The Portrait of a Lady tells the story of Isabel Archer, an American, as she travels across Europe. This Europe vs. America is a very common theme for James and Isabel’s character struggles to hold true to her own independent ideals while finding her place in a different country with different people. She meets many people and learns a lot about human nature as she learns about herself and how to deal with the decisions she has made.
This is by no means a fast read, but it is a beautifully crafted book. James truly “weaves” his story together, seamlessly flowing through characters, thoughts, and dialogues. As cliché as that sounds, it is true in James’ work.