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The House of Mirth (1905)

by Edith Wharton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,583184721 (4.03)726
The tragic story of a beautiful young woman caught up in the shallow and corrupt world of New York society at the turn of the century, where wealth and social status are everything.
  1. 110
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (SandSing7)
    SandSing7: Wharton is as American as Austen is British. Read both works for a comparitive "across the pond" view on the novel of manners.
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  6. 01
    Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Lapsus_Linguae)
    Lapsus_Linguae: Both novels depict an attractive young woman who becomes an outcast because of society's sexual mores.
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Modernism (107)
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English (177)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (1)  Hungarian (1)  Piratical (1)  French (1)  All languages (184)
Showing 1-5 of 177 (next | show all)
Weak men and predatory women eviscerate Lily. What's worse than poverty? Nothing. ( )
  unit731a | Aug 20, 2021 |
I listen to this in audiobook, and now I wished I had the book to browse through some of the passages. It is a masterpiece of sociology and psychology disguised as a work of fiction. It is also a feminist document.

Lily Bart will stay with me for a long time.
( )
1 vote RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
“Do you remember what you said to me once? That you could help me only by loving me? Well—you did love me for a moment; and it helped me. It has always helped me.”

Misery and mishap live in The House of Mirth where genuine callings of the heart get trampled by the unhealthy need for status and money. This is the story of 29-year old unmarried, beautiful but financially strapped Lily Bart. Brought up in a household with an affluent lifestyle that eventually met its downfall, its aftermath draws from financial dependence which is not enough for naïve Lily to break her luxurious habits. So wading a pool of entitled men and snobbish women, her seemingly flirty and flighty behaviour is misinterpreted that it creates a catastrophic domino effect upon her reputation and situation; whilst she suffers from deluded desires and impossible expectations, at the same time refusing a passionate romance that promises no status or money, she unknowingly collides with more problems by running away and fastening herself with the wrong company. What seems to be reversible fate turns to irreversible consequences. And as heartbreak and ambivalence clumsily dance with each other, Lily Bart further stoops down the social ladder. All this time only her friend Gerty Farish, treated unkindly for the most part, is constantly behind her back.

Moral convictions arise from assumptions and prejudices but not without hypocrisy. The influence of money is undeniable, its role against morality is not to be underestimated (here: assumed adultery versus explicit adultery); money makes one agreeable, powerful yet money, as the old saying goes, can’t buy everything. However can these be realised before it’s too late? Before an impending tragedy might happen?

The House of Mirth is where rumours poison and malice spreads like a plague. The prose is compelling and I admit this made me a little teary-eyed near the end. Edith Wharton’s subtle social commentary laced in wit is brilliantly scathing. Despite being written in the 1900s it is still very evident at the present how money warps society’s perceptions on a lot of its already problematic standards. And a takeaway: you can’t offer someone with what you’re willing to give when they are not willing to accept—most specially in love. ( )
  lethalmauve | Jan 25, 2021 |
I found the portrayal of what life was like for women of Lily's type fascinating and eye-opening but on the whole thought the book was pretty slow and undistinguished on the whole in terms of prose style. At times especially during the middle portion of the book, it was a bit of a slog. At the time of its publication early in the 20th century, it was serialized, and I'll bet it was a more compelling read when the chapters were dribbled out one at a time over many months.

A rating of 2 stars seems a bit stingy for how I felt about the book, but a rating of 3 feels too generous. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
In this Edith Wharton novel (I’ve been on a Wharton kick recently), the heroine is Lily Bart, raised in the fast paced New York society, but living on very limited funds — both her mother and father have passed away, leaving her to rely on wealthier relatives for a living. Wharton paints an intriguing picture of a woman who is desperately trying to keep up with her peers in all things fashionable: clothes, jewelry, gambling — “For a long time [Lily] had refused to play bridge. She knew she could not afford it, and she was afraid of acquiring so expensive a taste.” Gambling becomes Lily’s drug of choice, and before long, she has sought out unconventional ways of funding this habit, including becoming indebted to Gus Trenor, a businessman and investor of sorts. But at twenty-nine, Lily is feeling the pressure, both financially and socially, to settle down, preferably with someone who can provide freedom from the monetary obligations which have been stacking up around her.

In one conversation with her friend, Lawrence Selden, Lily muses, “There are men who don’t like me — one can tell that at a glance. And there are others who are afraid of me; they think I want to marry them… but I don’t think you dislike me — and you can’t possibly think I want to marry you… there are men enough to say pleasant things to me and that what I want is a friend who won’t be afraid to say disagreeable ones when I need them.” It’s funny how this is still so true of man-woman friendships today: the flirting, the confusion, the mixed signals, the endless discussions with friends afterward of “what did he mean by that” and “what does she really want”.

Later, in another conversation, Selden addresses the overwhelming focus of society on the fashionable and decorative: “I don’t underrate the decorative side of life. It seems to me the sense of splendour has justified itself by what it has produced. The worst of it is that so much human nature is used up in the process. If we’re all the raw stuff of the cosmic effects, one would rather be the fire that tempers a sword than the fish that dyes a purple cloak. And a society like ours wastes such good material in producing its little patch of purple!” In our modern society which idolizes wealth and beauty, materialism and fleeting pleasures, such an argument seems a little ridiculous, but is it really? How much time, money, and materials have you spent on your “little patch of purple” in recent days? Weeks? Years?

Although Lily is flighty, materialistic, and often selfish, she is also constrained and condemned by the society which she tries valiantly to maintain and cultivate. The friendship which she finds in Gerty Farish, a spinster whom she initially scorns as poor and miserable, becomes very dear to her, despite Gerty’s own initial reactions to Lily.

This was not an easy read, but I think it is my favourite thus far of the Wharton novels I have ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (129 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
Carabine, KeithEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Caruso, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cheshire, GerardContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fields, AnnaNarratorsecondary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The tragic story of a beautiful young woman caught up in the shallow and corrupt world of New York society at the turn of the century, where wealth and social status are everything.

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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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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140187294, 0141199024

Library of America Paperback Classics

An edition of this book was published by Library of America Paperback Classics.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909438804, 1909438812

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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