There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
When it comes to Victorian Literature I have read my fair share and still have plenty more wonderful pieces to read in the future. This was my first experience of reading a Henry James novel and I must say it did not fall short of being wonderful. This book has been on my TBR ever since I watch Lil’s Vintage World book review on YouTube. So I would like to thank Will at Alma Books for being so kind and sending me a copy in exchange for a honest and fair review.
The Portrait of a Lady was written by Henry James and was first published in 1881. The story centres on a young woman (Isabel) who travels from her home in America to England with her Aunt to meet some of her relatives. At this point Isabel has no intention to marriage even though she has received many offers. She dreams of making something of her life and seeing the world at the same time. The one thing that Isabel yearns for more than anything in life is freedom. This novel follows Isabel through a period of her life and the events and experiences she encounters along the way.
There are so many things that I loved about this book which is why it so hard to work out where to begin with telling you.
So I’m just going to start with the setting(s) of the novel. For starters, there are many settings throughout the book such as the romantic settings in Rome and Florence, to the glam and beauty of Paris, and finally the comfort of home in both England and America however no matter how inspiring and enthralling these beautiful places are they are not really important to the story and the plot itself. But they play such a beautiful part in the back drop to the events that are occurring at that period in the novel and each one is significant to the story. James really is a master at finding the right setting to stage a scene. I loved the fact the book begins and ends in the same setting as well.
The use of lavish sentences by James throughout the whole of the novel really showed how he dug deep into his character’s minds which was just utterly compelling as well convincing. As well as the use of lavish sentences Henry James used symbolic and/or metaphorical architectural spaces/places to tell us about Isabel and her life.
Throughout the novel there are a couple of running themes that can be pick up such as does money corrupt? and do you really know someone as well as you think? With these themes cropping up more than a few times throughout the novel it left you always wondering if certain people were all that they seemed or is the situation/person being too over examined. However, I myself imagine there is always the possibility of happiness within this story.
In all, this book took me quite a period of time to read which is unusual for me however, I thoroughly enjoyed the process and I am so glad I took that time to fully focus on this wonderful novel.
The edition I read was published by Alma Classics (2016)
(Image is my own please do not take/copy without permission first)