Portrait of a Novel

Portrait of a Novel Cover

Portrait of a Novel

Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece

By Michael Gorra

Liveright Publishing Corporation, Hardcover, 9780871404084, 385pp.

Publication Date: August 27, 2012

Henry James (1843 1916) has had many biographers, but Michael Gorra has taken an original approach to this great American progenitor of the modern novel, combining elements of biography, criticism, and travelogue in re-creating the dramatic backstory of James's masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady (1881). Gorra, an eminent literary critic, shows how this novel the scandalous story of the expatriate American heiress Isabel Archer came to be written in the first place. Traveling to Florence, Rome, Paris, and England, Gorra sheds new light on James's family, the European literary circles George Eliot, Flaubert, Turgenev in which James made his name, and the psychological forces that enabled him to create this most memorable of female protagonists. Appealing to readers of Menand's The Metaphysical Club and McCullough's The Greater Journey, Portrait of a Novel provides a brilliant account of the greatest American novel of expatriate life ever written. It becomes a piercing detective story on its own.

About the Author
Michael Gorra teaches English at Smith College. His books include "After Empire", "The Bells in Their Silence, " and, as editor, the Norton Critical Edition of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying". He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.