The Portrait of a Lady

  • by Henry James
  • Narrated by John Wood
  • 23 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible
When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to enjoy the freedom that her fortune has opened up and to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors, declaring that she will never be wed.
It is only when she finds herself irresistibly drawn to the cultivated but worthless Gilbert Osmond that she discovers that wealth is a two-edged sword. She becomes a victim of her own provincialism and the scheming of her friends, learning only too late that there is a price to be paid for independence. A tragic tale of love and betrayal, it still resonates with audiences today.
With its subtle delineation of American characters in a European setting, The Portrait of a Lady is considered the masterpiece of the first phase of James's career and arguably his most popular story. Within it we find a reflection of James's interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, often to the detriment of the former.
A film adaptation was made in 1996 by New Zealand director Jane Campion, starring Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich, and Barbara Hershey.
Narrator Biography
Having begun his career on stage, John Wood spent seven years in television before eventually playing lead roles in Tom Stoppard's teleplays in 1967. After two Tony nominations for his performances in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and Sherlock Holmes, he won the award for Best Actor for his role in Stoppard's surrealistic farce, Travesties, in 1976. He also had a long career with the Royal Shakespeare Company and continued his theatre work in both America and the UK, eventually receiving a Laurence Olivier Award nomination in 1997 for his role in Stoppard's Invention of Love.
In 1996, Wood performed in BBC Radio 3's audio production of Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw and in 2010 he narrated audiobook The Portrait of a Lady with Audible Studios. His appearances in feature films have included Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) and, later, television appearances have included Foyles's War (2004) and Lewis (2007). In 2007 he was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

James's writing is sublime

James's writing is wonderful and this version is very well read. The novel is character driven rather than plot driven. We see Isabel's character evolve, the effect money has on her life, the different male suitors show the marital options available to women at the time and the satelite female characters portray alternative forms of existence for women in C19th society. Isabel arrives on the scene framed in a doorway- like a portrait- and leaves the same way, but is much changed. When you look at a portrait it is static but you can read so much into it; the same is true of Isabel Archer.
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- Mrs

Took a long time but loved it

What did you like most about The Portrait of a Lady?

I loved Henry James's descriptions. He takes his time and you have to be patient with the pace of the story but it's great. Didn't have quite the ending I wanted but then it was up to the writer not me!


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The point where she realizes there's a betrayal and an undercurrent in her relationship to her best friend was pretty good. As was the description of her growing realization of the true nature of her husband's character. Very moving.


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- Su

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-04-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios