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Mrs. Osmond (Hardcover)

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The Mrs. Osmond of the title, none other than Isabel Archer, has stepped out of the final pages of Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady and into those of an astonish- ing sequel, addressing readers’ long-time fears for the safety and the soul of one of James’ most brilliant (and likable) creations. Isabel, in London, has just at- tended the funeral of someone she cared about deeply, and she now seeks counsel from friends; she’s waging an internal battle not so much about whether she’ll return to Rome—she’s made a promise and intends to keep it—but about what she’ll do when she gets there. Not only has she left against her husband’s orders, she had learned, just before her departure, of his hideous betrayal, the details of which are still a cause for much speculation. Her task, as she journeys toward Rome by fits and starts, is to learn the details of what had actually occurred during the years of her marriage, details of which she’d been oblivious. And to find the cause for that oblivion, decipher what had occurred in her own heart and mind to bring her to such a pass. Isabel’s musings are Jamesian in their intricacy and their intelligence, the writing beyond divine, the territory deliciously familiar and yet endlessly surprising. Not only does Mrs. Osmond scratch the itch of curiosity harbored for years by James’ fans, it also bathes whoever picks it up in the same glow of deep if rueful understanding that always permeated his work. Not since Colm Tóibín’s The Master has anyone taken on James with such success. 

— From Betsy Burton


From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea, a dazzling and audacious new novel that extends the story of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady, into unexpected territory.

Isabel Archer is a young American woman, swept off to Europe in the late nineteenth century by an aunt who hopes to round out the impetuous but na ve girl's experience of the world. When Isabel comes into a large, unexpected inheritance, she is finagled into a marriage with the charming, penniless, and--as Isabel finds out too late--cruel and deceitful Gilbert Osmond, whose connection to a certain Madame Merle is suspiciously intimate. On a trip to England to visit her cousin Ralph Touchett on his deathbed, Isabel is offered a chance to free herself from the marriage, but nonetheless chooses to return to Italy. Banville follows James's story line to this point, but Mrs. Osmond is thoroughly Banville's own: the narrative inventiveness; the lyrical precision and surprise of his language; the layers of emotional and psychological intensity; the subtle, dark humor. And when Isabel arrives in Italy--along with someone else --the novel takes off in directions that James himself would be thrilled to follow.

About the Author

JOHN BANVILLE, the author of sixteen novels, has been the recipient of the Man Booker Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Award, the Franz Kafka Prize, and a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. He lives in Dublin.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780451493422
ISBN-10: 0451493427
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publication Date: November 7th, 2017
Pages: 384
Language: English