Of course, finishing this book now, as opposed to my undergrad days when I should have read this, is rather embarrassing, but all I can say is: Wow! This novel ranks as one of my all-time favorites!
About one-third of the way into the novel, I was sucked into it and literally could not put it down. I imagine I will reread and the subsequent readings will only deepen and broaden my understanding of the novel.
I have much to say and research about Portrait, but one completely uninformed observation I wanted to comment on is the character development of Isabel Archer.
In the beginning third of the novel or so, the reader learns about Isabel through comments by the omnisicent narrator or through the other characters (usually dialogue. James, I noticed, likes to reveal characters by having other characters talk about them. A neat trick.). I was a little put off by this, because I was being told about Isabel rather than seeing her in action.
As I read on, I realized that James was allowing me to develop my own ideas about Isabel through these revelations. When it came time for Isabel to act on her own, the impact was powerful: All of the insights I took on as a reader came to fore and added depth and poignancy to the action.
At least, that was my impression.
I'd like to hear about this from others who have read this novel or James.