Mike Puma's Reviews > The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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Aug 28, 10

bookshelves: favorites, 2010, read-and-watched, classic-lit
Recommended for: the verbally unchallenged
Read in August, 2010

Exquisite, cozy, at times funny, at times sad, and unforgettable. I won’t bore readers with another summary of the story; they’re abundant on this site. I will say that with Isabel Archer, James earns his place in the canon with a proto-feminist (yes, I said it, proto-feminist) novel of a remarkable, if hard to describe heroine, who is faithful to her idea(l)s, rejects the affections of strong (but good) men, and suffers unnecessarily at the hands of a Machiavellian cad and an equally manipulative woman.

If you don’t like long novels—avoid this one like a plague. If you don’t like novels written in style from another era, get thee hence! If wordy, complicated sentences are anathema to you, you’ve probably already stopped reading this mini-review.

If I were to advise a reader at all, I’d suggest reading it in as short a period as you can. Bite the bullet, finish it off keeping as much in mind as you can. I’d also advise reading it on a Kindle (for the built-in dictionary) or, at the very least, keep a dictionary at hand. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have; and if you don’t—if you read the wrong book for you (this one), please, please, don’t say James is an idiot (or some equivalent) or that the book is just boring (or some equivalent)—instead, face the fact, you read the wrong book.
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Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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message 1: by Hend (last edited Nov 25, 2012 03:39AM) (new) - added it

Hend you Make Me Wanna read this one.
I enjoy reading classic novels:)


Mike Puma Thanks, Hend, this is one I liked a lot. James isn't for everyone, but I've had good luck with him.


message 3: by Richard (new) - added it

Richard Mike, this is in my group of "tough classics," i.e. books I started more than once in an effort to get through them. I haven't conquered this one yet--but I will. Someday...


Sketchbook Mike wrote: "Thanks, Hend, this is one I liked a lot. James isn't for everyone, but I've had good luck with him."

Cx: James isnt for fools.


Kalliope One of my favorites. Daunting.


Mike Puma I've no idea why, but I didn't find it daunting at all; I imagined people I know as the characters to humanize them.


Kalliope Mike wrote: "I've no idea why, but I didn't find it daunting at all; I imagined people I know as the characters to humanize them."

I may be using the word "daunting" incorrectly. I mean it in the sense of mind-blowing, astonishing, etc... and not in the sense of inspiring dread...


Mike Puma Ah. Got it. I think some people do approach James with a type of dread. So far, I think I've liked The Ambassadors the most, and many have found that challenging.


message 9: by Lynne (last edited May 18, 2013 06:02AM) (new)

Lynne King I hate to admit this but I've never read this book Mike. I understand that it is a wonderful read but I have so many books to read at the moment...I also have two books arriving/arrived from my two favourite authors and they, of course, come first.


message 10: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma Hopefully, there will be a 'right time' for you and this one; as much as I liked it, it's a tough one to recommend.


Kalliope This is a wonderful novel.


message 12: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma Couldn't agree more.


Lit Bug I absolutely loved it, and read it in a single sitting tiring my eyes out - one of the few novels etched permanently in my mind. Truly delightful.


message 14: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma A single sitting--wow! I don't tire of HJ and really should get back to reading more of him. Thanks for the comment.


Kalliope Wonderful, Mike. I also loved this book... I dont rembember whether it took me long.. possibly, but I loved the prose.

@Lit Bug.. One single sitting?.. you are quite something.


Lit Bug Nearly 13 hours - but they were some of the most satisfying ones of my life :)


Kalliope Lit Bug wrote: "Nearly 13 hours - but they were some of the most satisfying ones of my life :)"

Given that you survived.. I have no doubt...


message 18: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey I'm amused by the proto-feminist remark, considering how much the author loathed the feminists of his time.


message 19: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Puma It is ironic, but he did write a strong woman character who stuck to her ideals (such as they were). Poor James, a product of his times and class.


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