One of the great heroines of American literature, Isabel Archer, journeys to Europe in order to, as Henry James writes in his 1908 Preface, "affront her destiny." James began "The Portrait of a Lady" without a plot or subject, only the slim but provocative notion of a young woman taking control of her fate. The result is a richly imagined study of an American heiress who turns away her suitors in an effort to first establish--and then protect--her independence. But Isabel's pursuit of spiritual freedom collapses when she meets the captivating Gilbert Osmond. "James's formidable powers of observation, his stance as a kind of bachelor recorder of human doings in which he is not involved," writes Hortense Calisher, "make him a first-class documentarian, joining him to that great body of storytellers who amass what formal history cannot.
About the Author
Henry James was born the son of a religious philosopher in New York City in 1843. His famous works include The Portrait of a Lady, Washington Square, Daisy Miller, and The Turn of the Screw. He died in London in 1916, and is buried in the family plot in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Anita Brookner trained as an art historian and taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art until 1988. She has written a number of books on art history, and nineteen novels, including the 1984 Booker Prize winner, "Hotel du Lac," She lives in London.
“The Portrait of a Lady is entirely successful in giving one the sense of having met somebody far too radiantly good for this world.”—Rebecca West