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Summer (1917)

by Edith Wharton

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One of the first novels to deal honestly with a woman's sexual awakening, "Summer" created a sensation upon its 1917 publication. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Ethan Frome" shattered the standards of conventional love stories with candor and realism. Nearly a century later, this tale remains fresh and relevant.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Summer by Edith Wharton takes the reader far from society New York. Read my full review at John C Adams Reviews.


#Summer #EdithWharton #JohnCAdamsReviews #JohnCAdams #MondayMusings #literature #Book #Review #Reviews #BookReview #BookReviews #books ( )
  johncadamssf | Aug 15, 2022 |
I am so in love with the writing of Edith Wharton. It makes me feel foolish to have had such a writer in full view and passed her over for so many years in favor of lesser ones.

Edith Wharton's Summer is a different kind of novel than the others of hers that I have read, but not one bit less rich and enthralling. The main character, Charity Royall, is unsure of her place in society, raised in the home of one of the most prominent men in a small town but always made aware that she comes "from the mountain". The mountain is peopled with the poor and uneducated, who are so lowly placed as to have no status whatsoever in the society on whose fringe they live. Charity bounces between a feeling of position and power and one of abject inferiority, her very name being a reflection of her lack of legitimate claim on the society in which she lives.

Wharton brings all her elaborate writing skills to bear on this story, painting vivid pictures of the town, the natural surroundings and the people. The "love story" at the heart of the tale is full of tension and societal taboos, just as those entanglements we see in The Age of Innocence and House of Mirth. I became very involved in Charity's situation and anxious for her in the choices she was forced to make.

The odd thing for me was that I kept thinking of Thomas Hardy and found this novel had an atmosphere and feeling that was more akin with him than with the Wharton works I know. Perhaps this springs from the fact that Wharton sets this novel in a rural, small town area without any of the glitz, riches and style that are her usual trademarks. Charity Royall isn't trying to climb the social ladder or gain entrance into a society she watches from outside, she is inside the society already trying to figure out exactly where she fits.

If you have enjoyed other Wharton novels, you are almost sure to find this one a satisfying read. It is short, but powerful, and I closed the book feeling as if the story had come full cycle and reached its inevitable conclusion. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
The first words we hear from indolent, feisty Charity Royall are, “How I hate everything!” repeated twice. “Everything” includes her situation as the ward of a widower and her surroundings, the New England village of North Dormer (as sleepy as the name suggests). It apparently does not include the outdoors, her enjoyment of which is luxuriantly sensual: “All this bubbling of sap and slipping of sheaths and bursting of calyxes was carried to her on mingled currents of fragrance.” At the same time, she believes there must be more to life “out there” somewhere: Springfield, Boston, or perhaps even New York. Yet she only makes it as far as Nettleton, with consequences as unpleasant as that name suggests.
That sophisticated wider world comes to her in the person of a young architect, Lucius Harney, a relation of Miss Hatchard, who is the apex of North Dormer’s social hierarchy. Harney has come to sketch old houses in the area for a book he’s working on. Charity accompanies him and, through his eyes, begins to see the features that interest him.
Her own features interest him too, and before summer ends, things have taken their natural course.
Harney returns to New York; he has some “affairs to settle.” Soon after, Charity learns two things: she is pregnant, and Harney is engaged to the better-situated but less attractive Annabel Balch. Harney delays his promised return to North Dormer. Charity suspects that it’s because he hesitates to break his engagement. Finally, Charity writes, urging him to “do the right thing.” The book hinges on the possibilities inherent in that ambiguous phrase. She chooses to not tell him of her condition, and he interprets the phrase as permission to honor his commitment to marry Annabel.
As for her own future, Charity rejects the choices made by other village girls. She’s seen some of them marry the father of their child and begin a lifetime of mutual hatred on their wedding day, while others support themselves as prostitutes in Nettleton. She wants neither fate and seems relieved when Harney interprets the “right thing” as he does.
The only step below the world of North Dormer is the collection of ramshackle shanties on “the Mountain” (it’s never given more of a name than that). It looms over the village as a constant, foreboding presence. It’s where Charity was born and from which she was rescued when Royall, who is the closest the village has to an educated man, took her in. And it’s thither Charity decides to return, only to arrive in time for her alcoholic mother’s burial. During the restless night that follows, spent in one of the hovels, she realizes she doesn’t belong there either; she flees back down but is met partway by Royall in his carriage. Charity accepts his offer of marriage as the inevitable option, yet not in a way that seems as if she’s bowing to her fate.
Wharton is deft in charting the emotional currents and eddies of social intercourse. To me, this short novel can be seen as a Bildungsroman, yet an unusual one. Charity never regrets what she experienced with Harney and refuses to consider the result shameful. For this, the book was considered scandalous when it appeared in 1917, and its sales were less than those of Wharton’s other books. Its setting is certainly worlds away from the glittering society of New York and Paris Wharton usually depicts. Yet the rural Berkshires were also known to her, and another of her novels set there, Ethan Frome, is her most read. Nor is the theme of a disadvantaged woman lacking resources to live independently unusual for her. I can well understand why this book was Wharton's own favorite among her novels. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 11, 2022 |
  laplantelibrary | Apr 26, 2022 |
With each new Edith Wharton book I pick up, I'm utterly impressed by her tragic heroines trying to break free society's conventions. My stomach was in knots as Summer reached its upsetting conclusion--everything that main character Charity Royall didn't want to happen to her. My heart broke. ( )
  RakishaBPL | Sep 24, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Whartonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ammons, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rattray, LauraEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waid, CandaceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolff, Cynthia GriffinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A girl came out of lawyer Royall’s house, at the end of the one street of North Dormer, and stood on the doorstep.
Edith Wharton was fifty-five years old when she wrote the novella "Summer" in 1917. (Introduction)
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One of the first novels to deal honestly with a woman's sexual awakening, "Summer" created a sensation upon its 1917 publication. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Ethan Frome" shattered the standards of conventional love stories with candor and realism. Nearly a century later, this tale remains fresh and relevant.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0451525663, 0140186794

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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