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Portrait of Jennie

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  752 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
Who was she? Where had she come from?

Was Jennie a dream, a memory, a lovely ghost from the past? Or had she stepped from anther world into this?

Eben Adams could only guess at the answer. But he understood that Jennie, because she dared to love him, had fused past and present into the delightful delicate magic of "now."

And tomorrow? Could Jennie triumph over tomorrow too?
Hardcover, 125 pages
Published 1976 by Buccaneer Books (first published 1940)
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Bobby Underwood
Nov 02, 2016 Bobby Underwood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lonely and magical, Portrait of Jennie is often cited as a romantic fantasy masterpiece. But like all of Robert Nathan’s stories, there is something ethereal here which defies description.

Is it the description of loneliness and an artist’s soul at a crossroads?

Is it the lovely Jennie, moving through time and aging, to become not only the great love, but the inspiration for said artist?

Is it the insightful observations of life that lead us to conclude that Nathan is correct in his main observatio
Jim Dooley
Jan 28, 2017 Jim Dooley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is reported that no less a masterful writer than F.Scott Fitzgerald considered Robert Nathan to be one of his favorite writers. That alone would have attracted my attention. I am pleased to agree that Mr. Nathan is a wonderful writer.

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE is probably his most famous book, owing to a very high-profile motion picture made of it from the Selznick studios. As is so often the case, the movie is no substitute for the book.

This is a romantic fantasy in a similar style of later writer R

First line - There is such a thing as hunger for more than food, and that was the hunger I fed on.

There was a song by Nat King Cole inspired by this story - A portrait of Jennie (1948). And more surprisingly, one by Madness . Also, the film is there on YouTube too - I kid you not.

RE-VISIT 2015 is via the film

Jennifer M. Hartsock
Apr 09, 2011 Jennifer M. Hartsock rated it really liked it
Written by Robert Nathan and published in 1940. The story starts out with a painter in New York named Eben Andrews. He’s poor, never pays rent on time, and can barely sell any of his paintings around the city. He’s strolling through the park one day, and here he meets a young girl named Jennie. She talks of her parents and how they work at the Hammerstein Music Hall. Eben recalls this particular music hall being torn down many years ago. She also talks about having a best friend named Cecelia. S ...more
May 27, 2014 Fran rated it it was amazing
A lot of people seem to want more explanation from this story: how does Jennie show up in Eben's life at different points? Why doesn't she just show up as an adult from day one? Why does he get this privilege when no other soul mates seem to have it? Is she a ghost or a time traveler? If those questions were addressed and answered this would be a different book.

None of those questions matter to the characters. Eben's easy acceptance of extraordinary circumstances is part of what gives this book
Carla Remy
Sep 27, 2016 Carla Remy rated it liked it
An intriguing take on time travel. The whole "true love across time" trope seems well covered at this point, but "Portrait of Jennie," coming out in 1940, could be one of the first times it appeared. Unfortunately, however, I found the book boring. I feel it would have been better as a short story.
Philip Dodd
Aug 02, 2015 Philip Dodd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Years ago, I saw an old black and white film on television, called Portrait of Jennie. I loved it. It was moving, magical. Released in 1948, it starred Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones. Recently, I found out that the film was based on a novel by Robert Nathan, so I decided to read it, and I am glad that I did. I was not surprised to learn that Robert Nathan wrote poetry as well as prose, for his short novel Portrait of Jennie is a poetic work. I felt sympathy for its narrator, a young painter, t ...more
Economically and elegantly told in only 125 pages; Nathan captures an ethereal and wistful mood.
Apr 17, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
I've had this gem of a book on my shelf for years, and I finally read it. Great story.
Aug 11, 2015 Kwoomac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a surreal story about time travel written in 1940. A fun read. It's somewhat creepy and the reader is left with no answers.
D.M. Dutcher
Oct 03, 2012 D.M. Dutcher rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, classic
It's let down by a lack of explanation, but it's a sweet book that I bet inspired a lot of people.

Eben is a struggling artist in the city. He's caught in a terrible slump where he simply can't create anything, and he's slowly becoming depressive and destitute. One day he meets an old-fashioned girl named Jennie, and plays with her. She becomes a muse to him, enabling him to sell a sketch for the first time in a long while.

But each time he meets Jennie, she ages, and the times he can meet her spr
Bryan Ball
Jan 19, 2014 Bryan Ball rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ghost-stories
“Everything goes. / The wind blows, / The sea flows--/ And nobody knows. (11)

Robert Nathan’s “Portrait of Jennie” is a poetic, haunting and beautiful surprise of a novel. I find it interesting that there seems so much ink spelled on discussing whether this is a ghost story, or a time-travelling romance. But the idea of a time-traveler, a ghost, a haunting is really one in the same. We have a person here, Jennie, who is from another time, and has ended up in the present, somehow, of 1930s New Yo
May 01, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
I bought Portrait of Jennie around the same time that I bought The Time Traveler's Wife because I read some reviews of the latter that said "This isn't your parents' Portrait of Jennie" and so I was curious what my parents' Portrait of Jennie was. It's a sweet but sad tale about an artist in 1920s New York City who meets a young girl in the park and later draws sketches of her that pique the interest of a local art dealer. The girl reappears often in his life, but always seeming quite a bit olde ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Steven rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
This was a quick read that took me entirely way too long. It should have been done in two days tops but it kept getting pushed back due to school work. Never the less I finally finished it and wasn't very impressed.

Some of the reviews I've read on a Portrait of Jennie state that it's one of if not the greatest love stories of all time. I don't see how this is so. One, it's far too short and lacks the details necessary to generate a deep connection to the main characters. Second, the ending is ra
Sep 26, 2010 Giovanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Really more of a 3.5, a book I'm sure I'll actually remember and think about in the future. Right after reading this I read this essay in the NY Times, about not remembering books:

This one I'll remember, for the story and writing as well as the circumstances of its reading. I read it in one sitting on (probably) the last sunny day of this year, on a hill overlooking a lake, with mosquitoes, gnats, and other winged irritants attacking.
Jun 19, 2012 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, that was disappointing.

Though this is Nathan's most famous work, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed Mia, written about 30 years later. This one just never quite came together for me. He had the seed of a great idea,

Still curious to see the Veronica Lake film, though!

Edited to add: It's Jennifer Jones, not Veronica Lake. (Thank you, Emilie!)
May 27, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing
I do not know why this book has always gripped me. I first read it when I was rather young and had a more romantic view, but even as an older person there is something that holds me to the story. Nathan wastes no words...every scene and every syllable count.
Jun 29, 2015 Naomi rated it really liked it
I was amazed at how closely the movie adaptation of this book followed it...until the end. The reason that this book received 4 stars vs. 5 stars was the relatively boring ending to it. However, it was still a pretty powerful, engaging read.
Jun 25, 2014 Margaret rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, fiction
I really enjoyed this little book. I especially reading about the main character being an artist and the difficulties of being creative. I always loved the movie and I was curious about the book, it did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised by the spiritual references.
Apr 04, 2011 Dawna rated it it was amazing
A favorite book. I reread it from time to time.
Jeffrey Byron
Feb 17, 2014 Jeffrey Byron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Classic Robert Nathan!

A haunting and romantic tale where true love transcends time and space.

I highly recommend.
Kevin Connery
Aug 24, 2009 Kevin Connery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Highly recommended
Lorna Collins
Jun 22, 2010 Lorna Collins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A charming fantasy romance and one of my all-time favorites.
Apr 27, 2009 Drusilla rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, a love story that spans time itself.
Dec 07, 2013 TK421 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The Time Traveler's Wife has nothing on this 1939 novel.

"How beautiful the world is...It was never made for anything but beauty--whether we lived now, or long ago."
Dec 21, 2008 Christopher rated it it was amazing
I cried like a baby.
Joanne G.
Jul 19, 2013 Joanne G. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The sweet and beautiful version of The Time Traveler's Wife.

Originally read in 1972.
Kathleen Fowler
Jan 01, 2013 Kathleen Fowler rated it liked it
I like the simple, straightforward manner in which this story is told. Everything is pared down: the number of characters is kept to a minimum, descriptions are spare, readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Despite the mystical element of the story, the writing is never melodramatic. Furthermore, the characters don’t waste time speculating as to what is happening to them; they take it in stride and get on with things.

Nathan’s ability to effectively depict the elemental powers of nature
Apr 14, 2014 John rated it really liked it
The movie has long been, for all its flaws, a favourite of mine, but this was the first time I'd read the book.

Eben Adams is a starving artist in NYC when one wintry night, strolling through Central Park, he comes across a little girl playing hopscotch. Alarmed that she should be out alone in this hazardous spot at night, he enters a conversation with her; the next day, trying to make a sale of a landscape painting or two to Henry Mathews of the Mathews Gallery, he's getting nowhere until Mathew
"Today will be Yesterday’s Tomorrow"

Set in 1940 NY City and on picturesque Cape Cod this gently-paced novel relates a unique love affair between a 28-year old starving artist named Eben Adams and a little girl of many ages. Jenny Appleton appears out of the mist as a child who seems instinctively drawn to the older man. Speaking of events in her present--which he learns were already long in the past—she begs him to wait for her to catch up to him.

Adams dreams of painting her portrait but he d
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2017 Reading Chal...: Portrait of Jennie 1 11 Jul 25, 2016 04:25PM  
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Nathan was born into a prominent New York Sephardic family. He was educated in the United States and Switzerland and attended Harvard University for several years beginning in 1912. It was there that he began writing short fiction and poetry. However, he never graduated, choosing instead to drop out and take a job at an advertising firm to support his family (he married while a junior at Harvard). ...more
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“What is it which makes a man and a woman know that they, of all other men and women in the world, belong to each other? Is it no more than chance and meeting? no more than being alive together in the world at the same time? Is it only a curve of the throat, a line of the chin, the way the eyes are set, a way of speaking? Or is it something deeper and stranger, something beyond meeting, something beyond chance and fortune? Are there others, in other times of the world, whom we should have loved, who would have loved us? Is there, perhaps, one soul among all others--among all who have lived, the endless generations, from world's end to world's end--who must love us or die? And whom we must love, in turn--whom we must seek all our lives long--headlong and homesick--until the end?” 44 likes
“How little we have, I thought, between us and the waiting cold, the mystery, death--a strip of beach, a hill, a few walls of wood or stone, a little fire--and tomorrow's sun, rising and warming us, tomorrow's hope of peace and better weather . . . What if tomorrow vanished in the storm? What if time stood still? And yesterday--if once we lost our way, blundered in the storm--would we find yesterday again ahead of us, where we had thought tomorrow's sun would rise?” 14 likes
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