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text 2017-08-02 13:03
As much as I am enjoying...
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James,Patricia Crick
Vera - Elizabeth von Arnim
Indiana - Sylvia Raphael,Naomi Schor,George Sand

... my current reads, none of them are books I can enjoy when on the go or, indeed, on the commute.


So, I am looking for an audiobook to go play in the car on the way to and from work.


My shortlist of potential commuting reads are: The Moonstone, The Portrait of a Lady, Vera, or Indiana.


Does anyone have any thoughts on them?


I am looking to source them from Librivox, mostly because I can just leave the memory stick in the car and it will pick up at exactly the same location where I got to previously... the simple things...

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review 2016-03-15 00:00
Portrait of a Forbidden Lady
Portrait of a Forbidden Lady - Kathleen ... Portrait of a Forbidden Lady - Kathleen Bittner Roth I received an eARC, from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Lady Georgiana Cressington has had a hard life in how her father used her and now that she is a widow her father has set her up for another one of his heartless games.
Georgiana is back at her childhood home after leaving years ago. There she meets Sir Robert Garreck again. Georgiana and Robert were in love years and years ago. But they were driven apart by a bitter betrayal.
I have read a few of Kathleen Bittner Roth books and I will say you get a really good book that you have a hard time putting down.
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review 2016-01-14 14:52
James' The Portrait of a Lady
The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James,Patricia Crick

Henry James is a difficult author to love, but an easy author to admire.  Portrait of a Lady has many of the standard features of a 19th century novel.  It has proposals, bad marriages, trips to exotic locations and sordid secrets.  Also like many 19th century novels it is too long.  James prose is good, but not mesmerizing, his psychology of his characters is excellent and the book is very clever.  However, he can be a very dry author.  Even when he is describing very passionate things there is something very dispassionate about his writing.  One can admire his insight and his realism, but it just lacks that bit of magic that great novels have.


I enjoyed the book and its worth reading, but James adopted English reserve far more than the English themselves do and the book would be better, if it was not so reserved.  He reminds me of both Eliot and Forrester, although he is not as compelling as either of them.  James is worth reading, but he is still overrated.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-10-24 12:22
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: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1417416287
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review 2015-01-13 09:19
The Portrait o a Lady: Henry James's Case Study of Isabel Archer
The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James,Patricia Crick

When we first meet Isabel, she is in the prime of her youth—beautiful, irresistible to men (every male character seems to eventually fall in love with her), intelligent, poised, vibrant, hungry for life, and marching to her own drums. She has all the potential to be an exceptional woman. To remove the obstacles of poverty that can hinder realizing that potential, her admiring dying cousin, Ralph, shares half of his inheritance with Isabel who, of course, is unaware that she owes her wealth to him, instead of his father. Ralph believes that with this money, Isabel can do what she wants—marry (or not) as she pleases and live in a style and manner based only on her good judgment.


Isabel travels to satisfy her curiosity and to learn about the world in order to grow her mind. After a year or so of travel, she seems to think she has seen and learned enough. She thinks of marriage. She has already rejected the suit of a fine-looking Lord with “radical” views and who is liberal with his tenants—“half of England,” as someone joked. Among the eligible candidates, you get the feeling James might have considered him the best match for her own exceptional characteristics.


But Isabel chooses Osmond, a man who looks polished and impeccable on the surface but whose shallowness is evident to many people including her cousin Ralph. Although Isabel, generally values his judgment, she dismisses it in this case because Ralph confesses to being in love with her. Osmond is not rich and not seemingly interested in doing great deeds—someone relatively ordinary. It is a choice that seems out of character for Isabel. Is she afraid to be outshone by Lord Warburton? Does she think he is too good for her? Or, is there simply no physical attraction towards him?


In fact, Isabel has been duped into marrying Osmond by her friend, Madame Merle, with whom Osmond had an intimate history. Isabel proves to be naïve enough not to know that charming and worldly but calculating Madame Merle has worked her like a pawn. In this decision—probably the most important one in her life—Isabel appears to have squandered her gifts and exhibited poor judgment.


I am actually rather appalled and incredulous to see someone described as having superior attributes prove herself so dense. How is that possible? It seems to me inconsistent, from a psychological perspective. James does not enlighten us too much on Isabel’s choice. Maybe, to him, it is also a puzzle, but he does suggest that by this marriage, Isabel might think herself benevolent by bringing wealth to the man she is marrying. Does she, in fact, feel that she can maintain a certain level of freedom by marrying someone not quite so superior? Will marriage to a nobleman stifle her?


Once married, of course, both Madame Merle and Isabel’s chosen one show their true colors. He wants to conquer her spirits in the name of being the all-knowing authoritative husband. She does not take to that kind of treatment well, as we may expect, and a psychologist may say she responds by being passive aggressive. That is, by word and deed, she seems to comply with her husband’s wishes but by failing to produce what he wants of her, she actually undermines them.  It is a tug of war, barely disguised.


Isabel is profoundly unhappy—again, as we may expect—and her unhappiness is aggravated when she confronts the truth about why her husband married her. And yet, in the end, unhappy as she is, she chooses to suffer because she believes in the sanctity of marriage and considers herself bound to it. Remaining married to this man is looking more like the sacrifice of her life, although in her mind, it may be a heroic and romantic one. To my admittedly more modern view, Isabel is a coward. Not at all what I would expect from someone intelligent, vibrant and with a mind of her own.


I find it curious that Henry James would title his book The Portrait of a Lady. That definitive article “The” is what bugs me, especially coming from a man who never married and who may not have had lasting relationships with women. Why not A Portrait…?. Surely, Victorian ladies were not all like Isabel Archer.  Two of them, in fact, are relatively well-drawn in the novel—Madame Merle and Henrietta Stackpole.


Maybe, the point Henry James is trying to make is this: That the real Lady of Victorian times was, in fact, a tragic figure, possessing contradictions that can confound us. She could have wonderful attributes or, at least, wonderful potential, but she could waste them and sacrifice her own happiness in the name of being a lady.


My interpretation of the end of the novel does not jive with the more optimistic one of some who believe that Isabel, in fact, will finally be delivered from her misery, after an earlier suitor, Caspar Goodwood, shows her escape is possible (see, for instance, The Reading Life: Henry James in a Panic. Much has been made of this passage:

She had not known where to turn; but she knew now. There was a very straight path.

To me, “a very straight path” embodies the sense in which James thought of Isabel as the lady—one so exquisitely attuned to society’s standards of demeanor that she would follow them at all costs and reject the chance she has to leave a disastrous existence. By dint of personality and/or circumstance, Henrietta Stackpole and Madame Merle could not or did not choose to be so bound with those conventions. So, perhaps, by James’s—and Victorian society’s—definition, neither could have been “the lady”.


Victorian novels have heroines with more chutzpah than Isabel. Some of Elizabeth Gaskell’s heroines, for instance. You may argue that they are not in the same privileged class and, therefore not as beholden to conventions. But if you look at real figures, you’ll find some women of the period with feminist leanings, including a few who inherited money. Were they “ladies?” If Isabel Archer was “the portrait of a lady,” then perhaps they were not. Thankfully.

Source: margaretofthenorth.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/the-portrait-of-a-lady-part-2-henry-james-case-study-of-isabel-archer
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