HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Twilight Sleep (1927)

by Edith Wharton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3891066,853 (3.45)49
Out of print for several decades, here is Edith Wharton's superb satirical novel of the Jazz Age, a critically praised best-seller when it was first published in 1927. Sex, drugs, work, money, infatuation with the occult and spiritual healing -- these are the remarkably modern themes that animate Twilight Sleep. The extended family of Mrs. Manford is determined to escape the pain, boredom and emptiness of life through whatever form of "twilight sleep" they can devise or procure. And though the characters and their actions may seem more in keeping with today's society, this is still a classic Wharton tale of the upper crust and its undoing -- wittily, masterfully told.… (more)
  1. 00
    Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh (amanda4242)
  2. 00
    Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Satirische Romane über das Leben der höheren Schichten - immer mit der Angst vor dem sozialen Abstieg.
  3. 01
    A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (amanda4242)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 49 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
18. Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton
OPD: 1927
format: 407-page Kindle ebook
acquired: February read: Mar 16 – Apr 3 time reading: 10:12, 1.5 mpp
rating: 4
genre/style: Classic Novel theme: Wharton
locations: 1920’s New York City and some drivable countryside
about the author: 1862-1937. Born Edith Newbold Jones on West 23rd Street, New York City. Relocated permanently to France after 1911.

A later Wharton novel that brings some evolution in her writing. This one is considered modern because of the way she handled narrative and switching limited perspectives. The novel is looking at the failures of the 1920's leisure class, people finding various ways to blind themselves from hard realities, while praising progress and spiritual cures.

The novel looks at the efforts to save a bad marriage. Jim, the son of a very wealthy Pauline, married an orphan, Lita, who can't seem to get enough of anything. Jim is insufficient. She wants a divorce and wants to go on and become a movie star. Pauline, along with her own husband, her ex-husband, and her daughter, Nona, all find various ways to get involved, but each from their own limited perspective, and not necessarily in a helpful way. Wharton spends a lot of time on Pauline, who relies on her hired help, and fills her days engaging meaningless contradictory charities and getting healing from spiritual conmen. She is humorously blind to reality, throwing money at all problems. Meanwhile, her family is falling apart.

Twilight Sleep was a medical procedure that put a birthing mother in an amnesic state so they didn't remember the pain of childbirth. It was available only to the very wealthy. Here everyone is trying to not feel the problems of being human, the psychological pain. Pauline by filling her schedule, her current husband by being a workaholic. Lita by searching on for more admiration. Only Nona and Jim are left to actually feel something.

The novel finally comes across as a playful satire on 1920‘s NY moneyed culture. Wharton is having fun mocking supposed progress and 1920‘s shallowness, spiritual fads, bad parenting and human frailties. But there are also real weighty elements here. The youthful 1920‘s are represented in Lita and Nona. Clear-sighted Lita wants to be admired, with no concerns for consequences. Nona quietly sacrifices herself to manage her family‘s failures.

Recommended mainly for Wharton completists, but it's still Wharton. As long as readers are prepared for Wharton to have a little fun, you should be ok. It does reward reflection.

2024
https://www.librarything.com/topic/358760#8498520
  dchaikin | Apr 7, 2024 |
Another brilliant novel by Edith Wharton; the New York social scene brilliantly skewered, particularly in the person of Pauline Manford. She is completely unable to see the storm brewing around her because she only sees what she wants to see. Lila and Jim, who are the main focal point, are not as well-drawn out as I would have liked but Pauline, Nona, and Dexter are incredible.
  amyem58 | Nov 11, 2022 |
Wharton's a dab hand with the Gilded Age, but this take on the Jazz Age comes off as a pale imitation of Evelyn Waugh. ( )
  amanda4242 | Oct 11, 2015 |
The Twilight sleep of the title of Edith Wharton’s 1927 Jazz age novel, is a form of anaesthesia used (and recommended by one of the characters in the novel) by women during childbirth. It further represents the ceaseless search for a cure for boredom that seemed to have been the daily occupation for the women of certain sections of New York society.

Edith Wharton wrote three ‘jazz age’ novels; Glimpses of the Moon, (1922) The Children (1928) and this one. I thought Glimpses of the Moon was readable but as a Wharton novel a bit frothy and insubstantial, but I really rather liked The Children. For me Twilight Sleep falls somewhere between the two, not just chronologically, it has far more substance than Glimpses of the Moon. It is a little slow to get going – but having settled into it I did enjoy it, although it is a long way away from the sheer unadulterated brilliance of some of her more famous novels, it still contains some superb writing. What Twilight Sleep does give us is a slightly satirical examination of the fatuous, empty lives of the young (and not so young) wealthy inhabitants of 1920s New York society. The characterisation is sharp and while I didn’t much like most of these characters (that never matters to me as reader though) I was fascinated by them.

“Lita was on the lounge, one long arm drooping, the other folded behind her in the immemorial attitude of sleeping beauty. Sleep lay on her lightly, as it does on those who summon it at will. It was her habitual escape from the boredom between thrills, and in such intervals of existence as she was now traversing she plunged back into it after every bout of outdoor activity.”

Mrs Manford and her extended family are at the heart of this novel. Married to Dexter Manford, her second husband, Pauline Manford’s days are timetabled with extraordinary exactitude and managed by her secretary Miss Bruss. Designed to limit the possibility of having nothing to do, Mrs Manford’s days are a round of Eurythmic exercises, correspondence, committees, facial massages, meditation and consultations with which ever faith healer is currently in fashion. Pauline and Dexter’s daughter Nona still unmarried is in love with an unhappily married man, she often helps her mother with the talks she gives to the Birth control committee and the Mother’s Day committee, on one occasion almost mixing up her diametrically opposed speeches.

“Yes; Nona did admire her mother’s altruistic energy; but she knew well enough that neither she nor her brother’s wife Lita would ever follow such an example–she no more than Lita. They belonged to another generation: to the bewildered disenchanted young people who had grown up since the Great War, whose energies were more spasmodic and less definitely directed, and who, above all, wanted a more personal outlet for them. “Bother earthquakes in Bolivia!” Lita had once whispered to Nona, when Mrs. Manford had convoked the bright elderly women to deal with a seismic disaster at the other end of the world, the repetition of which these ladies somehow felt could be avoided if they sent out a commission immediately to teach the Bolivians to do something they didn’t want to do–not to BELIEVE in earthquakes, for instance.”

Nona is devoted to her half-brother Jim, the son of Pauline and her first husband Arthur Wyant. Arthur and Pauline remain on surprisingly good terms, and as Pauline frequently schedules a visit to him in her diary with a capital A – he is nicknamed exhibit A by the younger generation. Jim has been married for around two years to the beautiful Lita, but now, despite having a child, Lita is starting to feel bored and looking around for other entertainments.

“Pauline leaned forward earnestly. “I won’t pretend not to know something of what’s been happening. I came here today to talk things over with you, quietly and affectionately–like an older sister. Try not to think of me as a mother-in-law!” Lita’s slim eyebrows went up ironically. “Oh, I’m not afraid of mothers-in-law; they’re not as permanent as they used to be.”

Everyone it seems starts to concern themselves in Jim and Lita’s marriage – and whether it will fail or not – even Dexter who begins to pay more and more visits to his step-son’s wife. Dexter, a lawyer, had been horrified by Lita’s photograph appearing in a magazine article – and seeks a way to lessen the possible scandal. Pauline is relieved by her husband’s timely interest in her son’s marriage, while Nona feels his sudden interest to be unaccountably odd. In a bid to apparently try and stop the rot, Dexter arranges for Lita to spend some time with him Nona and Pauline in the country, while Jim goes on a fishing break with his father. Lita is not really suited to the country, and requires other entertainments. Nona isn’t the
only one with her (unspoken) suspicions.

There is a lovely little bit of melodrama as everything comes to a head, and the family scuttle back to New York, and then abroad.

In this novel Wharton seems to be observing (from a distance as she was still living abroad) a society in which marriage was thrown over with a mere shrug while new fads and entertainments were forever being sought. As so often, Wharton exposes the excesses and foibles of the people she writes about and charts their eventual downfall.

Twilight Sleep was my first read for Librarything’s All Virago/All August – during which some of us read as many VMC and Persephone titles as we can. ( )
2 vote Heaven-Ali | Sep 3, 2015 |
I give up. I'm not impressed. ( )
  jenngv | Jun 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Whartonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Farmer, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Alternative titles
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Miss Bruss, the perfect secretary, received Nona Manford at the door of her mother's boudoir ("the office," Mrs. Manford's children called it) with a gesture of the kindliest denial.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Out of print for several decades, here is Edith Wharton's superb satirical novel of the Jazz Age, a critically praised best-seller when it was first published in 1927. Sex, drugs, work, money, infatuation with the occult and spiritual healing -- these are the remarkably modern themes that animate Twilight Sleep. The extended family of Mrs. Manford is determined to escape the pain, boredom and emptiness of life through whatever form of "twilight sleep" they can devise or procure. And though the characters and their actions may seem more in keeping with today's society, this is still a classic Wharton tale of the upper crust and its undoing -- wittily, masterfully told.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Moving effortlessly between satire and sympathy, Edith Wharton paints a gleaming portrait of 1920s New York society. At its centre is Pauline Manford, indefatigable hostess and do-gooder, who rules her family with ruthless charm, Dexter, the generous lawyer who is her second husband, Nona her gentle daughter, and son Jim married to the exquisite Lita. When the preposterous Marchesa arrives on the scene, trailing debts and problems, Pauline strives with increasing desperation to keep her family togerther, too busy to recognise the threatening truth until it explodes in a tragi-comic catastrophe.
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.45)
0.5
1 1
1.5 1
2 4
2.5 3
3 16
3.5 8
4 20
4.5 1
5 5

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 208,926,656 books! | Top bar: Always visible