Four best-selling novels that capture World War I and the Jazz Age through the eyes of one of America’s greatest writers.
After winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton published four novels that brought her signature blend of dramatic irony and penetrating social satire to bear on what she called “the growing sense of waste and loss wrought by those irreparable years” of World War I. The Library of America now brings together these brilliant books from the 1920s in the fifth volume of its definitive edition of Wharton’s collected works.
The Glimpses of the Moon (1922) is a story of love finding its way amidst upper-class social maneuvering. Believed by some to have been an inspiration for The Great Gatsby—Fitzgerald wrote the title cards for the novel’s 1923 silent film adaptation—it follows Nick Lansing and Susy Branch, both of prominent but financially diminished New York families, as they hatch a scheme to marry in order to live off of their wedding gifts and divorce as soon as either finds a way to step up the social ladder.
Inspired by a young man she met during her war relief work in France, A Son at the Front (1923) opens in Paris on July 30, 1914, as Europe totters on the brink of war. Expatriate American painter John Campton, whose only son George, having been born in Paris, must report for duty in the French army, struggles to keep his son away from the front while grappling with the moral implications of doing so. A poignant meditation on art and possession, fidelity and responsibility, A Son at the Front is Wharton’s indelible take on the war novel.
A masterful satire of the Jazz Age, Twilight Sleep (1927) dissects the flapper mentality and the New York society ladies who turn to drugs, spirituality, and occultism to escape boredom and ennui. Its protagonist, Pauline Manford, studiously ignores all hints of trouble in her privileged world: rumors surrounding her spiritual guru, her daughter’s trysts with a married man, her son’s troubled marriage, her first husband’s drinking, and her second husband’s apathy, until a catastrophe threatens to involve the whole family in scandal.
The Children (1928), which volume editor Hermione Lee has called “a daring and profoundly sad book . . . the most remarkable and surprising of the novels that came after The Age of Innocence,” concerns forty-six-year-old Martin Boyne, who even as he negotiates marriage to a lovely widow, unexpectedly falls under the spell of fifteen-year-old Judith Wheater and her troupe of siblings.
Also included is a chronology of Wharton’s life, newly expanded from Hermione Lee’s masterful biography of Wharton, as well as helpful explanatory notes.
About the Author
Born into a prosperous New York family, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote more than 15 novels, including The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and other esteemed books. She was distinguished for her work in the First World War and was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Letters from Yale University. She died in France at the age of 75.
Date of Birth:January 24, 1862
Date of Death:August 11, 1937
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France
Education:Educated privately in New York and Europe