The Portrait of a Lady

  • Author Henry James
  • Narrator Wanda McCaddon
  • Run Time 22 hours and 50 minutes
  • Format Audio
  • Genre Classic fiction.

Listen to a sample

What to expect

Beautiful, spirited Isabel Archer, an American heiress newly arrived in Europe, is widely expected to quickly marry. But Isabel does not look to a man to furnish her with destiny; instead she desires, with grace and courage, to find it herself. Two eligible suitors are refused in favor of her pursuit of glorious independence. But then, Isabel becomes utterly captivated by the languid charms of the cunning Gilbert Osmond. To him, she represents a superior prize to be won; through him, she faces a tragic choice.

A subtle and poignant psychological novel of love and betrayal, The Portrait of a Lady is widely considered to be James’ masterpiece. F.R. Leavis declared that “we can’t ask for a finer exhibition of James’ peculiar gifts.”

Critics Review

  • “Richly perceptive.”

    New York Times
  • “How did this nineteenth-century male writer create Isabel Archer, one of the
    most intriguing women characters in all of literature, capturing her journey
    from buoyant but naïve girl to wiser, more compassionate grown-up? Henry James
    was an American-born genius, in love with Europe, and fascinated by the
    interaction of the Old World (Europe) and the New (America). Where these
    sensibilities clashed, James found drama, wisdom, tenderness. Few write about
    the path from openhearted to slightly more seasoned than this master stylist.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine
  • “This book isn’t about the disappointments that inhere in the traditional marriage plot. It’s about what a woman does when she begins to acknowledge her own complicity in the life she has chosen…Isabel shows us that our bad decisions do not end our story. They begin it.”

  • “The masterpiece of the first phase of James’s career…offers a shrewd appraisal of the American character and embodies the national myth of freedom and equality hedged with historical blindness and pride.”

    Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
  • “Isabel Archer…is an impressive figure, and one follows her in her free flight with so much admiration for her resolution and strong pinions that when she is caught in the meshes of Osmond’s net one’s indignation is moved, and a noble pity takes the place of frank admiration.”

    Atlantic, 1882

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