The Portrait of a LadyHenry James
Inspire, from the Latin inspirare, to breathe life into. “Books that inspire” breathe life into our awareness of our own internal landscapes. For example, in The Portrait of a Lady, young Isabel Archer makes a disastrous choice in marriage. When she discovers her husband’s ugly little secret, she sits up all night coming to terms with how reality has shifted around her. Viewed from the outside, nothing whatever happens in this scene. Isabel sits. But inside, heaven and earth are moving. We watch her stream-of-consciousness journey from outrage and confusion to mature perception and resolve. We all go on journeys like this, though the terms and time frames differ. Watching a character’s self-awareness blossom through Henry James’ subtle and highly nuanced prose style infuses us with a better understanding of what we are going through and how to proceed from here.
From Books That Inspire 2005.