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The Mother's Recompense by Edith Wharton

The Mother's Recompense (original 1925; edition 1995)

by Edith Wharton

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264566,812 (3.59)39
This work by Edith Wharton was originally published in 1925, and this edition includes a brand new introductory biography. 'The Mother's Recompense' is a novel about a woman who abandoned her husband and child and who returns to her home city of New York after spending years in exile.
Title:The Mother's Recompense
Authors:Edith Wharton
Info:Virago (1995), Paperback, 364 pages
Collections:Your library, Virago Modern Classics, North American
Tags:read in 2013, fiction, virago, own, american authors, woman authors

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The Mother's Recompense by Edith Wharton (1925)



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Middle aged woman stays staunch with her guilt, and so forfeits a fulfilling life. Edith Wharton was an expert technician at producing moving, intelligent stories.
  ivanfranko | Mar 12, 2019 |
The novel opens in a seedy Riviera hotel, where resides Kate Clephane, a middle-aged, separated New York woman. Having long ago left an unhappy marriage- and an infant daughter - she lives in exile; achieving a gloss of respectability through church and good works, yet Kate absconded with another man. And - unknown to anyone else- has had a second relationship with a younger man, the love of her life. But that too has foundered, and she goes through the motions of life until a telegram informs her of the death of her mother-in-law - and the fact that her daughter (now an heiress and of age) seeks to re-establish a relationship with her long-absent mother...
But the love between the two is to face a massive jolt when Kate's former lover re-enters the tale as her daughter's betrothed...

A slight touch of the Victorian melodrama - yet in Kate's reaction (a combination of maternal love; fear at alienating her child; and plain old-fashioned jealousy) Edith Wharton creates an entirely plausible and sympathetic character. ( )
  starbox | Jul 29, 2018 |
‘The Mother’s Recompense’ is one of Edith Wharton’s later novels, published in 1925.

It tells the story of Kate Clephane, an American who lived in exile on the French Riviera. She had been unhappy in her marriage, trapped by a controlling husband, and so she fled with another man. He left her, but that wasn’t what broke her heart; losing her infant daughter did that. And so for more than twenty years Kate her life among the quietly alongside so many others who had broken society’s rules.

It was not easy to feel sympathy for a woman who had abandoned her daughter, but I did. Because Kate Clephane was a real, complex, human being, and she was as interesting as any woman I have met in the pages of an Edith Wharton novel.

She had accepted her situation; she had just one regret, and memories that haunted her ….

It was in France, at the start of the First World War, that Kate Clephane met the love of her life. Chris Fenno was a much younger man, and they were happy together until family ties, and practical matters, called him home to America. Kate was left to live alone again, in genteel poverty.

Two telegrams changed her life. The first told her that her mother-in-law, the formidable woman in whose lifetime Kate would never dare go home, was dead. And the second asked her to come home. Anne, the daughter who had grown up without her mother, wanted her to come. Kate was ecstatic, and she went without a moment’s hesitation.

Anne is as eager as Kate to build a mother/daughter relationship and soon they are devoted to each other. But they don’t really no each other, and they don’t talk about the most important things of all. Kate simply loves her daughter above anything else.

She sees that society has changed, but she quickly finds that she cannot talk about her past; the rules may be different for her daughter’s generation, but not for hers.

It was fascinating to watch, but the key point of the story was still to come:

Kate sees Chris Fenno again; and then she discovers that he is the man her daughter plans to marry.

She is shattered. She wants to prevent the wedding, but she knew she could not anyone even guess her reasons, because that could damage her relationship with her daughter irreparably. But without explaining her reason she has no grounds for insisting that Anne – who is as passionate as her mother and as stubborn as her grandmother – give up the man her heart is set on.

There was a hint of contrivance about the situation a and a dash of melodrama – but Kate’s dilemma was horribly real, and her emotions were complex. She was aware that she was growing older, that she feelings about her lost love were still strong, that the rules instilled in her could not be easily shaken off, that she wanted to do the right thing but she did not know if she could live with that.

So many themes that have been threaded through other books, and I found echoes of other characters and other stories in this one.

I don’t think it is Edith Wharton’s best work though; the story needed a little more space to breathe, the supporting characters needed a little more time to come to life, and because of that the story seemed just a little hazy in places.

It feels unfinished, unpolished, but it is still a very readable novel, and a much more interesting piece of work than I’d been lead to believe.

And the ending is perfect: uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, and it highlights Kate Clephane’s character beautifully.

And that is what will stay with me ….

. ( )
1 vote BeyondEdenRock | Dec 1, 2016 |
In one of Edith Wharton's later novels, the author explores issues of morality and sexuality in the context of a mother-daughter relationship. Kate Clephane left a loveless marriage and was denied further contact with her young daughter Anne. She escaped to the French Riviera and moved among society there. Kate and Anne are reunited many years later. Anne is now a young adult, and surprisingly welcoming. She introduces Kate to post-World War I New York society, where much has changed from the world Kate once knew. Anne and Kate's relationship blossoms, but is severely tested when one of Kate's "old flames" arrives on the scene. For the first time in many years, Kate has to think about someone other than herself, and sort through several moral dilemmas. Wharton is masterful at showing the constraints women faced in those days, and resolves the conflict in what was probably the only way possible. Wharton is one of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed this book. ( )
1 vote lauralkeet | Jun 28, 2013 |
“The Mother's Recompense€? (Edith Wharton, 1925) sounds like a 3-hankie weeper for moms. In fact, the novel is about as unsentimental as a crusty expatriate. The story opens on the French Riviera in the early 1920s. The protagonist Kate Clephane lives in an enclave of English-speaking expats. What a bunch! Gamblers, liars, fortune-hunters, laybouts, booze hounds. This part brought back happy memories of my own expatriate chums in Latvia.

Anyway, Wharton tells the story of Kate’s return to New York society after bolting with a playboy and abandoning her husband and infant daughter many years before. In France, she has had a couple of affairs but she had true love with Chris Fenno, a social butterfly. Ann the daughter has grown up and called her mother home. Kate, however, still has feeling for Chris. Oedipus with a twist anyone? One would expect this would be over the top dramatic, but Wharton makes it credible with close observations and touches of comedy. I liked the descriptions of 1920s New York and Kate’s reverse culture shock resonated with my own experience.
1 vote Kung_BaiRen | Mar 24, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Whartonprimary authorall editionscalculated
French, MarilynAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kate Clephane was wakened, as usual, by the slant of Riviera sun across her bed.
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Kate Clephane lives alone in a second-rate hotel on the French Riviera. Nearly twenty years before she eloped with a man, fleeing her husband and home, and the rigidity of New York society. Now middle-aged, her years of raffish expatriate living have taken their toll. Then a telegram arrives from her daughter Anne, inviting her back to their Fifth Avenue mansion and the charmed circle of her old world. But Kate finds postwar New York a changed city of towering skyscrapers: though more liberal it is no less oppressive. And the joy of being with her daughter is soon threatened by the reappearance of the only man she has ever passionately loved. This penetrating and moving study of mother daughter relations, of sexual mores, jealousy and exile, was first published in 1925.
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