Tuesday, November 29

Book Review: Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Title: Portrait of an Artists as a Young Man

Author: James Joyce

Pages: 318

Summary: In his first and still most widely read novel, James Joyce makes a strange peace with the traditional narrative of a young man's self-discovery by respecting its substance while exploding its form, thereby inaugurating a literary revolution. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in 1916, when Joyce was already at work on Ulysses, and is exactly what its title says and much more. In an exuberantly inventive masterpiece of subjectivity, Joyce portrays his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, growing up in Dublin and struggling through religious and sexual guilt toward an aesthetic awakening. In part a vivid picture of Joyce's own youthful evolution into one of the twentieth century's greatest writers, it is also a moment in the intellectual history of an age.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: While the book is well written and is a good example of a coming of age story - but it just wasn't the book for me, as I couldn't connect to the characters to truly appreciate the book.

The author did do a great job at going deep into the thought process of the character goes through, it did a great job at showing the reader the emotions and thought process a person goes through as they grow up. The author managed to show the reader the characters spiritual growth and trials throughout his life with ease, but I couldn't connect to the characters. While I could appreciate the time the author took so the reader could get to know the characters, but there was something missing for the book that kept me from liking or connecting with the characters.

The writing was also very well done, Joyce was an excellent storyteller, but something - in both writing and characterization - fell short to help give his book that extra push from being average to extraordinary.

Would I recommend it to read: I still would, it's a classic book and one where the author takes time to develop his characters on many different levels. I think there are readers out there who would have no trouble connecting to the characters.

What to read next: Dubliners, Ulysses.

Challenges: 11 in 11, 1001 Books, Fall into Reading, Irish Reading Challenge


  1. I liked this one. I've even read the unfinished version, Stephen Hero. And yet not a single other work by Joyce. Ulysses intimidates me to no end. I have Dubliners on my shelf but keep shying away from that one, too.

  2. I just read an amazing review of Dubliners and went out and bought a copy, so this review comes at the prefect time. I have never tried Joyce and am a bit intimidated by him, but I love to challenge myself and think that this might just be the perfect book for that. Great review Jules. I am sorry to hear that you didn't totally connect with the book though :(

  3. Jeane - I enjoyed Dubliners it was a very good read. This one just missed the mark. Never knew there was an unfinished version, was it good?

    Zibilee - Dubliners is a great place to start, a very well done collection of short stories. He's prose is easy to follow, but a good read nonetheless.

  4. I do think this is one of those books that simply isn't to everyone's taste. As you point out in your introduction, this is an important book and Joyce made a huge impact on the literary scene, but he is by no means the most readable novelist.

    It's interesting though, that you enjoyed Dubliners - clearly, as you say in the review, more of a character problem than a stylistic one. I found the whole thing fascinating. Thinking of Stephen as Joyce in many respects, kept my interest.

    My review: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce