When Isabel Archer, a young American woman with looks, wit, and imagination, arrives in Europe, she sees the world as 'a place of brightness, of free expression, of irresistible action'. She turns aside from suitors who offer her their wealth and devotion to follow her own path. But that way leads to disillusionment and a future as constricted as 'a dark narrow alley with a dead wall at the end'. In a conclusion that is one of the most moving in modern fiction, Isabel makes her final choice.
Henry James was born in 1843 in New York City. He traveled and studied extensively in New York, London, Paris and Geneva, and returned to the States in 1860, enrolling in Harvard Law School two years later. By 1865 he had begun to contribute reviews and short stories to periodicals in earnest. His first major piece of fiction, Watch and Ward, was serialized in The Atlantic Monthly in 1870, and Roderick Hudson, his first major novel, was published in 1875. James spent the following decades abroad, first visiting Paris, where he met Ivan Turgenev, Emile Zola and Gustave Flaubert, then settling in London, where he lived for over twenty years and wrote several novels, including Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, and The Princess Casamassima. In 1897 he moved to Lamb House in Rye, where he wrote his later novels, including The Awkward Age, The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl, and well as his popular ghost story, The Turn of the Screw. James became a British subject in 1915. Two unfinished novels, The Ivory Tower and The Sense of the Past, were published as fragments after his death on February 28, 1916.