The Portrait Of A Lady by Henry James

The Portrait Of A Lady

In 19th century high society, much is expected of young ladies and there are few choices for women in general.  They are expected to marry and typically acquiesce to their parent’s wishes.  But American Isabel Archer has a different notion.  She is beautiful, but not wealthy.  Her parents are deceased, but she has been “taken up” by a relative and brought to England to be introduced to society there.  Isabel enjoys her liberty and at the outset of the novel, we find that she has rejected one suitor in America, and also rejects Lord Warburton’s proposal of marriage in England.  Eventually she does decide to marry – to a man who doesn’t fawn all over her, but is it the right match?

There are some twists and turns in this novel as the author explores Isabel’s struggle to balance independence with marriage.  Some of these themes still exist for couples today, as they must find common ground in their relationships.

This would be a good book for discussion, but it’s probably too long for most book clubs.  Plus, given it’s age, most modern readers would tire of it.  I liked it, but didn’t love it.  Since it’s original publication, these themes have been exhausted.  I did, however, appreciate the twist at the end of the novel.

3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1881
656 pages

Amazon Book Preview of The Portrait Of A Lady

About Suzanne

I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids who loves to read.
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