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Diana S. Long
5.0 out of 5 starsMasterpiece of Victorian Literature
Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2018
This is truly a masterpiece of literature and was a pleasure to read and listen to as performed by Alicia Johnson. James was quite the loquacious writer and his command of the English language exceptional. As the story unfolded I was mesmerized by the descriptive way in which he brought out every nuance of his characters or minute details of the surroundings, be it the estate in England or Rome, Italy (the eternal city). The protagonist of the work is a young American, Isabel Archer, who being educated or accomplished wants so much more out of life than being someone's wife, she longs to see the world, experience new things and a visit from an Aunt who resides in England but spends most of her time abroad is persuaded to accompany her. Isabel impresses her rich Uncle and his son with her independent nature and more than amuses them with their discourses, they conspire to make it possible for her dreams to come true. Even good intentions can go awry as Isabel will eventually come to know. The novel is rife with deceptions, and Isabel will have to make choices. I highly recommend this work and hope others will not be daunted by the length nor think that the author verbose.
5.0 out of 5 starsFine Kindle edition of the classic Henry James story
Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2015
The stories of Henry James can be obtained in a very great variety of editions, both printed and e-book, and at very low prices since most of them (perhaps all of them?) are now public domain and therefore no longer protected by copyright.
In fact, many can be obtained here on Amazon as free Kindle editions. I have personally had mixed experience with free (or very low priced) Kindle books, finding that at times they are poorly formatted, they may or may not include tables of contents and the ability to go directly to one chapter or another, and in some cases they have been made from scanned editions and contain errors in the text. They also generally omit any explanatory information on the author, publisher or copyright details (when first published, etc).
The Portrait of a Lady is considered to be Henry James's most popular work of long fiction, as well as being viewed by most critics as one of his finest. It is available on Amazon for free and separated into two volumes:
The Portrait of a Lady - Volume 1
The Portrait of a Lady - Volume 2
, and in this case it does appear that those Kindle releases are satisfactorily done (scanning through the reviews here on Amazon to see what comments have been made regarding the Kindle edition) although I do not have them myself. Someone wanting to get this book should therefore consider those free releases as well, and as far as I can tell they will not be disappointed.
For myself I am generally very willing to pay a modest price for an edition that is well made and does have those features mentioned, and in particular to get an edition that is properly formatted for the Kindle and is free of text and editing errors. This edition is very inexpensively priced (it is selling for 99 cents here on Amazon as I write this review), and is very well produced for the Kindle. It includes Henry James own preface to the novel, and the complete text of the novel in two volumes. It does not include the glossary or notes frequently included in printed editions.
Also worth mentioning is that this novel, The Portrait of a Lady, exists in two different versions, both prepared by the author. The First Edition is as it appeared initially as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan's Magazine in 1880-81. The New York Edition, extensively revised by James, was released in 1908 and is the version presented here in this Kindle edition. (The free Kindle editions mentioned above also use the 1908 New York Edition).
For discussions regarding the story itself I would suggest taking a look at the many detailed reviews posted to this book elsewhere on Amazon, particularly the following listing which has the greatest number of reviews and would likely be most informative and helpful:
The Portrait of a Lady (Penguin Classics)
As a final comment, the publisher of this Kindle edition, Open Road Media, is doing an excellent job in releasing classic novels and stories in new editions that are professionally edited and adapted for the Kindle, all priced very affordably, and I think they deserve thanks for doing so. I have quite a few of their Kindle releases, and they are without exception very well done. If I find myself looking for a Kindle edition to a book, and I am presented with a variety of choices that includes a version from this company, I feel that I can select their edition with confidence.
5.0 out of 5 starsIt really does not get much better than this
Reviewed in the United States on April 8, 2016
Overall I have had pretty good luck with the books (Classic) I have ordered for my Kindle. Yes, there were some that were so badly formatted that I simply removed them from my machine and tried again with another edition or fell back into my never failing method of simply purchasing a good hard copy.
Fortunately this Kindle edition of ‘Portrait of a Lady – Volume 1) is excellent and I have not complaints what so every. I actually found that reading it on my Paper White was as nearly as pleasurable as reading a nicely done hard copy.
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James is one of those books that can truly be called a ‘classic’ and few would argue this point. Many books can be read relatively fast and this one can be read that way also but do take note: This is one of those books that you want to slow down when reading it and savor each line. You want to get to know the heroine and by following the story closely you can learn much of why we are the way we are to this very day.
This book is pure reading pleasure and it is one that most people I know (myself included) will want to give multiple reads.
It should be noted also that the Kindle is ideal for people like me who do no speak French and the on-line dictionary provided was wonderful.
Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2013
It's embarrassing that I've reached a mature age without ever having read anything by Henry James. I'd always wanted to, but every time I started The Ambassadors or The Portrait of a Lady, I'd give up after a couple chapters. Recently I had a chunk of time and I decided to try again, with The Portrait of a Lady. What an incredible book! To read a 19th Century masterpiece is a very different experience from reading a lot of contemporary literary fiction: you're forced to read deeply. The pace is slow, the unveiling of plot is subtle. You sink into the book and you breathe the air and feel the life of Isabel Archer and Ralph Touchett, Lord Warburton and Madam Merle, among the many. James writes exquisite sentences: I almost wished I could read with my eyes closed so that I could let his vision overtake me. It was an unbelievably beautiful experience.
Isabel Archer is truly one of literature's great heroines: I did not want to like her, but she is an irresistible force, and once you've been introduced, you'll never want to forget her or this book.
So often 19th century literature tells us about beautiful, smart women whose main purpose in life is finding love and the perfect husband. Isabel is different. She thinks there is more to life than getting married, she doesn't want to settle down before having explored what the world has to offer: "I don't see what harm there is in my wishing not to tie myself. I don't want to begin life by marrying. There are other things a woman can do." How refreshing and modern for her time! Isabel's cousin Ralph, who loves her without hope, is the only person who really understands and supports her. In fact, thanks to Ralph she becomes a rich heiress. Ralph wishes her to have the means to do everything she wants in life, to have choices, but unfortunately with wealth come deceitful false friends and fortune hunters...I admit there were moments in the book where I thought it heavy, especially the part where Osmond courts Isabel. I disliked him so much that I found it frustrating to see her fall into the trap. I am so glad I decided to continue until the end! The relationship between Isabel and Ralph is one of the most beautiful I have ever read about. At the end of the story you feel like you know these characters so well that it makes you think that all the words that you thought were superfluous and made the reading at times hard-going were exactly right and necessary for you to understand. The ending was at first disappointing, it was not what I had hoped for. At the same time it made me think and wonder for many days after reading the last page. This is one of the best books I've read recently and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
This novel has always done well, from its first serialized publication in two magazines and then its publication in book form in 1881, it has also been met with lots of critical acclaim. The basic storyline is relatively simple, Isabel Archer is brought from America to this country and then on to the Continent by her aunt. When she comes into some considerable money of course things get difficult. With Machiavellian manipulations this young free woman finds herself nothing of the sort, especially when she gets married.
I have read this story so many times, and indeed I don't know how anyone could ever tire of it, but trying to explain what it is about to others is really difficult. The problem is that you don't want to give too much away and spoil it for anyone reading it for the first time. What I have written in the above paragraph is of course very basic and there is a lot more to this novel than that. The characters, situations and reactions are what bring this to life, and the psychology of the characters. This is really a deeply psychological and existentialist novel that literally comes to life, as alas few books do. After you have read this you really know why James was known as 'The Master', and let’s be honest this is the type of book that we all wished that we could have written. Of course James wrote a lot of very good books, but if he had only written this he would still be known today.
This deals with one of James' pet themes, the clash between the New and Old World, and also there is a deep level of underlying sexuality here concerning Isabel Archer. This book will certainly stay in your mind and make you ponder about what is meant by freedom and duty/responsibility. This is really a must read book.
5.0 out of 5 starsWonderful book that I have re-read several times
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 2, 2014
Wonderful book that I have re-read several times. James is a real wordsmith and I find myself in awe of his ability to describe moods and feelings so capably. The story revolves around Miss Isabel Archer, a young American who finds herself in reduced circumstances and is 'taken up' by her wealthy Aunt who takes her to Europe and to her home in England. Here she meets her cousin Ralph and Lord Warburton who falls in love with her. The rest of the book relates what happens to Isabel after she rejects Lord Warburton's proposal of marriage, becomes a wealthy heiress and falls prey to a fortune hunter.
3.0 out of 5 starsText in this version out of order in places.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 17, 2019
Loved the novel: funny and not predictable, even when you know gist of story already. HOWEVER. ....This kindle version was mixed up, with sections of the wrong chapter appearing twice ahead of where they should be in the book. Bit of a spoiler for the plot. Sort this out Amazon: You should not be selling texts that have not been checked for accuracy. There were also numerous typos in the later chapters. I think you should refund my 49p!
5.0 out of 5 starsCouldn't stop reading it after I got used to the ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 27, 2018
Couldn't stop reading it after I got used to the long sentences again. People and life and relationships, English and American cultures at home and abroad: all with the consciousness of one young woman at it's heart and articulated by a master craftsman who beguilingly appears to share his narrative construction with us.