The Portrait Of A Lady, Henry James

“And remember this, that if you’ve been hated, you’ve also been loved.”

I had mixed feelings reading this book, and now having finished it I still have mixed feelings. I admit that perhaps this is because The Portrait of a Lady is a book that I would not usually choose – I was told about it by an English professor at a university open day, who gave it a very positive review.

When I first started reading I found it easy to follow: I liked the narrative voice and the ease in which it spoke directly to the reader. It made me feel more involved in the story,  making it more captivating. I also liked the main character of Isabel – initially. She’s described by James in the book as “our rustling, quick-moving, clear-voiced heroine” which I think is a lovely description. But she is also described on the blurb of my copy as a “magnificent literary heroine” and I don’t think I agree. About half way through I began to feel sorry for her but that soon turned to frustration. She stupidly puts herself into silly situations and doesn’t do anything about it!

Don’t get me wrong though, there were some parts I really enjoyed! For example, part of the book is set in Rome, which was great for me as I’ve been there on holiday, so I could imagine all the places mentioned. (You can see my post about Rome here.)

Yet, I can’t deny that from about half way through I felt I was reading it more to get through it, rather than for my own enjoyment. (I hate not finishing a book!) It’s a shame because I really wanted to enjoy this book a lot. But if you like American literature, especially from the late 1800s, then you may enjoy it more than me!



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