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The Portrait of a Lady (Anglais) Broché – 2 mars 2006


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Extrait

Chapter 1

Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. There are circumstances in which, whether you partake of the tea or not—some people of course never do,—the situation is in itself delightful. Those that I have in mind in beginning to unfold this simple history offered an admirable setting to an innocent pastime. The implements of the little feast had been disposed upon the lawn of an old English country-house, in what I should call the perfect middle of a splendid summer afternoon. Part of the afternoon had waned, but much of it was left, and what was left was of the finest and rarest quality. Real dusk would not arrive for many hours; but the flood of summer light had begun to ebb, the air had grown mellow, the shad- ows were long upon the smooth, dense turf. They lengthened slowly, however, and the scene expressed that sense of leisure still to come which is perhaps the chief source of one’s enjoyment of such a scene at such an hour. From five o’clock to eight is on certain occasions a little eternity; but on such an occasion as this the interval could be only an eternity of pleasure. The persons concerned in it were taking their pleasure quietly, and they were not of the sex which is supposed to furnish the regular votaries of the ceremony I have mentioned. The shadows on the perfect lawn were straight and angular; they were the shadows of an old man sitting in a deep wicker-chair near the low table on which the tea had been served, and of two younger men strolling to and fro, in desultory talk, in front of him. The old man had his cup in his hand; it was an unusually large cup, of a different pattern from the rest of the set and painted in brilliant colours. He disposed of its contents with much circumspection, holding it for a long time close to his chin, with his face turned to the house. His companions had either finished their tea or were indifferent to their privilege; they smoked cigarettes as they continued to stroll. One of them, from time to time, as he passed, looked with a certain attention at the elder man, who, unconscious of observation, rested his eyes upon the rich red front of his dwelling. The house that rose beyond the lawn was a structure to repay such consideration and was the most characteristic object in the peculiarly English picture I have attempted to sketch.

It stood upon a low hill, above the river—the river being the Thames at some forty miles from London. A long gabled front of red brick, with the complexion of which time and the weather had played all sorts of pictorial tricks, only, however, to improve and refine it, presented to the lawn its patches of ivy, its clustered chimneys, its windows smothered in creepers. The house had a name and a history; the old gentleman taking his tea would have been delighted to tell you these things: how it had been built under Edward the Sixth, had offered a night’s hospitality to the great Elizabeth (whose august person had extended itself upon a huge, magnificent and terribly angular bed which still formed the principal honour of the sleeping apartments), had been a good deal bruised and defaced in Cromwell’s wars, and then, under the Restoration, repaired and much enlarged; and how, finally, after having been remodelled and disfigured in the eighteenth century, it had passed into the careful keeping of a shrewd American banker, who had bought it originally because (owing to circumstances too complicated to set forth) it was offered at a great bargain: bought it with much grumbling at its ugliness, its antiquity, its incommodity, and who now, at the end of twenty years, had become conscious of a real æsthetic passion for it, so that he knew all its points and would tell you just where to stand to see them in combination and just the hour when the shadows of its various protuberances—which fell so softly upon the warm, weary brickwork—were of the right measure. Besides this, as I have said, he could have counted off most of the successive owners and occupants, several of whom were known to general fame; doing so, however, with an undemonstrative conviction that the latest phase of its destiny was not the least honourable. The front of the house overlooking that portion of the lawn with which we are concerned was not the entrance-front; this was in quite another quarter. Privacy here reigned supreme, and the wide carpet of turf that covered the level hill-top seemed but the extension of a luxurious interior. The great still oaks and beeches flung down a shade as dense as that of velvet curtains; and the place was furnished, like a room, with cushioned seats, with rich-coloured rugs, with the books and papers that lay upon the grass. The river was at some distance; where the ground began to slope the lawn, properly speaking, ceased. But it was none the less a charming walk down to the water.

The old gentleman at the tea-table, who had come from America thirty years before, had brought with him, at the top of his baggage, his American physiognomy; and he had not only brought it with him, but he had kept it in the best order, so that, if necessary, he might have taken it back to his own country with perfect confidence. At present, obviously, nevertheless, he was not likely to displace himself; his journeys were over and he was taking the rest that precedes the great rest. He had a narrow, clean-shaven face, with features evenly distributed and an expression of placid acuteness. It was evidently a face in which the range of representation was not large, so that the air of contented shrewdness was all the more of a merit. It seemed to tell that he had been successful in life, yet it seemed to tell also that his success had not been exclusive and invidious, but had had much of the inoffensiveness of failure. He had certainly had a great experience of men, but there was an almost rustic simplicity in the faint smile that played upon his lean, spacious cheek and lighted up his humorous eye as he at last slowly and carefully deposited his big tea-cup upon the table. He was neatly dressed, in well-brushed black; but a shawl was folded upon his knees, and his feet were encased in thick, embroidered slippers. A beautiful collie dog lay upon the grass near his chair, watching the master’s face almost as tenderly as the master took in the still more magisterial physiognomy of the house; and a little bristling, bustling terrier bestowed a desultory attendance upon the other gentlemen.

One of these was a remarkably well-made man of five-and-thirty, with a face as English as that of the old gentleman I have just sketched was something else; a noticeably handsome face, fresh-coloured, fair and frank, with firm, straight features, a lively grey eye and the rich adornment of a chestnut beard. This person had a certain fortunate, brilliant exceptional look—the air of a happy temperament fertilised by a high civilisation—which would have made almost any observer envy him at a venture. He was booted and spurred, as if he had dismounted from a long ride; he wore a white hat, which looked too large for him; he held his two hands behind him, and in one of them—a large, white, well-shaped fist—was crumpled a pair of soiled dog-skin gloves.

His companion, measuring the length of the lawn beside him, was a person of quite a different pattern, who, although he might have excited grave curiosity, would not, like the other, have provoked you to wish yourself, almost blindly, in his place. Tall, lean, loosely and feebly put together, he had an ugly, sickly, witty, charming face, furnished, but by no means decorated, with a straggling moustache and whisker. He looked clever and ill—a combination by no means felicitous; and he wore a brown velvet jacket. He carried his hands in his pockets, and there was something in the way he did it that showed the habit was inveterate. His gait had a shambling, wandering quality; he was not very firm on his legs. As I have said, whenever he passed the old man in the chair he rested his eyes upon him; and at this moment, with their faces brought into relation, you would easily have seen they were father and son. The father caught his son’s eye at last and gave him a mild, responsive smile.

“I’m getting on very well,” he said.

“Have you drunk your tea?” asked the son.

“Yes, and enjoyed it.”

“Shall I give you some more?”

The old man considered, placidly. “Well, I guess I’ll wait and see.” He had, in speaking, the American tone.

“Are you cold?” the son enquired.

The father slowly rubbed his legs. “Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell till I feel.”

“Perhaps some one might feel for you,” said the younger man, laughing.

“Oh, I hope some one will always feel for me! Don’t you feel for me, Lord Warburton?”

“Oh yes, immensely,” said the gentleman addressed as Lord Warburton, promptly. “I’m bound to say you look wonderfully comfortable.”

“Well, I suppose I am, in most respects.” And the old man looked down at his green shawl and smoothed it over his knees. “The fact is I’ve been comfortable so many years that I suppose I’ve got so used to it I don’t know it.”

“Yes, that’s the bore of comfort,” said Lord Warburton. “We only know when we’re uncomfortable.”

“It strikes me we’re rather particular,” his companion remarked.

“Oh yes, there’s no doubt we’re particular,” Lord Warburton murmured. And then the three men remained silent a while; the two younger ones standing looking down at the other, who presently asked for more tea. “I should think you would be very unhappy with that shawl,” Lord Warburton resumed while his companion filled the old man’s cup again.

“Oh no, he must have the shawl!” cried the gentleman in the velvet coat. “Don’t put such ideas as that into his head.”

“It belongs to my wife,” said the old man simply.

“Oh, if it’s for sentimental reasons—” And Lord Warburton made a gesture of apology.

“I suppose I must give it to her when she comes,” the old man went on.

“You’ll please to do nothing of the kind. You’ll keep it to cover your poor old legs.”

“Well, you mustn’t abuse my legs,” said the old man. “I guess they are as good as yours.”

“Oh, you’re perfectly free to abuse mine,” his son replied, giving him his tea.

“Well, we’re two lame ducks; I don’t think there’s much difference.”

“I’m much obliged to you for calling me a duck. How’s your tea?”

“Well, it’s rather hot.”

“That’s intended to be a merit.”

“Ah, there’s a great deal of merit,” murmured the old man, kindly. “He’s a very good nurse, Lord Warburton.”

“Isn’t he a bit clumsy?” asked his lordship.

“Oh no, he’s not clumsy—considering that he’s an invalid himself. He’s a very good nurse—for a sick-nurse. I call him my sick-nurse because he’s sick himself.”

“Oh, come, daddy!” the ugly young man exclaimed.

“Well, you are; I wish you weren’t. But I suppose you can’t help it.”

“I might try: that’s an idea,” said the young man.

“Were you ever sick, Lord Warburton?” his father asked.

Lord Warburton considered a moment. “Yes, sir, once, in the Persian Gulf.”

“He’s making light of you, daddy,” said the other young man. “That’s a sort of joke.”

“Well, there seem to be so many sorts now,” daddy replied, serenely. “You don’t look as if you had been sick, any way, Lord Warburton.”

“He’s sick of life; he was just telling me so; going on fearfully about it,” said Lord Warburton’s friend.

“Is that true, sir?” asked the old man gravely.

“If it is, your son gave me no consolation. He’s a wretched fel- low to talk to—a regular cynic. He doesn’t seem to believe in anything.”

“That’s another sort of joke,” said the person accused of cynicism.

“It’s because his health is so poor,” his father explained to Lord Warburton. “It affects his mind and colours his way of looking at things; he seems to feel as if he had never had a chance. But it’s almost entirely theoretical, you know; it doesn’t seem to affect his spirits. I’ve hardly ever seen him when he wasn’t cheerful—about as he is at present. He often cheers me up.”

The young man so described looked at Lord Warburton and laughed. “Is it a glowing eulogy or an accusation of levity? Should you like me to carry out my theories, daddy?”

“By Jove, we should see some queer things!” cried Lord Warburton.

“I hope you haven’t taken up that sort of tone,” said the old man.

“Warburton’s tone is worse than mine; he pretends to be bored. I’m not in the least bored; I find life only too interesting.”

“Ah, too interesting; you shouldn’t allow it to be that, you know!”

“I’m never bored when I come here,” said Lord Warburton. “One gets such uncommonly good talk.”

“Is that another sort of joke?” asked the old man. “You’ve no excuse for being bored anywhere. When I was your age I had never heard of such a thing.”

“You must have developed very late.”

“No, I developed very quick; that was just the reason. When I was twenty years old I was very highly developed indeed. I was working tooth and nail. You wouldn’t be bored if you had something to do; but all you young men are too idle. You think too much of your pleasure. You’re too fastidious, and too indolent, and too rich.”

“Oh, I say,” cried Lord Warburton, “you’re hardly the person to accuse a fellow-creature of being too rich!”

“Do you mean because I’m a banker?” asked the old man.

“Because of that, if you like; and because you have—haven’t you?—such unlimited means.”

“He isn’t very rich,” the other young man mercifully pleaded. “He has given away an immense deal of money.”

“Well, I suppose it was his own,” said Lord Warburton; “and in that case could there be a better proof of wealth? Let not a public benefactor talk of one’s being too fond of pleasure.” --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Revue de presse

The Portrait of a Lady is entirely successful in giving one the sense of having met somebody far too radiantly good for this world.”—Rebecca West --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .


Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 668 pages
  • Editeur : Oxford Paperbacks; Édition : New edition (2 mars 2006)
  • Collection : Oxford World's Classics
  • Langue : Français
  • ISBN-10: 0192833693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192833693
  • Dimensions du produit: 19 x 3 x 13 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.7 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 1.236.724 en Livres (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres)
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Quatrième de couverture
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5 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Laurent sur 29 mai 2003
Format: Broché
The characters in this novel are masterly crafted. Few authors are able to paint human personalities and sentiments with such vivid strengths and details. Some of the confrontations between the main characters are rendered with amazing intensities in this novel. This is Henry James best novel as far as I am concerned. How Isabel Archer, an intelligent but pround young american woman is blinded by her ambition to build her life all by herself and ends up by making dramatic poor choices. How stuborn can she be, is amazing: repeatedly warned by her close relatives and friends, she cannot see how she ends up by beeing decieved and used by others. And after realizing her errors, she is competely unable to cope and learn from them. A great lesson about life !

Henry James long sentences give a sense of preciousness and at times sound a little awkward to today's readers. Nevertheless, this syle suit him perfectly. It also reveals a less pleasant side of this otherwise very fine author: a facination for the richs and a contempt for the poor which appear in his novels as "shaby footboys" and "slobering servants".
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Satori sur 4 janvier 2011
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Si l'histoire en elle-même est très intéressante et le style soigné, la narration m'a, quant à elle, été très pénible à suivre.
Je n'ai pas été sensible aux personnages et à leurs grandes questions intérieures- ils sont restés de simples étrangers aux problèmes incompréhensibles au lieu de devenir des compagnons de lecture.
Je crois que je reste hermétique à Henry James.
Dommage.
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3 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par "funkemariesche" sur 29 octobre 2004
Format: Broché
la vie de Isabel Archer, une américaine immigrée en Europe. Certes parfois un peu languissant, mais l'histoire est quand meme interessante et le lecteur a toujours envie d'en savoir plus.
Pour tous ceux qui ont aimé "Le Rouge et le Noir", "Une Vie", "Le Lys dans la Vallée", bref, pour ceux qui apprécient les romans d'apprentissage.
Je me suis un peu forcée à lire le livre, mais l'ai aussi beaucoup apprécié.
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109 internautes sur 114 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"The real offense was her having a mind of her own at all." 12 juillet 2004
Par Mary Whipple - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
When Isabel Archer, a bright and independent young American, makes her first trip to Europe in the company of her aunt, Mrs. Touchett, who lives outside of London in a 400-year-old estate, she discovers a totally different world, one which does not encourage her independent thinking or behavior and which is governed by rigid social codes. This contrast between American and European values, vividly dramatized here, is a consistent theme in James's novels, one based on his own experiences living in the US and England. In prose that is filled with rich observations about places, customs, and attitudes, James portrays Isabel's European coming-of-age, as she discovers that she must curb her intellect and independence if she is to fit into the social scheme in which she now finds herself.
Isabel Archer, one of James's most fully drawn characters, has postponed a marriage in America for a year of travel abroad, only to discover upon her precipitate and ill-considered marriage to an American living in Florence, that it is her need to be independent that makes her marriage a disaster. Gilbert Osmond, an American art collector living in Florence, marries Isabel for the fortune she has inherited from her uncle, treating her like an object d'art which he expects to remain "on the shelf." Madame Serena Merle, his long-time lover, is, like Osmond, an American whose venality and lack of scruples have been encouraged, if not developed, by the European milieu in which they live.
James packs more information into one paragraph than many writers do in an entire chapter. Distanced and formal, he presents psychologically realistic characters whose behavior is a direct outgrowth of their upbringing, with their conflicts resulting from the differences between their expectations and the reality of their changed settings. The subordinate characters, Ralph Touchett, Pansy Osmond, her suitor Edward Rosier, American journalist Henrietta Stackpole, Isabel's former suitor Caspar Stackpole, and Lord Warburton, whose love of Isabel leads him to court Pansy, are as fascinating psychologically and as much a product of their own upbringing as is Isabel.
As the setting moves from America to England, Paris, Florence, and Rome, James develops his themes, and as Isabel's life becomes more complex, her increasingly difficult and emotionally affecting choices about her life make her increasingly fascinating to the reader. James's trenchant observations about the relationship between individuals and society and about the effects of one's setting on one's behavior are enhanced by the elegance and density of his prose, making this a novel one must read slowly--and savor. Mary Whipple
48 internautes sur 51 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Beautiful, Heart-rending, Poignant, and Tragic 27 avril 2000
Par Cole Ansier - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Henry James has truly outdone himself with this book. While it is no longer my favorite James' novel, I still think it among the best novels written in the English language. The character of Isabel Archer is an indelible part of literature. The story begins with an American woman, left parentless and penniless, being discovered by an expatriate Aunt. The Aunt convinces her to go England with her so that she might meet her cousin, Ralph. Isabel eagerly agrees. She is idealistic and has always wanted to see Europe. Her aunt agrees to pay for the expenditures. Once there, Isabel falls in love with their house, Gardencourt, and grows to enjoy her frail, sweet, ironic, and funny cousin. Before Isabel knows it, she has become ensnared in a one-sided love affair with a handsome English nobleman, Lord Warburton, little knowing what to do. Despite the urgings of her aunt, Isabel rejects his proposal in the desire to wait for something better. Soon, her elderly uncle dies, but not before she charms him with her intelligence and subtle beauty. Ralph insists that his father leave Isabel a substantial fortune, so that she might be able to live as she wishes. When the uncle dies, Isabel is left with 70,000 pounds, or about 200,000 dollars. From here is where the true story begins. I will not reveal more of the plot, which unwinds slowly and with assurance. James, being a master of prose, knows how to manipulate a sentence in a multitude of ways. His lilting, ironic, verbose writing style lends class and charm to Isabel's ultimately tragic tale. Some modern readers aren't able to handle James' subtle style. Unfortunately, many of us have had to fight the effects of shortened attention spans. Reading a slow-paced and brilliantly conceived tale like this will surely help cure short attention spans. Once you begin the story, it grows on you and affects you greatly. James is difficult getting used to, but he grabs you with his excellent descriptions of passionate people. Finally, the brilliance of this book lies in its tragedy. Even though many readers can predict early on where Isabel's confidence and naivete will lead her, James makes the journey bumpy and fascinating. He also slowly injects the story with dread, as we begin to sense the true malevolence of Madame Merle's and Osmond's vicious plans. Their acts are pure Machiavellian glee. Only in the final third of the book does it become clear of the true nature of the scheming M. Merle's plans. James also leaves several important plot points until near the end of the novel. All of this leads to a long, engrossing, and sad story of a young woman "affronting her destiny", as James puts it. Rarely has so romantic or so devastating a book been written. The ending is the final kicker. Unlike the happy ending we suspect, James leaves readers with open interpretations and many possible questions regarding Isabel's TRUE feelings about men. It also most vividly presents her sexual repression and fear that dominate the entire book. James knew the reserves of the time dictated that such topics not be discussed, and he cleverly uses this theme discreetly. However, he also uses it as a sort of indictment on the times, with their lack of passion and sensuality. Many readers expect a conclusion to the story, but, as with real life, stories simply go on. The ending is perhaps the most modern thing about the book. It also makes certain readers know that Isabel's life will never be one of happiness. This is an exquisitely haunting masterpiece.
25 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The other things a woman can do otherwise marrying 1 mai 2005
Par A. T. A. Oliveira - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Isabel Archer --the unforgettable protagonist of Henry James' "The Portrait of a Lady" -- says at some point that she doesn't want to begin life by marrying, and she attests there other things a woman can do. This declaration is the heart of the matter of this amazingly well executed and brilliant book. Naïve as she is, Isabel believes that in the 19th Century she would be able to enjoy her life and meet the world before getting married -- and not marrying is still a possibility.

With Isabel's dilemma American writer Henry James deals with the conflict between society and individual longings. Many writers have dealt this issue -- but only a few succeeded with such grace and competence as this author. The point is that Isabel is not the only one dealing with this problem. As a matter of fact, all characters of this novel, at some point in their life have to face the society against their personal wishes.

James was a master of psychological development. Not a single character in this novel is unrealistic. The cast of supporting characters is as deep as Isabel. With his talent, the writer explores the psychological conflict is a result of the society pressures against the characters beliefs -- and not a gratuitous philosophy like many writers usually do. The depth brings another pleasure in the reading of the novel.

Language is usually the main barrier for contemporary readers, when it comes to classic novels. With James it is a problem that can be easily overcome. His use of language however sophisticated is not difficult. His choice of words and structures are conscious and beautiful. The first chapters tend to be read slowly, but once the readers get the hang of James' prose, reading becomes an undeniable pleasure.

At the same time the writer explore the psychological side of his characters; he never neglects their social conflict. In the last part of the novel, for instance, James explores the results of Isabel choices relating them to her identity -- and how one affected another. At the same time, James makes a curious choice: we never see the main events in Isabel's life, they are told to the reader after they happen. This use of ellipses happen usually when the heroine chooses to value social costume over her independence.

As in most Henry James novels, he doesn't neglect the major conflict of this period of his work: Americans and Europeans. This time round the novel explore many American people living in Europe -- most characters are US born. If on the one hand, they represent the innocence, individualism and capability; the Europeans, on the other, are the sophistication, social convention and the decadence. But with so many Americans living in Europe how can one set the limits?

Isabel moves from America to England and, then, to continental Europe. At each stage she loses her independency, and she realizes she cannot control her life the way she thought she could. And she realizes that there aren't many things a woman of her time could do before marrying.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Henry James--Feminist 28 septembre 2012
Par J.R.Cooper - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I decided to read Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James, after listening to a discussion of this novel on NPR. It was described as a masterpiece of literature. So I went to my Kindle and downloaded the "masterpiece" for 99 cents. I reluctantly prepared myself to work my way through one of James' dense and hard to read novels. I was in for a surprise. Except for James' preface, which indeed is a challenge, Portrait of a Lady was a great read. Written in the early 1880s, a time in when it was virtually unheard of to have a woman, let along a strong woman, as the main character in a novel. Nevertheless, James rejected this minimization of women, and took the leap. He describes our main character, Isabel Archer, an intelligent free spirit, with great creditability--showing both her bumps and bruises-- as well as the array of fascinating men and women whom influenced, or at least tried to influence her decisions. Throughout the novel the reader experiences an ever growing tension as to the degree Isabel will be able to preserve her independence. Will she succumb? What price is she willing or not willing to pay?

Henry James was well ahead of his times when he created Isabel Archer. Way to go Henry! I don't know if you would call yourself a frontier feminist, but I will.

Having said that, I hope male readers don't shy away from Portrait of a Lady. This is not a male basher. There are a number of strong and admirable men in Isabel's life. This is a novel about freedom of thought and action.
19 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Modern Storytelling at its best 15 novembre 2000
Par Edward Aycock - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
The best thing about 19th century novels is that they take so long to unwind, you know that you are guaranteed a long and satisfying trip into a story. I initially bought this book after seeing the Jane Campion film, (which I actually wasn't too crazy about)but I always think it's a good idea to read the source material. After a few false starts (warning: one needs to devote all their attention to James in order to enjoy him)I finally got into this book, and couldn't put it down. From the great settings of the novel, to the variety of fascinating characters (the liberated Henrietta Stackpole, the sinister Madame Merle, the beloved Ralph Touchett, Ralph's eccentric mother, the flighty Countess Gemini, the deadly Gilbert Osmond, and of course, Isabel Archer herself... James gives characters great names as well) "Portrait" is a great novel not only of self discovery, but self deception. How many of us in this world have liked to have thought ourselevs as free to make our own chocies, and were excited by a future full of "possibility" only to allow something (or usually someone) to get in our way and make us realize just how quickly we can lose our freedom and be in a cage that we need to get out of. (Pardon my bad grammar.) Those of you looking fora Jane Austen type ending, this may not be the book for you, but I think this book is more of a spiritual cousin to Austen than we may think. It all comes down to making choices, and teh effects of those decisions. Throw off any reservations that you may have because this book was written over a century ago, it's as fresh, funny, tragic and riveting today as it was then. (And hey, buy the film soundtrack which perfectly captures the mood of the story for accompaniment..that was a plug!)
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