The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Portrait of LadyThe Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

She had turned away, but in the movement she had stopped herself and dropped her gaze upon him. The two remained a while in this situation, exchanging a long look–the large, conscious look of the critical hours of life.

This is the first novel I read by Henry James, and I was utterly fascinated by it. Not only by Isabel’s complex story, which I did enjoy, but by the way in which James told the story with such a command of English. To an extent which I hadn’t experienced before reading James’s writing, I became unafraid of words, even ones that are woven together in lengthy sentences, multiple-page-long paragraphs, or coupled with a number of adverbs. The detail of ideas was engaging, and I found nothing dull or drudging about learning these characters in-depth.

I understand the importance of brevity in literature where brevity is required, but in a society of increasing sound bites and 140-character limitations, I also appreciate the chance to be able to delve into the breadth and magnificence of words, in writing like James’s, to realize something beyond life’s surface layers.