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Ethan Frome and Summer by Edith Wharton
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Ethan Frome and Summer (edition 2001)

by Edith Wharton

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187None63,133 (4.02)1
Member:countrylife
Title:Ethan Frome and Summer
Authors:Edith Wharton
Info:Modern Library, New York, paperback
Collections:Read but unowned
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Tags:( FICTION, .classic, {cover-upload, collection

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Ethan Frome and Summer by Edith Wharton

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This edition contained 2 novellas. Ethan Frome was a darker tale, ultimately about a man's love for a girl at all costs, & the consequences of the actions taken. It played out as rather dark, but it was fascinating. Summer, the other tale in this edition, was a story about the life of a girl brought down from The Mountain, to be raised by the richest family in town who couldn't have children of their own, & the choices she makes when she grows up & falls in love for the first time with a well to do man who is related to one of the founding families of the town. Again, not a pretty story, even though some of it is sweet.

This book made for easy reading, & went very fast. I enjoyed both stories, even though parts were sad, but that's life, especially in that time frame. ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
I am just going to get this out of the way, and say this book is screwed up like a soup sandwich. I felt a little run over by a train at the end of it, but that doesn't mean that I didn't like the book.

I picked this book up because I recently read two articles online - one for classics so short that you should be ashamed not to have read the, and one about books to put you in a holiday spirit. I am a reader that needs the atmosphere to be perfect for books, and I love to read wintry books in the winter, summery books in the summer, and so on. Ethan Frome sounded perfect for one of the coldest weeks of the year so far. So I retired to the couch, bundled up, hot chocolate at hand, and read the slim novel of Ethan Frome.

The introduction warns you from the very first, that upon the books first publication, newspapers and journals reviews were harsh; The Saturday Review even declared that they wished they had never read it. I don't feel like I wish I hadn't read it, but the book is bleak. Desolate. Stark and cold and isolated and desperate. The novel begins when the narrator first glimpses Ethan Frome, and wonders what in the world happened to this man with a limp, and the look of a man who is dead and in hell already. He is told that Ethan has been in "Starkfield too many winters" and is only 52 years old, although he appears much older.

The novel flashes back to when Ethan is a young man of 28. He is a farmer barely ekeing out an existence, and every day requires hard laboring. His wife Zeena is a hypochondriac, spending his hard earned money on medications and doctors. Zeena's cousin Mattie is a down on her luck relation, and she lives with the Frome family as a hired girl, helping about the house. Where Zeena is described as tall and emaciated, with an exacting, shrewish demeanor, Mattie is her opposite, pleasant to look at, and to be around with her vivacious, friendly nature. When we enter the story, Ethan is in love with Mattie, and obsesses over her, wanting to be with her. He is jealous of her flirtations with Denis Eady, the son of a prosperous grocer, and stresses out that she will leave the Frome residence to be married to Denis. Ethan is a bit of a creepy stalker with Mattie - one night she is in town at a dance, and Ethan is to pick her up to walk back to their house. He watches in the window as she dances with Denis, and waits in the shadows when the dance is over, and Mattie and Denis walk outside. He is waiting to see if Mattie is going to accept Denis' offer of a ride in his wagon before he announces himself. And when she turns Denis down, Ethan feels triumphant before greeting Mattie and walking her home.

They love each other, but there is no torrid affair, burning up the sheets in the spare bedroom while his wife's back is turned. No, they love each other in shared glances and walks home, where they don't even do so much as kiss. And when Zeena, who has a glimmer of what is going on between her husband and cousin, announces that she is going out of town for an overnight visit, Ethan is excited to be able to "play house" with Mattie, and eat dinner together, him in his stocking feet at the table, just the two of them. And the cat..

This can only end one way - disaster. You know from the beginning that these people are doomed. The tension builds, you wonder, is Ethan going to man up and get a pair, and do what he wants, run away with Mattie? Or what will happen? We are not expecting this instrument of destruction - this child's play toy gone rogue, destroyer of lives. But a moment of play leads to an act of desperation, crazy as it is, further dooming them all.

These characters are all so flawed and hopeless, and trapped by their own devices, yet tragic because their is a goodness in them as well. Zeena was a healer once - we learn that she was one of the best at doctoring and nursing around, and helped when Ethan's mother was dying. But her greatest gift is her downfall, maybe left with no one to help she turns this inward, and becomes a selfish hypochondriac. Ethan is weak, never able to follow through on anything he desires, giving up and taking the easy path his whole life. Yet he doesn't like to see anything, like his old sorrel horse or anyone in pain, and can't cause anyone harm either, like when he dreams of leaving Zeena to go west he can't do it, although he can't bear the thought of sending Mattie away either. At the end of the story, everything is a twisted mess, even Ethan's formerly strong young body.

This tragedy is written beautifully - if you haven't read it, I really recommend you do. It won't take you long, at less than a hundred pages. If possible, pick a freezing cold day. ( )
  cinnamonowl | Dec 19, 2013 |
I'd recommend either story, but Ethan Frome is the more famous of the two. Ethan is a disfigured creature living with two women in a little New England town where everyone knows to leave him alone. When a stranger arrives he sees Ethan and asks what happened- so the whole sad story is told. In my opinion, Wharton's best work. ( )
  mstrust | Aug 3, 2008 |
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I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375757287, Paperback)

This edition presents Wharton's two most controversial stories, which she considered inseperable, in one volume for the first time. Set in frigid New England, both deal with sexual awakening and appetite and their devastating consequences. This text includes newly commissioned notes.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:45 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In the first novel, a New England farmer must choose between his duty to care for his invalid wife and his love for her cousin, and in the second novel, Charity Royall enjoys an idyllic summer romance with visiting architect Lucius Harvey.

(summary from another edition)

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