An undisputed masterpiece, The Portrait of a Lady is arguably James's most popular work, and certainly the finest of his early novels. It focuses on Isabel Archer, a young, intelligent, and spirited American girl, determined to relish her first experience of Europe. She rejects two eligible suitors in her fervent commitment to liberty and independence, declaring that she will never marry. Thanks to the generosity of her devoted cousin Ralph, she is free to make her own choice about her destiny. Yet in the intoxicating worlds of Paris, Florence, and Rome, her fond illusions of self-reliance are twisted by the machinations of her friends and apparent allies. What had seemed to be a vista of infinite promise steadily closes around her and becomes instead a "house of suffocation."
Portrait of a Lady is at once a dramatic Victorian tale of betrayal and a wholly modern psychological study of a woman caught in a web of relations she only comes to understand too late. This new edition includes helpful notes on the numerous changes James made between the first edition and the revised New York Edition, reproduced here, an up-to-date bibliography, and a new chronology.
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