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The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
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The House of Mirth (original 1905; edition 2004)

by Edith Wharton, Jeffrey Meyers (Introduction)

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6,684143560 (4.03)603
Member:alynnk
Title:The House of Mirth
Authors:Edith Wharton
Other authors:Jeffrey Meyers (Introduction)
Info:Barnes & Noble Classics (2004), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:@own: to be read

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The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)

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Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
Completely fantastic and entirely entertaining. Lily Bart is such a memorable character and Wharton's descriptions of her inner life and the social workings around her are so perfectly specific, many of them feelings I've felt but never could articulate so perfectly. Thank you Katie for giving it to me! ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
To this day, I have not been able to read the last third of this book. I know what happens in the end, but I just can't make myself read it. The sensitive way Wharton wrote Lily Bart and Arthur, the subtle nuances and social cues she managed to capture on paper, are awe inspiring. This was the first story by Wharton I ever read, and even though it depressed and infuriated me, I was hooked on her from then on. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
(8) Oh, loved this. Lilly Bart is a 29yo socialite who is from a good family - 'old money' in early 20th century Manhattan - but orphaned without a substantial income of her own, yet brought up in luxury. So of course she must marry well. She is very beautiful, graceful, socially adept - yet still unattached. Lilly is her own worst enemy and can't quite bring herself to break the chains that bind her, nor give in to the yoke. This is the best of three popular Edith Wharton books I have read ('Age of Innocence' and 'Ethan Frome').

Very well written with ironic, lovely, and at times bitter prose. Wharton creates a vivd world of the Manhattan uppercrust - so snobby, so affected, so clueless really but brilliantly depicted. My version had an excellent introduction written by Anna Quindlen who said something to the effect of - 'so many scenes where you just wanted to raise the windows and let some fresh air into those stuffy drawing rooms.' I just loved Lawrence Selden and just could not for the life of me find my way through the ending. Wharton writes a helluva tragic denouement and this novel is no exception. I wanted so much better for Lilly. Wharton created a very believable, flawed, and memorable heroine. She is a master at creating weak-willed rather stupid men - over indulged fat babies who still somehow manage to rule the world with their plethoric, sweaty jowls, their tight wallets, and their petty judgements.

Masterful storytelling with spot-on pacing, engaging prose and characters, great dramatic tension with Shakespearean-like attention to the art of tragedy. Bravo. This is one classic that doesn't disappoint. Why can't highschoolers read this instead of the dull 'Ethan Frome'? ( )
  jhowell | Feb 17, 2016 |
Audio book (unabridged) performed by Wanda McCaddon

When a girl is raised only to be an ornament, what is to become of her when she can no longer serve that function? Who is to blame when she has no other choice? Or does she have options?

Wharton excels at shining a bright light on the intricacies of New York society in the late 1890s and early 1900s. This book follows the incredibly beautiful, but not very wealthy, Miss Lily Bart. At the novel’s opening she is 29 years old, and everyone (including herself) agrees that she really needs to get married – and soon. But Lily has been raised to expect wealth and all it offers, and to fear shabbiness or “dinginess” Over and over she makes decisions based on this false sense of what will bring her happiness, and over and over she falls farther and farther from her goal.

The beauty of Wharton’s work is that she weaves such a rich tapestry. Every character, even a minor one, is fully fleshed out. She gives the reader a clear picture of the nuances of daily life for the wealthy socialites with whom Lily has always associated. Weeks spent as the guest of friends with a country estate, playing bridge for money, dining on the finest repast, enjoying the sparkling conversation (and the gossip and conjecture) – this is the life of Lily and her friends. And once “the season” starts back in the city, there are rounds of calls to be made, balls to attend, opera and theater and dinners, and the occasional charitable work for appearances sake. I found myself near tears several times, knowing Lily was headed for disaster and feeling so helpless to stop her.

McCaddon does a fine job performing this book. There were a few scenes – especially if between two young women – where it was a little difficult to tell who was “speaking,” but that was a minor inconvenience. She has an elegance of speech that is perfect for this book.

I have read several commentaries on this book and they repeatedly refer to Lily’s death as a suicide, the inference being that she intentionally overdosed. But I absolutely disagree with this interpretation. When she spontaneously visited Selden that last evening, she took the opportunity to destroy Bertha’s letters (her final chance at wealth and getting back into society). I think she had finally recognized the goodness in loving Selden, whether he reciprocated or not. Then when she met up with the woman with the baby, she had the chance to observe what true love and happiness is like – how warm and inviting (and NOT dingy) a home filled with love can be. Once she got to her room and found that the check had arrived, she knew she could finally settle her debts and go to Selden fresh and without encumbrance. I think the overdose was accidental – as it usually is for those who become addicted to narcotics. “Just a little more” has worked in the past, why not this time? ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 17, 2016 |
A wonderful novel of manners and the downfall of an overly-confident society wannabe. Lily is doomed no matter how much we root for her. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (45 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wharton, Edithprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bawden, NinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beer, JanetEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bron, EleanorNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brookner, AnitaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Caruso, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fields, AnnaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lewis, R. W. B.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaddon, WandaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pirè, LucianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wenzell, A. B.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Set in the opulent houses and glittering resorts of New York's fashionable society, this is the story of Lily Bart, beautiful, witty and sophisticated, accepted by "old money", courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. But, as she nears thirty, her foothold becomes precarious: she needs a husband to preserve her social and financial standing, to maintain her in the luxury she craves. Many men have sought her, but something - fastidiousness, an uncomfortable intelligence or some deep-seated integrity - prevents her from making a "suitable" match. Watched by the admiring but impoverished Lawrence Selden, she struggles courageously with the difficulties caused by the growing threat of poverty and her contempt for hypocrisy - a contempt which compromises her position as an unmarried woman among "the ultra-fashionable dancing people". This novel, originally published in 1905, shocked the society it chronicles, portraying the moral, social and economic constraints on a spriited woman.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0486420493, Paperback)

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth," warns Ecclesiastes 7:4, and so does the novel by Edith Wharton that takes its title from this call to heed. New York at the turn of the century was a time of opulence and frivolity for those who could afford it. But for those who couldn't and yet wanted desperately to keep up with the whirlwind, like Wharton's charming Lily Bart, it was something else altogether: a gilded cage rather than the Gilded Age.

One of Wharton's earliest descriptions of her heroine, in the library of her bachelor friend and sometime suitor Lawrence Selden, indicates that she appears "as though she were a captured dryad subdued to the conventions of the drawing room." Indeed, herein lies Lily's problem. She has, we're told, "been brought up to be ornamental," and yet her spirit is larger than what this ancillary role requires. By today's standards she would be nothing more than a mild rebel, but in the era into which Wharton drops her unmercifully, this tiny spark of character, combined with numerous assaults by vicious society women and bad luck, ultimately renders Lily persona non grata. Her own ambivalence about her position serves to open the door to disaster: several times she is on the verge of "good" marriage and squanders it at the last moment, unwilling to play by the rules of a society that produces, as she calls them, "poor, miserable, marriageable girls.

Lily's rather violent tumble down the social ladder provides a thumbnail sketch of the general injustices of the upper classes (which, incidentally, Wharton never quite manages to condemn entirely, clearly believing that such life is cruel but without alternative). From her start as a beautiful woman at the height of her powers to her sad finale as a recently fired milliner's assistant addicted to sleeping drugs, Lily Bart is heroic, not least for her final admission of her own role in her downfall. "Once--twice--you gave me the chance to escape from my life and I refused it: refused it because I was a coward," she tells Selden as the book draws to a close. All manner of hideous socialite beasts--some of whose treatment by Wharton, such as the token social-climbing Jew, Simon Rosedale, date the book unfortunately--wander through the novel while Lily plummets. As her tale winds down to nothing more than the remnants of social grace and cold hard cash, it's hard not to agree with Lily's own assessment of herself: "I have tried hard--but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine I called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was of no use anywhere else." Nevertheless, it's even harder not to believe that she deserved better, which is why The House of Mirth remains so timely and so vital in spite of its crushing end and its unflattering portrait of what life offers up. --Melanie Rehak

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:03 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Lily Bart, beautiful, witty and sophisticated is accepted by 'old money' and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. But as she nears thirty, her foothold becomes precarious; a poor girl with expensive tastes, she needs a husband to preserve her social standing and to maintain her in the luxury she has come to expect. Whilst many have sought her, something - fastidiousness or integrity- prevents her from making a 'suitable' match.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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