It's been a couple of weeks since I finished "The Portrait of a Lady", and I have thought about it ever since. The story and its characters have been hunting me, lingering softly in the back of my mind, and I have desperately wanted to form a review, to find the right
words to describe it. Sadly I haven't. And I probably never will.
This book took me completely by surprise. It is the first (but surely not the last) work by Henry James I have laid my hands on. Therefore I do not know, whether his language is always this beautiful, or if this novel just is a remarkable highlight in his career. Regardless, his beautiful sentences and metaphors left me breathless.
This is by no means a very eventful novel. The main plot simply consists of a woman's unhappy marriage and her struggle between duty and ideals. The plot is not groundbreaking - but the deeply-pschycological characterization of Isabel Archer is. I found myself falling head-over-heels in love with the very rich descriptions, written with heartbreakingly awareness of the power of the perfect adjectives. Henry James really did win my heart with his adjectives.
The novel is called "The Portrait of a Lady", and it is truly a brilliant and deeply accurate portrait of a lady. But it is also something more; it is a portrait of an entire generation, an entire culture with all its rules and norms, and - most of all - a portrayal of a time, where old traditions were facing new ideas, and an old world was getting the first glimpse of an entirely new world.