- Do you like the author's writing style?
I often felt like even though I was getting a lot of words that described Isabel and her actions, I was not truly getting inside her. I read this 800-page novel about her, but I didn't feel like I knew her well. I don't know if that was on purpose; maybe James didn't mean for me to know her well? Since it was a "portrait" perhaps it was supposed to be more external than internal. Still, it was sometimes an awful lot of words to say relatively little.
- What is their tone? Somber? Lighter and witty?
- What are your impressions of the main character(s)?
Ralph is awfully nice; I like him best, and Lord Warburton too. Henrietta is irritating but a good friend to have around. In fact most of the characters are likeable, decent people.
Madame Merle and Osmond, on the other hand...well. I was hoping that Isabel would escape their clutches, right up until it was suddenly over.
And Pansy is a mystery to me. I don't think James ever met a real teenage girl, or something. She's a very strange character. Although I can rather see her doing something like Megha in Mohabbatein did. * (And wouldn't James be thrilled to be compared to a Bollywood movie? I'm sure he would.)
- Who is the main character struggling with? Themselves? Society? Another character?
- How is society looked upon in the novel?
Virtually everyone in this society is highly conventional. They nearly all place great value on acting correctly in public, but their private thoughts are mostly entirely different. The few non-conformists are more honest, but not necessarily more virtuous; they may be wholly selfish. Indeed that is why they do not conform. Only Henrietta breaks out.
*In Mohabbatein, Megha, the perfect daughter, confesses to her father that she loves a particular boy. The father gets the boy thrown out of his school and orders Megha to forget him. She puts on a convincing performance, right up until the minute she tells her father that she tried her best but couldn't do it and throws herself off the balcony.