I recently read Henry James Portrait of a Lady for the first time. I don't know how I missed it all these years but I am so glad we finally connected. Henry James has always been a writer I have admired. I love his style of precise and very long sentences. His carefully worked out plots. But I was not prepared for this amazing book because the story is totally focused on the main character, Isabel Archer, and her very modern dilemma. I had always thought that Middlemarch by George Elliot was my favorite novel of this time period and subject. And that is what makes this book so exciting: Henry James moved modernity one step forward from Dorothea's story and the book stands on the cusp of Modern Literature as we know it today, and probably this book is one of the main movers. I find these kinds of moments in literary and art history thrilling.
After I read The Portrait of a Lady, I read Michael Gorra's new biography of James, Portrait of a Novel. The book focuses entirely on all the biographical detail that has to do with Henry James' writing of the Portrait of a Lady. It is a fascinating book and fills out the literary history of the time with little know details of Henry James' life, his activities and his thoughts.
During this rather long period of time, James' Portrait is 600 pages and the biography is quite long as well, I have been thinking about Isabel Archer, anguishing over Isabel Archer and wondering. Seems it has crept deep into my unconscious and I see that it escaped into the necklace I made for one of the Challenges for Deryn Mentock's ecourse the Alchemy of Objects.
I didn't realize it at first. I did use a large Victorian brooch I have had for many years as the central focal for the necklace and gave it a kind of rustic look with my handmade beads ( one could say a bow to Isabel's American nationality) but what really got me thinking about it being about Isabel is that I hung one of my book beads for a dangle. At that point I thought I could call it a Victorian Book Necklace and not give a specific reference to a person.
Before I turned the bead over, I had thought the word on the spine would be BOOK as I have made several of these beads that way.
But when I turned it over to check it said LOVE. Then I knew it had to be the Isabel Necklace.
But really the Portrait of a Lady is not a love story, rather it is a story of how Isabel tries to negotiates a Victorian era woman's traditional role without losing her ability to choose and her freedom to be herself..
I hope I have inspired you to read this wonderful book.