16 July 2008

The Portrait of an Arduous Read

I was completely unprepared for summer, at least as far as blogging goes. In the winter, especially in Oregon, it is so easy to blog. Nights start early and the weather is hardly conducive to outdoor excursions. The perfect combination for ample blogging.

Then summer hit. Glorious, mostly rain-free, lots-of-sunlight summer. Road trips, motorcycle classes, camping, warm evenings, home improvements...talk about distractions. But here I am. At least today.

And believe it or not...I've got myself some reading done on top of it all. We've been driving a lot. Well, to be honest, Dug's been driving a lot. We've discovered that our family does road trips well when Dug is the driver and I'm the child liason/nav center controller (CL/NCC). As the CL/NCC I get to read a lot.

The last book my book club read (we're on hiatus until Fall) was The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. We were supposed to read it in May. I, literally, just finished it. Yep, took me 2.5 months! How ridiculous is that?

Since it was such a bear, I've decided to include it as one of my books from the Reading Dangerously challenge. Technically, this is my book for November. Obviously, I'm not doing things in order...

So what did I think of it? Well, it was set in my favorite literature period: late 17th/early 18th century Europe, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, I found it to be something that I had to force myself to pick up. I don't know if it was the change of seasons or the fact that I wasn't in the mood for that genre or that the book really was just a difficult piece. Whatever the reason, I can say that while Portrait is not my favorite, it did get me by the end.

The story follows Isabel Archer, a young American woman, recently brought to England by her rich, eccentric aunt. Isabel is quite the independent and refuses marriage proposal after marriage proposal in order to protect that freedom. She doesn't exactly know what she wants, but she definitely can see what she doesn't. After a series of events, Isabel finds herself with the means to be completely independent and in charge of her life. We follow her through her decisions and ultimately see the results of her choices. (As well as discover how artfully one can "help" another make a choice without the decision-maker being aware.)

While it took a lot to push though, I found myself by the last tenth of the book really hooked. Yes, you read that right. It took 9/10 of the book to capture my attention. I know that this is considered a classic, (I read "The Modern Library Classics" edition, for heavens' sakes.) but I've got to tell you, I don't know that many would push through 90% of a book for the gripping last 10%. While I loved the characters, I can tell you that I wouldn't have finished it if not for the two following facts: #1 it was one of my book club books and #2 my lovely friend, MamaP, said it was worth it.

So there you go. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, it's worth it, if you can hack it.


MamaP said...

Trish, that's exactly what I have said about the book! IT's really only the last tenth, but once you are in it, you might as well get her done, so something was worth it. IT's a weird book.

tricia said...

and i owe finishing it to you, p!