics Club I read Henry James novel The Portrait of a Lady.
Synopsis from Goodreads: When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel's tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.
I didn't know anything about The Portrait of a Lady before I read it so had no idea what to expect. I ended up enjoying it though hand I hope to read more of Henry James in the future. I'm surprised I did enjoy it though as it did not have a happy ending and most of the characters left a lot to be desired.
You are immediately drawn to the protagonist, Isabel. She is kindhearted and independent. Her cousin  Ralph convince his father to leave her the majority of his fortune on his death. This causes her independent spirit to have independent means. Unfortunately she is taken in by the conniving Gilbert Osmond who she marries. What ensues is a miserable marriage, which becomes more and more miserable as the story unfolds. Before attaining the fortune Isabel turned down two offers of marriage. I wasn't terribly fond of Caspar Goodwood, Isabel's American suitor. He's horribly pushy and annoying. I did like Lord Warburton, Isabel's English suitor, for the most part but he had some issues as well. Overall though my favorite suitor was not even really her suitor... her cousin Ralph. You know he loves her, though the story is not quite clear if he loves her as a cousin or as a lover. His selflessness truly makes him the best character in the story.
The most despicable character in the story is clearly Gilbert Osmond. He's narcissistic, controlling and cruel. He takes this out the most on Isabel but he also is horrible to his sweet and submissive daughter Pansy. I hated him and while I'll never be a fan of divorce I was begging Isabel to leave him.
There's even more interesting characters in the story that I don't have the time to cover. Henry James truly created a fascinating story especially in his characters but also in his plot that will surprise you as it unfolds.
Even though there isn't a happy ending I would definitely recommend this book.

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2 comments:

  1. Ooh, I think I'd still give this a go. :D I do love a book with vile characters now and again. Plus it's one of those classics that's almost been in the back of my mind to read.

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  2. This is the only thing I've read by Henry James that I liked. He has three distinct phases, this is from his early years. Later years...meh! But you are right, lots of flawed characters, but still a compelling story. I really liked Isobel.

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