The book started out wonderfully but got a little slow and depressing at the end. Overall, it was a really good read. It is less of a story and mostly an in depth look at the personality (a portrait?) of the main character, Isabelle. Henry James really focuses on character development and analysis rather than plot; any plot that does exist only serves the purpose of further illuminating the players by changing the stage on which they are performing. It is also really enjoyable to read because of the elegant writing – even if you don’t love the story, you won’t be able to deny the exquisite language. Read this if you enjoy classic literature, poetic feeling prose and character-focused novels.
The only thing that I found annoying about this book is that every single man that came into contact with Isabelle fell in love with her – it got old after a few hundred pages and made her character feel flatter than it should for one on which the author spends so much time. Despite the overabundance of eligible men, this isn’t a love story in the traditional sense and is definitely a realistic account of flawed personalities. It makes for a less stereotypical, but messier feeling read. Do not read this book if you like neat packages with happy endings, but if you enjoy lifelike consequences for fictional decisions, this is a book for you.
I found so many quotes in this book and I have included a selection of them below.