August 1, 2008

A Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

I've been nibbling at this book for months. Sometimes classics are like that. And it was worth it.

The Portrait of a Lady was my first Henry James novel. He was recommended by a friend who loves classics as much (no, I'm pretty sure more!) than I do. And I can understand why she likes him.

The Portrait of a Lady is the story of a young American woman, Isabel, in the late 19th century, who has recently been bereaved of her father. Her family is not well off (according to upper-class standards, they were by no means of the poor class!). She gets taken in by her aunt, who has a residence in Florence, living apart from her husband who lives in England. They have a sickly son, Ralph who always shows great affection for his cousin Isabel. When the uncle is on his death bed, his son convinces him to give half the money that was to be his to Isabel so that she will not have to get married. Isabel now has the freedom to do as she wishes.

By the end of this book I was bawling. Not so much that it is sad, it's not terribly so. But I just cared so much for the characters. The odd thing, was that I didn't really like any of them until about 3/4 the way through the book. I guess they sorta grew on me.

So, yeah, I liked this book and recommend it to a classic-lover like me. That said, I wouldn't recommend this book for someone who doesn't usually read older books. The style is slower, and he will often have paragraphs that will span more than one page. That can make it difficult to read, which is hard when it is over 600 pages long. But, as I said it is worth it, because those long paragraphs included beautiful language such as, "A dissatisfied mind, whatever else it may miss, is rarely in want of reasons; they bloom as thick as buttercups in June." Ah, the joy of wonderful writing.

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