Hi everybody! 🙂

Few months ago I felt the need to return to something classic, so I asked my mom “Let’s have a look through your old books, the yellow and dirty ones!”. After a quick look I decided to start reading The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. It is not a simple book, I have to admit it! But if you manage to continue reading it till the end, you will be surprised to see each of your doubt solved.

the portrait of a lady

The plot is all about this young american girl, Isabel Archer. After her father’s death, her aunt invites her to visit her rich husband at his estate near London. There she meets her cousin Ralph Touchett and his neighbor, Lord Warburton that falls in love with her and suddenly asks her hand in marriage. She declines beacause she feels like it would demand the sacrifice of her freedom. She is not an ordinary girl, she is particularly smart and wants to travel to Europe and see how life is like.

In Italy she meets Gilbert Osmond, falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage unaware that it has been actively promoted by Madame Merle, another American expatriate. Isabel and Osmond settle in Rome but their marriage rapidly sours because of Osmond’s egoism and his lack of genuine affection for Isabel.


Isabel then learns that Ralph is dying at his estate in England and decides to go there even though Osmond doesn’t agree. Once she is speaking with his dying cousin, she confesses her unhappy marriage and shows all her despair.

The ending is ambiguous, the reader is left free to interpret her finale actions.

Its first publication dates back to 1881. It is interesting to notice how much that period habits and lifestyle are different from ours. Although Isabel is a young XIX century girl, as I went on reading about her, I was surprised to see myself in that character: the way she acts, what she says, her fears and her desires are not so far from mine.

The Portrait of a Lady was adopted into a film in 1996 by Jane Campion. Nicole Kidman acts as Isabel, John Malkovic as Osmond and Barbara Hershey as Madame Merle. It is pretty different from the book but the locations and the costumes are incredible.

This is the trailer, have a look! 🙂

2 pensieri su “THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY

  1. il mio inglese non è abbastanza buono da permettermi un commento in tale lingua, quindi resterò all’italiano. Mi piacerebbe approfondire la figura di Osmond, parlare solo di egoismo mi sembra riduttivo. Credo che nella sua figura si possa rintracciare quel desiderio di potere degli uomini che trova uno dei suoi sfoghi sulle donne, considerate proprietà privata, senza desideri e volontà propria. Nell’ 800 sicuramente la problematica era maggiore, ma anche ai giorni nostri la condizione perdura, i femminicidi ne sono una delle espressioni; anche in questo è la grande attualità del romanzo, indagare qualcosa di profondo dell’animo umano, che la società accentua e incancrenisce. Sottolineerei poi la grande interpretazione di Nicole Kidman nel film, una Isabel indimenticabile.

    • mi sembra una riflessione molto azzeccata quella sul personaggio di Osmond, ho messo egoismo perché racchiude anche questo significato: non gli interessa dell’opinione di Isabel, fa tutto esclusivamente per un tornaconto personale. Nicole Kidman ovviamente grandiosa!


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