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The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
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The Custom of the Country (1913)

by Edith Wharton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,535414,784 (4.04)1 / 271
  1. 20
    Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (davidcla)
    davidcla: Wharton's 1913 novel is excellent, and very interesting to read as a companion to George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. Wharton's Undine casts Eliot's Gwendolen in a new light. And vice versa.
  2. 20
    The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (jennybhatt)
    jennybhatt: While the heroine of this novel is also a social climber, she's a more sympathetic portrait that contrasts well.
  3. 10
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Limelite)
    Limelite: This social climbing, greedy, French counterpart of Undine doesn't get the same ending. Her story does, however, benefit from Flaubert's trenchant satire of the bourgoisie.
  4. 10
    Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (jennybhatt)
    jennybhatt: As social climbers go, Scarlett O'Hara ranks among the top ones. The similarities (marrying or attaching to various men as a way to get ahead) and evolutionary differences (the self-determination to make it solo if needed and feasible) between Undine Spragg and Scarlett O'Hara provide interesting juxtaposition.… (more)
  5. 00
    Pink and White Tyranny by Harriet Beecher Stowe (espertus)
    espertus: A lighter account of the marriage of a selfish social climber to an upstanding man
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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Superb!
  Sherryll | May 3, 2016 |
Even now, however, she was not always happy. She had everything she wanted, but she still felt, at times, that there were other things she might want if she knew about them.

As soon as I saw that the heroine's name was Undine Spragg I could tell that this book would be fun, and I was right. It is a satire about a social climbing golddigger from the mid-West and her attempts to marry into high society via several different husbands.

Undine is a nightmare and I started off pitying her poor parents, but then decided that they had brought it on themselves by spoiling her so badly. However, the story makes the serious point that if men keep their wives in the dark about their careers and everything else that is important to them, it is not surprising that their wives are empty-headed and vain as they have nothing but socialising to occupy themselves with. Undine is manipulative but stupid and would be no match for Becky Sharp, although she ends the book in a far better position in life than Becky did in Vanity Fair.

If you have the Oxford World Classics edition, leave the introduction until last as it is full of spoilers. ( )
  isabelx | Mar 17, 2016 |
Such a frustrating character and story, but great insights into our priorities and ambitions. The characters were well developed and the writing great. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Such a frustrating character and story, but great insights into our priorities and ambitions. The characters were well developed and the writing great. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This is such a depressing book. You know why someone like Undine exists. And so you "cut her some slack." But she is so horrible. It makes you angry that she exists. And then you feel so bad for her husbands (a string of them) and her little boy. I'm glad I have lived in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Reading Wharton and James over the past few weeks. She is so good. ( )
  idiotgirl | Dec 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Edith Wharton's "The Custom of the Country" turned 100 this year, and the adventures of its heroine, Undine Spragg, remain as brazen today as when she first advanced upon the American scene.
 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Whartonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Conlin, GraceNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, DianeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orgel, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raver, LornaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Showalter, ElaineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wagner-Martin, LindaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Undine Spragg – how can you?’ her mother wailed, raising a prematurely-wrinkled hand heavy with rings to defend the note which a languid ‘bell-boy’ had just brought in.
Quotations
"Just so; she'd even feel aggrieved. But why? Because
it's against the custom of the country. And whose fault
is that? The man's again—I don't mean Ralph I mean
the genus he belongs to: homo sapiens, Americanus.
Why haven't we taught our women to take an interest
in our work? Simply because we don't take enough
interest in THEM."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
With the intention of making a suitable match, Undine Spragg and her parents move to New York where her youthful, radiant beauty and ruthless ambition prove an irresistible force. Here Edith Wharton dissects the traditions, pretensions and prohibitions of American and
European society - both the ostentatious glitter of the nouveau riche and the faded grandeur of the upper classes - with an eye all the more exacting for its dispassionate gaze. And in Undine Spragg she has created an unforgettable heroine - a woman taught to dazzle and enslacv, but to know nothing of the financial and social cost of the status she so passionately craves.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039709, Paperback)

Considered by many to be her masterpiece, Edith Wharton's second full-length work is a scathing yet personal examination of the exploits and follies of the modern upper class. As she unfolds the story of Undine Spragg, from New York to Europe, Wharton affords us a detailed glimpse of what might be called the interior décor of this America and its nouveau riche fringes. Through a heroine who is as vain, spoiled, and selfish as she is irresistibly fascinating, and through a most intricate and satisfying plot that follows Undine's marriages and affairs, she conveys a vision of social behavior that is both supremely informed and supremely disenchanted.
This new edition features a new introduction and explanatory notes and reset text

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:57 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Edith Wharton's novels of manners seem to grow in stature as time passes. Here, she draws a beautiful social climber, Undine Sprague, who is a monster of selfishness and honestly doesn't know it. Although the worlds she wants to conquer have vanished, Undine herself is amazingly recognizable. She marries well above herself twice and both times fails to recognize her husbands' strengths of character or the weakness of her own, and it is they, not she, who pay the price.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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