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The House of Mirth (Twentieth-Century…
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The House of Mirth (Twentieth-Century Classics) (original 1905; edition 1993)

by Edith Wharton (Author), Cynthia Griffin Wolff (Editor), Cynthia Griffin Wolff (Introduction)

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8,116177704 (4.04)700
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.
Member:Axmyman
Title:The House of Mirth (Twentieth-Century Classics)
Authors:Edith Wharton (Author)
Other authors:Cynthia Griffin Wolff (Editor), Cynthia Griffin Wolff (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (1993), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
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The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)

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English (169)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (1)  Hungarian (1)  Piratical (1)  French (1)  All languages (176)
Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
Failed fortune hunter
too picky for a beggar
she's got bills to pay. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
The farther back in time you go, the more a woman's looks were central to her prospects in life. When we meet Lily Bart, the heroine of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, she's 29 and worried that her celebrated loveliness is beginning to fade before she's managed to marry herself off to someone who can support her. Lily was raised in wealth, taught to abhor anything "dingy"...and then her father lost their fortune and died and her mother followed him shortly thereafter, leaving Lily poor and alone. She was begrudgingly picked up by her aunt Julia, who gives her the right address and some pocket money, but not nearly enough to keep herself afloat on the glittering social circuit, where she needs this season's stylish hats and gloves and dresses and is expected to gamble regularly at cards. It seems hopeful, though: she's on her way to her friend Judy's house, where she expects to meet and charm and become engaged to Percy, a very eligible bachelor.

Instead, she feels no chemistry with Percy and earns the ire of married socialite Bertha when Bertha's ex-paramour Lawrence Selden turns up to see Lily. Bertha splits up the budding romance between Lily and Percy, leaving Lily in a position to have to ask Judy's husband, Gus, to make some investments for her to help keep her afloat. Gus views this as an investment in earning Lily's...favors, and though she manages to keep her head above water and even rise briefly, it all comes crashing down when Bertha invites Lily on a trip to keep her husband George distracted while Bertha carries on with her latest conquest. When George discovers the truth, though, Bertha spreads lies painting Lily as a temptress instead, which begins Lily's descent through the social classes.

This book plays with the same kind of themes Wharton would return to in her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Innocence, which I read a few years before I read this: the artificiality of the upper-class New York "society" in which Wharton herself was born and raised and the way it constrains and even punishes real feeling primary among them. Lily herself is a great heroine: it's so easy to identify with her simultaneous longing to do the "right" thing and make it easy on herself by just finding someone rich to marry her and keep her in comfort and to be true to herself and wait for the kind of real connection she feels with Lawrence. Even though women are by and large much less dependent on men for material support today, I think there still exists the temptation, especially as one approaches 30, to just settle for someone good enough and check "marriage" off the list of things you constantly get asked about as a woman. And the power of the rumor mill, and its ability to ruin reputations, remains potent.

It's thematically similar enough to The Age of Innocence that comparison is inevitable, and for my money, Innocence is the better-developed and more rewarding work. But Mirth was also written 15 years beforehand, so it's not surprising that it's less mature. It does bring the added context of a female perspective, and it's partly refreshing to see how far we've come and at the same time how many things are still largely the same in terms of the constraints that society as a whole places on women. I will say one of the things that didn't quite work for me was the novel's central romance: it's never really developed, we're just meant to sort of assume that they've fallen for each other. It's necessary to have established for a late character moment to work, but it's done so superfluously that it doesn't quite have the power it could have. All in all, if you like a sharp social critique and old-society novels, or just like Wharton, it's definitely worth reading. Otherwise, pick up The Age of Innocence instead. ( )
  GabbyHM | Jun 24, 2020 |
The entire time I had read this book, way back in college, I kept thinking about how the American Aristocracy hasn't changed in the slightest over the years, and how the old and new monies had evolved (or not) into the families Kennedy and Astor and Roosevelt and Hilton ad nauseum. Of course, I was nauseous then, even when I could appreciate the contrast to Victorian English Authorship. Why am I so pissy about the "great" American Authors?

It might be because they suck.

Oh, all right, I'm being grossly unfair and I'll giving this novel 3 stars instead of 2 because I'm smart enough to read the book by context; but really, it ain't my favorite style or subject matter. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I went through several ups and downs with this book and especially Lily Bart herself, but ultimately I really enjoyed it. ( )
  j_tuffi | May 30, 2020 |
Wharton is an excellent writer and storyteller. House of Mirth is her 1st literary success. Lily Bart is an accurate portrayal of NY’s aristocracy at the turn of the century. Bart is her most unforgettable character. She is beautiful but finds herself broke from gambling debts and needs to find a wealthy husband. This ultimately leads to her tragic downfall. I found this book most interesting and look forward to reading Age of Innocence next. ( )
  EadieB | Apr 14, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (45 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
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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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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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

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