‘Who wrote Mrs Osmond?’ – John Banville on writing a sequel to The Portrait of a Lady
‘It did seem that I might be a character in one of the Master’s tales of the uncanny’ … the author recounts how his follow-up to Henry James’s classic came into being
I embarked on the writing of Mrs Osmond, a sequel, more or less – well, rather more than less – to Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, with the insouciance of an unwise tourist setting out on an Alpine climb clad in a light jacket, city shoes and a straw hat, and wielding nothing sturdier than a malacca cane. It was only afterwards, when I had returned to Inglenook Inn and had sat myself down before a revivifying glass of Glühwein, that it was borne in upon me how high and treacherous were the crags I had climbed, and how deep were the crevasses into which I might have plunged. Within seconds I was in a fearful sweat, infirm of grip and tremulous of lip. How could I have been so rashly adventurous, so blithely foolhardy?