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Search Results for 'PORTRAIT OF A LADY'

When Isabel Archer, a bright and independent young American, makes her first trip to Europe in the company of her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, who lives outside of London in a 400-year-old estate, she discovers a totally different world, one which does not encourage her independent thinking or behavior and which is governed by rigid social codes. This contrast between American and European values, vividly dramatized here, is a consistent theme in James’s novels, one based on his own experiences living in the US and England. In prose that is filled with rich observations about places, customs, and attitudes, James portrays Isabel’s European coming-of-age, as she discovers that she must curb her intellect and independence if she is to fit into the social scheme in which she now finds herself. Isabel Archer, one of James’s most fully drawn characters, has postponed a marriage in America for a year of travel abroad, only to discover upon her precipitate and ill-considered marriage to an American living in Florence, that it is her need to be independent that makes her marriage a disaster. (To see the full review, click on the title of this excerpt.)

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Focusing on the life of Henry James, Colm Toibin’s The Master goes way beyond the usual “novelization” of someone’s biography. Toibin has done a tremendous amount of research and has obviously read everything James has written, but he has so completely distilled all of this information, that in writing this book, he actually recreates Henry James. James, an American by birth, is a lonely and solitary figure throughout the novel, a man unable to form a committed relationship with anyone, either male or female, sometimes wanting companionship but not closeness, and always needing solitude to work. Through flashbacks, Toibin shows how James’s early upbringing may have been partly responsible for his feelings of isolation. Toibin’s dual focus on James’s life and how it is embodied in his fiction, give a powerful immediacy and sense of verisimilitude to this novel, so strong that one cannot help but feel an emotional connection to James, no matter how remote he may seem otherwise. (On my Favorites List for 2004)

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The imagined meeting of Sigmund Freud and Henry James at James’s residence, Lamb House, is the focus of this surprising novel of ideas, which conveys the intellectual ferment in Europe just prior to World War I in a style which is filled with warmth and good humor. Henry James and Sigmund Freud seem human and even fun-loving here, but the novel is no farce. Serious issues involving James’s writing, his style, his subjects, and his repressions all come into play, even as Freud admits to having his own problems trying to reconcile James’s creativity with the “scientific knowledge” which forms the basis of his psychoanalytical principles. Freud’s questions about his research become more acute when James agrees to undergo “short term analysis” during Freud’s stay at Lamb House. (My Favorite novel for 2007)

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One of Henry James’s earliest novellas, Daisy Miller (1878) follows the activities of a wealthy, and brashly confident, young American woman as she audaciously challenges European society in Vevey, Switzerland, and in Rome, having fun, doing what pleases her, and leaving staid European society gasping in her wake. Daisy Miller, whose father is in the US and whose mother is her ineffectual “chaperone,” is a free spirit in a society bound by unstated but rigid “rules,” determined to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with whomever she chooses. Frederick Winterbourne, an expatriate who has spent most of his life in Geneva, is attracted to Daisy, but his bonds with his stuffy aunt, Mrs. Cosgrove, and her friend, Mrs. Walker, both of whom govern ex-patriot society in Europe, leave him ill-equipped to deal with Daisy’s flouting of society’s conventions. When she is obviously attracted to Mr. Giovanelli, a singer/musician of no social standing, and when she is seen with him publicly in places that a “nice” girl would not grace at night, her reputation is threatened, and anyone associated with her is tainted. (To see the full review, click on the title at the top of this excerpt.)

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Classics

Jane Austen–EMMA Jane Austen–LADY SUSAN Jane Austen–MANSFIELD PARK Jane Austen–PERSUASION Dorothy Baker–YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN Earl Derr Biggers–THE HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY Romano Bilenchi–THE CHILL Paul Bowles–THE SHELTERING SKY Paul Bowles–THE SPIDER’S HOUSE Anton Chekhov–A NIGHT IN THE CEMETERY and Other Stories Jacques Chessex–THE TYRANT Wilkie Collins–THE MOONSTONE Wilkie Collins–THE WOMAN IN WHITE Joseph […]

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