Portrait of a NovelAnnotation
Henry James (1843-1916) hashad many biographers, but Michael Gorra has taken an original approach to thisgreat American progenitor of the modern novel, combining elements of biography,criticism, and travelogue in re-creating the dramatic backstory of James'smasterpiece, Portrait of a Lady (1881). Gorra, aneminent literary critic, shows how this novel-the scandalous story of theexpatriate American heiress Isabel Archer-came to be written in the firstplace. Traveling to Florence, Rome, Paris, and England, Gorra sheds new lighton James's family, the European literary circles-George Eliot, Flaubert,Turgenev-in which James made his name, and the psychological forces thatenabled him to create this most memorable of female protagonists. Appealing toreaders of Menand's The Metaphysical Club andMcCullough's The Greater Journey, Portrait of a Novel provides a brilliant account of the greatest Americannovel of expatriate life ever written. It becomes a piercing detective story onits own.
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