The Portrait of a Lady
Publication Date: October 1983
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Capturing the grandeur of a gracious, splendid Europe of wealth and Old World sensibilities, this glorious, complex novel has become a touchstone for a great writer’s entire literary achievement. From the opening pages, when the high-spirited American girl Isabel Archer arrives at the English manor Gardencourt, James’s luminous, superbly crafted prose creates an atmosphere of intensity, expectation, and incomparable beauty.
Isabel, who has been taken abroad by an eccentric aunt to fulfill her potential, attracts the passions of a British aristocrat and a brash American, as well as the secret adoration of her invalid cousin, Ralph Touchett. But her vulnerability and innocence lead her not to love but to a fatal entrapment in intrigue, deception, and betrayal. This brilliant interior drama of the forming of a woman’s consciousness makes The Portrait of a Lady a masterpiece of James’s middle years.
Stephen Koch is the author of "The Modern Library Writer's Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction"; "The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of Jose Robles"; "Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West"; and other books. He previously taught creative writing at Columbia and Princeton universities for nearly twenty years.