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The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth (original 1905; edition 2004)

by Edith Wharton, Jeffrey Meyers (Introduction)

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7,079154508 (4.04)627
Title:The House of Mirth
Authors:Edith Wharton
Other authors:Jeffrey Meyers (Introduction)
Info:Barnes & Noble Classics (2004), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:@own: to be read

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The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)

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land of class

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.
  christinejoseph | Jul 12, 2017 |
It is said the Wharton is the Anti-Austen, and from reading this book I completely agree. Not everything ends in rainbows and weddings, and this book is an excellent commentary on how the quest for pleasure can cause one to be blind to the more important things in life, and eventually self-destruct. The literature was beautifully written, and though the actual story may have gone a little slowly, that is characteristic of the style of the time-period: deal with it. ( )
  J9Plourde | Jun 13, 2017 |
This is my favorite of Edith Wharton's novels. The story of Lily Bart's fall from the heights of society to its depths is a cautionary tale of the price of pride and hubris in early twentieth century New York.

Lily Bart is a beautiful young woman - well not so young as she is 28 when the novel opens - of excellent birth, but limited financial means. She lives with her aunt and expects to inherit her wealth when she dies, which is a good thing, since her own income only allows her to live in a modest way. Lily, however, seems to think that her beauty will carry her to endless riches and she lords it over her less well situated cousin and also to enter into a questionable financial arrangement with the husband of her best friend.

Lily's problem is that, while she is bad by the standards of the day, she is not bad enough to truly profit from the opportunities that appear before her. Her main fault is that she loves her life of luxury and is seemingly not able to make the smallest sacrifice to assure that her means of life will continue. Instead of attending to her aunt and living the life of a proper young woman as should, Lily embarks on a European adventure with dubious companions that will be her undoing. When her aunt dies, she finds she has been disinherited and faces a truly dismal life.

Still, although she has the means to save herself and to, in all likelihood restore herself to her former position, she cannot bring herself to her former position, she cannot bring herself to do so, thus bringing her life to an untimely end.

This is, perhaps, Wharton's most tragic novel and the modern reader's heart cries out at every twist and turn of the plot for Lily Bart. ( )
  etxgardener | Jun 4, 2017 |
It's hard to think of a less apt title for a novel than Wharton's House of Mirth, which is one relentless descent in despair for its protagonist, Lily Bart. The novel is a wonderful portrait of the upper-class New York society around the turn of the twentieth century, with some searing insights into the Machiavellian scheming that made that society so much fun . The tableau vivant scene is amazing. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I really enjoyed reading Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth." It's definitely a typical Wharton novel... but I've liked all that I've read by her, so this novel was certainly up my alley.

The novel is the story of Lily Bart, a poor girl who is pretty enough to hang around with the rich New York society people. She is dependent on the kindness of her friends, who are fickle, and really has to find a husband with money to keep up her expensive tastes, but can't seem to commit to spending her life with a bore who has a fat wallet.

Wharton does a great job painting Bart's character as a woman who struggles with what she wants and how to get that in the narrow corridor society has laid for her. I really enjoyed how the story progressed and peeling back the layers of Bart's character. ( )
  amerynth | Oct 27, 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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Selden paused in surprise.
Edith Wharton is the grande dame of American literature. (Introduction)
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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)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140187294, 0141199024

Library of America Paperback Classics

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Tantor Media

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909438804, 1909438812

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