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The Portrait of a Lady - Volume 1

Henry James

Book Overview: 

The Portrait of a Lady is a novel by Henry James is the story of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who “affronts her destiny” and finds it overwhelming. She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates. Like many of James’s novels, it is set mostly in Europe, notably England and Italy.

Generally regarded as the masterpiece of his early phase of writing, this novel reflects James’s absorbing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old. It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, betrayal, and sexuality.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I told you just now I'm very fond of knowledge," Isabel answered.

"Yes, of happy knowledge—of pleasant knowledge. But you haven't suffered, and you're not made to suffer. I hope you'll never see the ghost!"

She had listened to him attentively, with a smile on her lips, but with a certain gravity in her eyes. Charming as he found her, she had struck him as rather presumptuous—indeed it was a part of her charm; and he wondered what she would say. "I'm not afraid, you know," she said: which seemed quite presumptuous enough.

"You're not afraid of suffering?"

"Yes, I'm afraid of suffering. But I'm not afraid of ghosts. And I think people suffer too easily," she added.

"I don't believe you do," said Ralph, looking at her with his hands in his pockets.

"I don't think that's a fault," she answered. "It's not absolutely necessary to suffer; we were not made for that."

"You were not, certainl. . . Read More