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The House of Mirth (Signet classics) by Edith Wharton

  • Author: Edith Wharton
  • Book title: The House of Mirth (Signet classics)
  • Category: Literature & Fiction
  • Subcategory: Contemporary
  • Publisher: Signet Classics; 1st edition (January 1, 1964)
  • ISBN: 0451521439
  • ISBN13: 978-0451521439
  • Rating: 4.1
  • Votes: 611
  • Other formats: lit lrf mbr docx
7 Reviews
Elastic Skunk
I've always loved Edith Wharton's work, as she knew how to explore the psychology of character in the world she knew (Old New York "old money" of the Gilded Age). Although my feelings about Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden have changed over the years, they are still fascinating characters. The book is riveting in its focus on characters and the vicious alliances and values the "haves" hold against the "have nots" and their treatment of people who do not live up to their hollow, shallow standards. Bertha Dorset is a prime example. At the same time, you can't help but feel Wharton's disapproval for the life she knew well, especially as it pertains to how young women were brought up and what little was expected of them. Wharton doesn't sugarcoat the fate of these women just as she doesn't sugarcoat the fate of Lily Bart, which is one of her strengths as a writer. You might not end up loving Lily Bart or any of the characters but place them in their time and you get a fascinating portrait of what life was really like, for the rich and poor, in Gilded Age America. Definitely worth the read.
Kriau
For the final weeks of this year, I wanted to step away from the modern set of storytellers and revisit my favorites of bygone eras. I would be an ignorant churl to neglect Mrs. Edith Wharton, for her writing has become unmatched in my mind and has proven an absolute delight to me each time I pull the lamp chain and take elegant carriage rides with her multifaceted storylines and characters. Honestly, you just cannot find writing like this anymore and The House of Mirth is still this reader’s choice for a perfect escape into early 20th century-late 19th century New York society and with saying goodbye to 2015; I decided no better book could be found than revisiting the ornamental world of privilege, ultimate damaging opinions and malicious whispers behind gloved hands that surrounded my old friend Lily Bart.

In this tragic and realistic tale we have more than a frilly story of a poor little rich girl, we have an elevated cast of characters with the familiar complexity of personalities that Mrs. Wharton excelled in creating for her readers. She was known for her biting commentary and after reading a good listing of her magnetic titles; The House of Mirth seems to be her darkest examination about the other side of the door of the grand houses on Fifth Avenue versus the comedic satire that wonderfully twirls together the first part of The Buccaneers. In this story we experience various emotional and passionate pages of: happiness, greed, love, jealousy and endless possibilities of hope and lines of regret and despair. The further you sink into the elegantly crafted world Mrs. Wharton has painted with such striking and commanding strokes of events; the more you will never forget those moments. I know I never have or will and I couldn’t have found a better way to let 2015 go with style and reflection than revisiting the complex journey of emotions and trials that beautifully dwells in this understated classic. Highly Recommend.
Viashal
90% of the people reading these reviews are probably trying to figure out which they version they should buy for a college class. Don't get this one, go with the Penguin Classics edition.While it does have a nice size for the font, the book itself gave my headaches while I was trying to read it because of it's endless walls of text. None of my other classmates had this version (making it very difficult to do group work) and for good reason. It's a bulky book that's awful for citing for papers/projects. It doesn't have the name of the publisher or printing house. (I had to look at this Amazon listing to cite it for a bibliography) Just where it was printed. I know the temptation to save a bit of money wherever you can is enticing, but just spend the extra $5-6. You'll be glad you did. The story itself wasn't my cup of tea, but if your into Victorian style novels you'll probably really enjoy it.
Golden freddi
(Spoilers!) It took me some time to digest this novel, not really sure of what to make of Lily Bart’s life. She lives, on the one hand, as pointed out to her by her sometime suitor, Selden, a vacuous life without meaning or contribution to society. All Lily has is her breeding, her beauty and her charm. She was orphaned just about at the time of her ‘coming out’ in high society and left to the charities of a cold, obtuse, small minded aunt. She lives off a small inheritance which is barely enough to keep her in style. She is constantly short of money she needs to maintain her beauty and charm at its peak. Lily is beautiful and enchanting and the members of the wealthy high society circles she floats through want her around for that reason. She is there to amuse the other guests, add panache to their gatherings and provide gossip for their mills.
But Lily, deep underneath, is larger than her role as a desirable bauble. Selden, a well bred attorney with no fortune, perceives this and is, at varying times in the novel, tempted to open his heart to her. But fate always seems to take a hand. Lily casts away her opportunities to make the ‘right’ match carelessly. Some inner voice seems to be telling her that she would be sacrificing something important, although she seems unable to put her finger on it. She is, when suddenly in temporary clover, given to good works and she senses that she might somehow find some meaning to her life. She is repulsed when it turns out that a very wealthy husband of one of her ‘sponsors’ (she doesn’t really have friends, except the plain, relatively penurious Gerty who tries to save her but fails) expects more than thanks for his assistance to her in business affairs. Her ethical sense compels her to pay him back every sense in spite of the fact that this means financial disaster. It is, in fact, her attempt to at first obtain the money from her aunt that leads to her ultimate downfall.
But her true trial comes when she purchases from a destitute charwoman very incriminating letters from one of her female sponsors to Selden, which reveal her adulterous behavior. She has a moment of moral crises when it is pointed out to her that use of these letters would restore her to her position of society’s favorite, but she, in the end, cannot bring herself to do it.
In a way, you might say that the genesis of Lily’s fatal flaw, her inability to live and act as crassly as does the hoi polloi she swims with, is traceable to Selden who, in a moment of frankness, opens her eyes to the vacuous nature of high society’s pursuits. He might as well have shot her dead. Although a number of people do Lily harm, Selden is the real villain of the piece. Presented with a last chance to save her, he is unable to cast aside his self centered aloofness and realizes only too late what a fool he has been.

The novel is well written, full of spot on characterizations of the Gilded Age. Only the somewhat maudlin finish prevents me from giving the novel a 5. (As an aside, I kept on hoping that somehow Lily would be saved, but given the endings of the 2 other novels by Wharton I have read, Ethan Frome and Age of Innocence, I should have known better)
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