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The Bunner Sisters by Edith Wharton
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The Bunner Sisters (original 1916; edition 2011)

by Edith Wharton

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1521078,635 (3.58)22
Member:kayclifton
Title:The Bunner Sisters
Authors:Edith Wharton
Info:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2011), Paperback, 82 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Bunner Sisters by Edith Wharton (1916)

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Showing 5 of 5
The Bunner Sisters
by Edith Wharton
Originally published in Scribner’s Magazine 60 (October 1916): 439-458 and; Scribner’s Magazine 60 (November 1916): 575-596
Reprint 2007 by Alan Rogders Books, Ægypan Press

WHO: Evelina and Ann Eliza are two spinster sisters who develop an affection for the same German clock-maker, Mr. Ramy.
WHAT: One of the sisters, the younger, marginally prettier Evelina, marries Mr. Ramy and disappears from her sister’s life…
WHERE: which continues on in destitution at their shop near Stuyvesant Square in New York City (far from the rich milieus that Edith Wharton usually sets her stories…)
WHEN: "[i]n the days when New York’s traffic moved at the pace of the drooping horse-car, when society applauded Christine Nilsson at the Academy of Music…" (early 1870s.)
WHY: The sisters are poor, in a world of inelegant language and limited hopes. Evelina pursued the opportunity to find love, happiness and, a future away from the confines of a basement shop & apartment by becoming Mrs. Ramy.
HOW: Evelina and Anna Eliza had a co-dependent relationship that enabled the events of the book to take place. Evelina was more of the egotist while Anna Eliza was more of the sacrificer. As Evelina continued flirting with Mr. Ramy, Anna Eliza ceded more of her own aspirations for the sake of her sister’s happiness.

+ This is something different from Edith Wharton: a story not about high society, or the tensions between old money and the nouveau riche; but a microcosm of life amongst the poor. For all that Edith Wharton never experienced such a life herself, she nonetheless depicts this world without condescension and with concentrated detail that brings the scenes into vivid life.
+ I wouldn’t go so far to say that the Bunner sisters themselves and the people they interact with are ennobled by their experiences; but there is something to be said for the stubbornness and fortitude they exercise that puts Lily Bart (cf The House of Mirth) to shame.
- There is a rather melodramatic scene near the end of Part II that seems nearly a parody of a morality play. While its lack of sophistication may be representative of a theatrical style popular at the time and, the commonness of it reflective of the atmosphere of the story, its crudeness stands out sharply against Wharton’s other more finely wrought scenes of melodrama (again, see The House of Mirth.)

OTHER: I bought a paperback trade edition of The Bunner Sisters (by Edith Wharton) from The Book Nook CT via Alibris.com.

- This is a reprint edition. On page 58, the narrative is interrupted by a copy editor’s note:

"NOTE: *** A Summary of Part I of "Bunner Sisters" appears on page 4 of the advertising pages."

I do not know the provenance of the note, but it is disconcerting :-/ ( )
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Sep 9, 2013 |
Compelling. Unsatisfying ending. ( )
  bogopea | Jul 1, 2012 |
I really like Wharton. This is the third book of hers that I’ve experienced and each of them is laced with pathos and an understanding of humanity that few novelists, particularly of her generation, were able to describe. Even fewer of those were women too because of the way US society ran itself at the time. I find her refreshing in a let’s get back to reality kind of way. Life is hard sometimes and choices that we make have vast consequences on our lives. My generation realised that more than the present I think but still far less than the one before.

Bunner Sisters is a shop that is the setting, by and large, for the story of two ageing spinsters, one of whom gets snapped up by an ageing bachelor in a brisk and unexpected romance. The impact of the marriage on the two sisters forms the major part of the book.

The tension between the two sisters is thinly veiled by their domestic routines. When the romance begins, that all goes out the window, despite desperate attempts to keep it up. And the marriage brings about a shocking change in their fortunes, which, if you know Wharton well, you’ll be able to predict the result of.

The characters aren’t as strongly developed as in the other novels I’ve read and this is more of a novella than a full novel, not that any of hers are long. I think that’s a shame. I think there’s huge potential for more development of the sisters and the husband. I wish she’d put more into it.

Again, marriage and its consequences is the theme Wharton explores just as in Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence. Makes me wonder what it was about marriage in particular that was able to provide her with so much inspiration. Mind you, having been married 15 years, I’m not too surprised
  arukiyomi | Oct 20, 2011 |
This is a stark tragedy and , like any tragedy, provokes fear, sober thought and perhaps anger or sadness. The drawing of the sisters' characters makes them so blameless and their sufferings so extreme that I found myself desiring a bit more justice than this author provided - but tragedy wouldn't be tragedy if sufficient justice were provided! Finishing it, I felt to lift the vain prayer that lightning strike any man with substance abuse issues who gets within two yards of either of my daughters! ( )
  markbstephenson | May 31, 2010 |
A very surprising and emotional story. ( )
  Lnatal | Jun 23, 2009 |
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In the days when New York's traffic moved at the pace of the drooping horse-car, when society applauded Christine Nilsson at the Academy of Music and basked in the sunsets of the Hudson River School on the walls of the National Academy of Design, an inconspicuous shop with a single show-window was intimately and favourably known to the feminine population of the quarter bordering on Stuyvesant Square.
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