Three Complete Novels of Edith Wharton: House of Mirth; The Custom of the Country; Ethan Fromeby Edith Wharton
The three novels presented here are the triumph of Edith Jones Wharton's early career. The House of Mirth, Wharton's second novel, was published in 1905. It achieved critical and commercial success, heralding her extraordinary talents. A biting satire of New York socialites, the book places its frail heroine in the midst of adversity. Having made poor social choices, Lily Bart is ostracized from the world of the wealthy; her life is destroyed because she makes the wrong friends. The Custom of the Country written in 1913, also shows the cruel side of the well-to-do, but at the novel's center is the viper, not the victim. Unlike Lily Bart, Wharton's new anti-heroine, Undine Spragg, thrives on the malicious backbiting of the bourgeois. In these two highly acclaimed novels, Wharton explored the seamy underside of posh turn-of-the-century New York.
Written in 1911, Ethan Frome, exposes the dark side of a different region: rural Massachusetts. Perhaps her best known work, the novel's locale is cold, stark fields rather than the bright, pastoral Massachusetts drawn by earlier authors. In a marked departure from her high-society satires, the book's protagonist, Frome, is caught by the mores of his village: Starkfield, Massachusetts. His love for his wife's cousin, his one hope of happiness, can only end in tragedy.
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