The Portrait of a Lady provides an excellent introduction to the subtle, refined, and complex world of Henry James. Unlike any author before or since, James delved deeper into the hidden worlds of his characters, in order to explore the toils and delights of their inner lives. In The Portrait of a Lady, James tells the story of one of his most enchanting heroines, Isabel Archer, a young woman from New York State whose life is changed when she is visited by her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, following the death of her father (her mother having died long before). Mrs. Touchett, who is an expatriate American living in Florence, invites Isabel to accompany her back to Europe, where everyone she meets is fascinated by her beauty, her intelligence, and her vivacity. Mr. Touchett, her uncle, makes a generous provision for her in his will, but this turns out to have unexpected and undesired consequences.
While I could appreciate this novel's postion as a classic to read straight is immensely difficult. James is too verbose at times and his female characters not entirely believable, making it hard to care what happens to them. It does not capture the imagination as many other classics are able to and so left me counting how many pages until the end, something I rarely do. Ultimately there are much more interesting classics to read than this one.
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