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The House of Mirth (1905)

by Edith Wharton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9,500197776 (4.02)1 / 776
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

The House of Mirth is an uncompromising depiction of 19th-century New York society. Lily Bart is a society lady who is unwilling to marry for love, but equally unwilling to marry as society dictates. She sabotages every advantageous opportunity she receives, until her society friends begin to hasten her downfall for their own ends.

.… (more)
  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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  3. 22
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  7. 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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Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
I was completely surprised by this novel. I expected drudgery like so many other classics I've read lately. This was amazing.

It started out cheery enough, yet I knew it was a tragedy, so I purposely did not attach myself to any characters. As things started unraveling for Lily, I got drawn in to the upcoming spiral of her life. I was even reading along with a friend who finished before me and she said she was very sad by the ending. I laughed at her for being so easily swept up into liking characters we knew would have some tragedy.

As I read the final chapters, I was so impressed with how Edith Wharton could spin a tale, describe thoughts and feelings, and lead us into eventual despair right along with Lily. Her writing made me either nod my head in feeling like she's described some of my own feelings, or pondering how well she's described things I've never felt. And by the end, I felt such sadness, it was a literal pain in my chest. Damn her. I was invested without even realizing it.

So amazing in character development, in getting the reader to understand the plight of Lily, the tough decisions she had to make and just didn't, the way the spins of others had such an effect on her own control of her circumstances, and the tragic end.

Just a very good read. May be in my top 3. ( )
  MahanaU | Nov 21, 2023 |
4.5 Stars. First off, a sort of public service announcement for those who are new to classics, I learned the hard way a long time ago that “introductions” in classics are often littered with spoilers as is the case with the Anna Quindlen penned introduction in my copy of this one, so unless you enjoy learning every major plot point ahead of time, do yourself a favor and wait until after you read the story to read the introductions. It would be nice if publishers would ever do the readers a favor and just put these things at the back of the book where they belong.

The House of Mirth moves at a relatively slow pace, dialogue is minimal, it’s definitely more character focused than plot driven, still it rarely felt tedious and does have some page turning moments. Like most classics, it’s probably best to reach for this when you’re in a patient mood, when you feel more like taking your time rather than breezing through something.

Although this was written near the start of the 1800’s, in many ways the world of this story doesn’t feel as foreign or distant as you might imagine, social climbing in New York society back then doesn’t read all that different from someone clamoring for likes and follows, putting on a facade or living above their means in order to present a certain image, and we’re certainly also in an era where one misstep, or even the whisper of a misstep, whether you’re proven truly guilty of it or not can send your life into a tailspin. This is one of those books that while it takes place in a specific time period, it winds up feeling somewhat timeless thanks to how in tune the author is with how human beings tick, everyone in this story is recognizable, a person who could as believably exist now as then.

Initially, it’s tempting to write off Lily Bart as a one-dimensional socialite gold-digger archetype, the sort of person who I avoid watching on reality shows, but the fuller the picture I had of her, the more interesting she became psychologically and by the end I had came around to caring for her, too. If you want to read a female character full of complexities and contradictions, you need to meet Lily Bart, she’s can be appalling yet her moral fiber will surprise you, she’s both naive and conniving, and she’s prone to self-sabotage thanks to the tug of war inside her, torn between the material life she’s been raised to covet and a type of freedom that isn’t really available to the women who lived that lifestyle at that time.

While it was easier to like secondary characters Gerty and Nettie, I suspect Lily Bart is someone who will linger in my mind for a long time, particularly those final scenes with her. ( )
  SJGirl | Oct 23, 2023 |
I liked the book a lot but the final chapters really dragged, to the point where I wondered if she got paid by the word. ( )
  blueskygreentrees | Jul 30, 2023 |
Wharton, a product of the New York society she so ruthlessly satirizes, takes a few left turns in this novel, none of them really unexpected. Her strength lies in dissecting the social mores of the fin de siecle 1%; the subtleties of the intrigue and the perils to a young single lady like Lily Bart (whose status is dependent on the good will of others) reveal a gilded jungle where only the enormously wealthy are safe.

Unfortunately, as Lily's fortunes decline, "The House of Mirth" descends into melodrama. The introduction by Cynthia Wolff makes clear the poignancy of Wharton's dilemma, for which Lily Bart is a cipher. What use does a beautiful young woman serve, other than decorative? Wharton escapes this trap through her writing; Lily has no such option, mainly because her perspective is so limited. This is the tragedy of the pre-feminist era. ( )
  jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
Beautiful, but too many dry spots to say it was page turner. Biggest plus is Lily's character arc, though it seemed to all happen in the last 4 chapters and her unwillingness to part with any information was insufferable. I've never been one for stories theme-ing on fate, but I still found this story tragically enthralling and has a good execution to meditate (or brood) on. Makes you realize we all need someone or something to keep us grounded. ( )
  Eavans | Feb 17, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (129 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wharton, Edithprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aman-Jean, EdmondCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bawden, NinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beer, JanetEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bordwin, GabrielleCover designersecondary 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.)
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Wikipedia in English


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

The House of Mirth is an uncompromising depiction of 19th-century New York society. Lily Bart is a society lady who is unwilling to marry for love, but equally unwilling to marry as society dictates. She sabotages every advantageous opportunity she receives, until her society friends begin to hasten her downfall for their own ends.


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Book description
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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Average: (4.02)
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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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Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909438804, 1909438812


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