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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
By: (1843-1916)

Regarded as one of James’ finest works, The Portrait of a Lady revolves around the life and the development of Isabel Archer as she embarks on a scrupulous journey of self-discovery, forced to choose between her individual freedom and the preset conventions of society. Moreover, the novel explores themes of existentialism, objectification of women, wealth, suffering, and the conflict between individual longing and social conformity.

Set in the second half of the 19th century, the novel opens with the introduction of Isabel Archer, a naive young woman from Albany, New York. Raised in a haphazard manner by her father, Isabel has been encouraged to nurture her independence from a young age, which later results in her becoming cautious in her selection of possible suitors. Following her father’s death, Isabel is visited by her expatriate aunt, Mrs. Touchett, who suggests that Isabel should accompany her back to her home in England. Isabel excitedly accepts the invitation, looking forward to the opportunity to experience life at a whole new level, and duly sets out on the trip of a lifetime. Subsequently, she arrives at the Touchett country estate, where she meets Mr. Touchett and her sick cousin Ralph. Furthermore, Isabel is beset with numerous marriage proposals that threaten her hopes of freedom. Taking an interest in her outlook on life, Ralph convinces his wealthy father to leave part of his fortune to Isabel, supposedly to help her maintain her self-sufficiency. However, Isabel quickly comes to recognize the dividing line between her American values of freedom and independence, and the rigid European social values. Consequently, Isabel must reap what she has sown, as her life takes an unplanned route away from her initial naïve expectations, and instead leads her to a harsh reality triggered by disillusion.

Adding to the glory of the novel is James’ focus on psychological detail and realistic situations, which in turn provides more depth to his characters, as is evident in his heroine’s simultaneous struggle with her aspiration for independence and her desire to conform to the prerequisites of society. Fortified by James’ continuous use of ellipsis, descriptive language, and a distinctive set of realistic characters, the novel proves to be well worth its critical acclaim.


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Reviews (Rated: 2 Stars - 6 reviews)

Reviewer: - February 19, 2016
Subject: Choosing readers.
Most of the speakers were excellent, but some were very hard to understand. I think that only native speakers should be used for these readings.
Reviewer: - February 19, 2016
Subject: Choosing readers.
Most of the speakers were excellent, but some were very hard to understand. I think that only native speakers should be used for these readings.
Reviewer: - August 20, 2015
Subject: Don't complain
I think it is very generous of these people to give time reading numerous pages for our enjoyment
Reviewer: - July 16, 2015
Subject: Not great
I can forgive the poor audio but not the many mispronunciations, some incomprehensible, of the non-native speaker featured on several chapters. I spend so much effort trying to understand her that I am unable to appreciate James's prose.
Reviewer: - February 22, 2015
Subject: I agree with other reviewer that recording must have perfect English.
I agree, this recording si also for foreigners to learn correct English too. They must be recorded by perfect English speakers.
Reviewer: - August 7, 2014
Subject: Awful
I am very sorry to say this, but people who cannot pronounce things properly and are foreigners with the heavy accents SHOULD NOT be recording mp3 books!


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