Isabel Archer, a young American, accompanies her eccentric aunt to Europe, where her wit and beauty — in addition to her substantial inheritance — quickly attract all manner of eager suitors. But beneath the romantic elegance of salons and ballrooms lies a tangle of treachery, deceit, and suffering. The most enduringly popular of Henry James' novels, The Portrait of a Lady reflects the author's interest in the contrast between the Old and New Worlds. He traces Isabel's progress across England, Paris, Florence, and Rome with trenchant observations on customs and attitudes. The heroine's difficulties in reconciling her personal liberty with social propriety express James' shrewd appraisals of the naivete and nobility of the American character, as well as his views on the subtle refinements and conventionality of European culture. A gripping exploration of the clash between freedom and responsibility, this novel offers an accessible entree into the work of Henry James.
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