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Publisher's Summary

From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea, a dazzling and audacious new novel that extends the story of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, into unexpected territory.

Isabel Archer is a young American woman swept off to Europe in the late 19th century by an aunt who hopes to round out the impetuous but naïve girl's experience of the world. When Isabel comes into a large, unexpected inheritance, she is finagled into a marriage with the charming, penniless, and - as Isabel finds out too late - cruel and deceitful Gilbert Osmond, whose connection to a certain Madame Merle is suspiciously intimate. On a trip to England to visit her cousin Ralph Touchett on his deathbed, Isabel is offered a chance to free herself from the marriage but nonetheless chooses to return to Italy. Banville follows James' story line to this point, but Mrs. Osmond is thoroughly Banville's own: the narrative inventiveness; the lyrical precision and surprise of his language; the layers of emotional and psychological intensity; the subtle, dark humor. And when Isabel arrives in Italy - along with someone else! - the novel takes off in directions that James himself would be thrilled to follow.

©2017 John Banville (P)2017 Random House Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

John Banville honors Henry James in devising an elegant continuation of “The Portrait of a Lady”

First, there is an excellent review of “Mrs. Osmond” by Caryl Phillips in The New York Review of Books, November 23, 2017. Audible might put a link to it on its website.

I do enjoy John Banville’s exquisite writing, and was wary of listening to it on the audio book, but found that the narrator did an excellent job of letting the language spool out, while articulating the differences in characters. As in the James novel, most of the narrative comprises Isabel’s interior thoughts. Slowly, Banville reveals how Isabel comes to wrest control for her destiny out of the hands of her husband, while leaving her next steps unresolved. For readers of Portrait of a Lady, this is compelling because despite our impatience with Isabel, we want her to succeed. Banville traces Isabel’s very human fits and starts of finding direction for herself, while leaving her future steps unresolved.
I found Mrs. Osmond’s narrative absorbing, and entertaining, despite wanting to scream at her occasionally. I enjoyed Banville’s finely drawn characterization of the other players, those from the James novel and some new ones.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Donna
  • Brooklyn, NY
  • 11-20-17

Banville, what were you thinking?

Unless it was the reader who butchered this book it was John Banville who had a misstep in writing it. How could this great author write such a dull, repetitive novel, seemingly parodying James, not emulating him.
None of the Jamesian insight or narrative drive.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Clever Continuation of Henry James

After listening to five chapters of Mrs. Osmand, I realized my memory of The Portrait of a Lady didn’t seem adequate-although I could have continued because John Banville gives the reader very subtle segments of the necessary background for most of us.
It was really that my curiosity had been piqued: how would I react now to James’ 137 year old publication which I had read fifty years ago. So, after I listened to the samples of about four available on Audible, I chose a narrator with a masculine voice, in homage to Henry James.
Twenty-two hours later, I started Mrs. Osmond again and was happier, feeling I had accompanied Mr James’ Isabell Archer right up to the commencement of Banville’s imagination of her. He seamlessly constructs what would have been James’ next chapter in a voice so similar to his that one wouldn’t notice any change if this novel had been purported to be a long lost manuscript.
What a treat for those of us who agree with Jane Austin that a well-written novel cannot be too long. And, the fresh voice of the female narrator on Audible is just fine for those of us who love to have a story told to us.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Narrator Doesn't Do Banville Justice

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I certainly wouldn't recommend the audiobook; Banville is a very good writer, but the narrator just isn't up to his level. What was Random House Audio thinking when they paired Amy Finegan with him??

Would you be willing to try another one of Amy Finegan’s performances?

No.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Banville is not Henry James, but it's OK

Unfortunately I listened to Mrs. Osmond right after listening to Portrait of a Lady, and the fact that Henry James is a far superior author was glaringly obvious ... but as I continued to listen and James' style and descriptions were no longer so fresh in my mind, I enjoyed the story; so I would say it's worth the read or listen, just be sure that some time has passed since you've heard Portrait of a Lady.

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If you absolutely need to follow up on Isabel Archer...

This a fine story overwritten. After all who can write like Henry James?Narration is fine.

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  • K. Cole
  • Cincinnati, Ohio, US.
  • 03-03-18

a Jamesian delight

Mrs Osmond, a sequel to Henry James' Portrait of a Lady, is a delightful work, especially for anyone who has loved the Master's work.

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  • BHMMary
  • Birmingham, Al United States
  • 02-15-18

Terrible sequel to Portrait of a Lady

The narrator did a credible job but this sequel truly offended me. The author took the storyline off track and trivialized the characters from the original book to good and evil stereotypes or changed them completely. New characters were introduced who were non sequiturs and diminished the plot. Ugh...read, or listen to, Portrait of a Lady. Don’t waste your time on this book.

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  • Nana M
  • Charleston, WV, United States
  • 01-12-18

Can’t believe I made it to the end

Afraid I can not appreciate the author’s descriptive passages or lengthy dialogue. Reminds me of a soap opera. Same painful pace.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Betraying Isabel Archer

I picked up this book on the heals of finishing The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. Picking up this book was my first mistake; the second mistake was to pick it up right after finishing James’ masterpiece. This book proves that no author - however great - should set out to initiate the inimitable Henry James. Ironic, yes. To try it is a risk, to finish the task is to fail. Banville betrays Archer’s character and writes about - with too many unimportant details - things James’ never would. For example, describing food and the eating of it. James’ brilliance lies in part to his describing psychological thought processes, emotions and feelings. Not one single description wasn’t highly relevant and tantamount to the story telling. In this novel, 9/10 descriptions are irrelevant and the 1/10 that is, you might miss as you’re staring into a plate of food - devoid of eyes. Isabel does and says and thinks things in this novel she never would have as she is portrayed initially. For me, I never should have picked up this novel; it was a betrayal to Henry and Isabel.