The Independent Woman

The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

Well, I have to say that I finished this book the day after Back to the Future Day (which is probably not the best way to have celebrated that day, though it was quite interesting to note that my Facebook feed was flooded with news stories of how Marty McFly was arrested in multiple locations). In fact I probably wasted that day because I ended up going to work, and when I got home I didn't watch the Back to the Future Trilogy (though I suspect it would have been impossible to get at any of the video stores that still happen to exist – I don't have Netflix) but rather spent my time writing blog posts. Anyway, we are going to be talking about this book at bookclub on Sunday, and I had left it a little too late to read anything else.


Anyway, here is a portrait of a lady:


Portrait of a Lady



and another one:


Portrait of a Lady


(I hope posting a picture on Booklikes isn't considered a commercial use, but then again I'm not making any money off of this post), and another one:


Portrait of a Lady



Actually, I could probably go on ad-infinitum (and that is with pictures that don't show certain bodyparts) though I'm sure after three people are probably going to start to get a bit sick of this. While I could say a few things about portraits (and how I tend to find them pretty boring) I will refer you to my travel blog (as opposed to my philosophy blog, though I can't help but write such things in my travel blog as well) where I write about my experience at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Instead I will write a few things about this particular novel.



Anyway, I have to say that I am not a huge fan of 19th Century Romanticism namely because the novels tend to be long, boring, mainly about women who spend the entire time crying 'oh woah is me, I can't find myself a husband so I will marry this absolute creep', and then come to an end. Oh, they are also incredibly verbose in that almost every detail about the scene is intricately described. So, when my Mum handed this book to me saying 'you should read this, every detail about the scenes are intricately described' I politely smiled, and proceeded to put it on my 'may get to one day in the future' bookshelf and promptly forgot about it until my bookclub decided to make it the October read.



So, the question is, have you ever met one of those really amazing women that seem to be really intelligent, and incredibly capable, and is simply not interested in you (I'm sure there is a male version, but since I'm a heterosexual male I'll won't try to speculate on what I simply can never know)? Well, this book is about one of those women. Mind you, in my time wandering around this Earth I have quickly come to discover that those type of women tend not to be worth it, though it is clear that poor Goodwood doesn't actually wake up to this fact because even though Isabel always rebuffs him, he just doesn't seem to get the picture.


I think I have jumped a bit ahead of myself though. Portrait of a Lady is basically what the title of the book says it is about – it is the story of a lady named Isabel, and the portrait aspect comes out because James goes to great length to give her as deep and complex a character as possible. Basically she comes to England from America, meets a couple of people, but isn't interested in settling down just yet because she 'wants to see Europe' (I'm sure many of us hopeless romantics have recieved similar excuses, though funnily enough I'm now the one spurting out such rubbish). Anyway, she gets to see Europe, meets another man, marries him, and discovers that he is an absolute prick. However when she returns to England (without him knowing) she discovers that Goodwood is still in love with her, and wants her to divorce this cretin. She doesn't, and then the book ends. So much for a happy ending (but then again 19th Century Romanticism, especially in the vein of Flaubert, as this book is written, generally don't have happy endings).


I guess it once again raises the question as to why women like Isabel always seem to end up with the creeps, and also why they continue to stick with the creeps. I suspect because of her character. We are made aware that she has this strong independent streak, and to be honest with you such a person is simply not going to be interested in a hopeless romantic. Sure they may be really nice people, but the thing is that Isabel isn't interested in a nice person – they're boring. She is interested in, well, an interesting person – it's just a shame that this really interesting person is a real jerk. However, as one friend pointed out to me once, the fact that she won't leave him has little to do with a sense of loyalty, or even with the fear of being alone, but more to do with the bond that she has formed with him. He suggested that this bond is actually a really strong bond, one doesn't necessarily equate to loyalty, or a fear of being alone, but rather a spiritual bond that ties people to others (though I won't necessarily say together because this bond does have a nasty habit of working only one way).


Anyway, I'll finish off here and simply say that as I suspected, this wasn't really one of those books that interested me all that much, though I have discovered that they are actually really easy to speed read, namely because they happen to be incredibly verbose, and go into details that we really don't need.




Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1417416287