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Edith Wharton Paperback – April 8, 2008
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Delving into heretofore untapped sources, Hermione Lee does away with the image of the snobbish bluestocking and gives us a new Edith Wharton--tough, startlingly modern, as brilliant and complex as her fiction.
Born in 1862, Wharton escaped the suffocating fate of the well-born female, traveled adventurously in Europe and eventually settled in France. After tentative beginnings, she developed a forceful literary professionalism and thrived in a luminous society that included Bernard Berenson, Aldous Huxley and most famously Henry James, who here emerges more as peer than as master. Wharton's life was fed by nonliterary enthusiasms as well: her fabled houses and gardens, her heroic relief efforts during the Great War, the culture of the Old World, which she never tired of absorbing. Yet intimacy eluded her: unhappily married and childless, her one brush with passion came and went in midlife, an affair vividly, intimately recounted here.
With profound empathy and insight, Lee brilliantly interweaves Wharton's life with the evolution of her writing, the full scope of which shows her far to be more daring than her stereotype as lapidarian chronicler of the Gilded Age. In its revelation of both the woman and the writer, Edith Wharton is a landmark biography.
Hermione Lee's Reading Guide to Edith Wharton
Hermione Lee, about whose Virginia Woolf the Amazon.com reviewer wrote, "Biographies don't get much better than this," has turned for her next major subject to Edith Wharton. Wharton's classics, including The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, and Ethan Frome, are known to many readers, but Lee has prepared exclusively for us a Reading Guide to Edith Wharton that goes beyond those familiar titles to unearth lesser-known gems among her remarkable stories and novels, from the story "After Holbein," "a masterpiece of ghoulish, chilling satire," to The Custom of the Country, her "most ruthless, powerful, and savage novel."
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is at times, dispassionately academic. It has moments, and at its best one has the sense that Lee is weaving, or knitting, a complete picture of who Edith Wharton might actually have been. Yes, there are some things we will never know, but I get the idea. Some chapters moved along briskly, other didn't (for me). The chapter called "Italian Backgrounds" is loaded with minute detail about those kinds of gardens and Wharton's interest in them (as you would guess from the title). I'm not a gardener, however, and found myself losing interest - there is A LOT of description of Italian Gardens. Illustrations would have helped (me).Read more ›
A writer of short stories, poems and novels, she wrote of ghost stories, decorating, social satires of New York, and war correspondence from the Great War. Edith Wharton was a woman of many talents who will keep the reader entralled long after the biography ends.
Lee does speculate on some matters, and maybe my problem is more with the subject of Wharton than what Lee wrote. Edith Wharton buried and hid so much of her life that it may never be known what made her tick.
I just wish I didn't have to spend so much time reading this book to find that out, as it's very lengthy, and "drowning" in details.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a very long book that gives an extensive and comprehensive summary of Ms Wharton's work. It did not provide much insight into her personal life day to day, but it did give... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Lisa D.
After visiting her home in Lennox, MA, I wanted to know more about this talented woman who had designed a beautiful house, written such great novels and then been deeply involved... Read morePublished 5 months ago by L. Matthews
I could try to be a great writer and throw superlatives around when describing this biography,but I'm not a great writer. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Joan Binnie
A magnificent, absorbing, monumental work. Edith Wharton was a phenomenon whose life inspires one to live to the fullest! Hermione Lee is a blessing!Published on January 19, 2014 by Edith Lufkin
I read with the certainty that I or my family would never be accepted as an equal in that life. But, I am quite willing too acknowledge that it is a great pleasure to view from the... Read morePublished on July 1, 2013 by Frodo Lives.
I don't know why, but I expected an older book. Probably because of the subject matter. But it was actually in "new" condition. Read morePublished on September 20, 2011 by Laura Reading
In short, Lee's biography is more than just a book about the famous author Edith Wharton. In this densely written book, we learn about the culture of turn of the century,... Read morePublished on July 4, 2011 by Becky at "One Literature Nut"
While Edith Wharton's titles have become part of the American literary cannon, few of her readers know all that much about the author who created such revered works of fiction. Read morePublished on January 12, 2010 by Todd Bartholomew
"Edith Wharton," Hermione Lee's huge biography is one of the best literary biographies I've ever read, in fact one of the best biographies ever. Read morePublished on November 16, 2009 by NobleLorre