Customer Reviews

401
3.9 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Edith Wharton filled her novels with a feeling of ruin, passion and restriction. People can fall in love, but rarely do things turn out well.

But but few of even her books can evoke the feeling of "Ethan Frome," whick packs plenty of emotion, vibrancy and regrets into a short novella. While the claustrophobic feeling doesn't suit her writing well, she still spins a beautiful, horrifying story of a man facing a life without hope or joy.

It begins nearly a quarter of a century after the events of the novel, with an unnamed narrator watching middle-aged, crippled Ethan Frome drag himself to the post-office. He becomes interested in Frome's tragic past, and hears out his story.

Ethan Frome once hoped to live an urban, educated life, but ended up trapped in a bleak New England town with a hypochondriac wife, Zeena, whom he didn't love. But then his wife's cousin Mattie arrives, a bright young girl who understands Ethan far better than his wife ever tried to. Unsurprisingly, he begins to fall in love with her, but still feels an obligation to his wife.

But then Zeena threatens to send Mattie away and hire a new housekeeper, threatening the one bright spot in Ethan's dour life. Now Ethan must either rebel against the morals and strictures of his small village, or live out his life lonely. But when he and Mattie try for a third option, their affair ends in tragedy.

Wharton was always at her best when she wrote about society's strictures, morals, and love that defies that. But rather than the opulent backdrop of wealthy New York, here the setting is a bleak, snowy New England town, appropriately named Starkfield. It's a good reflection of Ethan Frome's life, and a good illustration of how the poor can be trapped.

Even when she describes a "ruin of a man" in a cold, distant town, Wharton spins beautiful prose ("the night was so transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked gray against the snow") and eloquent symbolism, like the shattered pickle dish. There's only minimal dialogue -- most of what the characters think and feel is kept inside.

Instead she piles on the atmosphere, and increases the tension between the three main characters, as attraction and responsibility pull Ethan in two directions. It all finally climaxes in the disaster hinted at in the first chapter, which is as beautifully written and wistful as it is tragic.

If the book has a flaw, it's the incredibly small cast -- mainly just the main love triangle. Ethan's not a strong or decisive man, but his desperation and loneliness are absolutely heartbreaking, as well as his final fate. Mattie seems more like a symbol of the life he wants that a full-fledged person, and Zeena is annoying and whiny up until the end, when we see a different side of her personality. Not a stereotypical shrew.

"Ethan Frome" is a true tragedy -- as beautifully written as it is, it's still Wharton's description of how a man merely survives instead of living, hopeless and devastated.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
73 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2000
Format: School & Library Binding
Once in a while you have to put down those current novels, and read some classic literature. And Edith Wharton is one of the best.
This story takes place in the cold, bleak winter farmlands of Massachusetts. Ethan Frome, a poor farmer, has a hard life tending to his land, trying to make a meager living, and also taking care of his ungrateful, demanding, sickly wife, Zeena. When her cousin, Mattie, comes to help her, Ethan's life changes completely. He falls deeply in love with Mattie. This being the 1800's, he must endure the stifling conventions of that era's society also. There love for each other proves to be a fascinating story.
I loved this book. This is a story that will definitely take you away. You'll actually feel you are there. Edith's detail description of the scenery and landscape of that time are truly vivid. I found myself pausing from my reading to look outside to see if it was actually snowing. I highly suggest you find time to read "Edith Wharton's books, you'll be grateful. I certainly was!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This is a short, intense novel that absolutely gripped me when I read it. The cold, bleak setting seems so appropriate to Ethan Frome's existence. A life full of obligation and duty, with no hint of joy or spontaneity.

Mattie Silver, a cousin of Ethan's wife Zenobia (Zeena) brings a small amount of light and life into Ethan's life. Ethan pays a heavy price for this, as do both Mattie and to a lesser extent Zeena.

This is a sad novel about duty, tragedy and mutual obligation. It is not a light read, but it is a wonderful piece of prose that demonstrates that there is a form of beauty in brevity.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ethan Frome is the sad story of a hopeless marriage worsened by the blossoming of star-crossed love. Ethan and his invalid wife Zeena resent their loveless marriage and life together. When Zeena's sickness requires additional attention, Zeena's cousin Mattie is invited to Starkfield. Mattie's lovely and warm personality contrasts Zeena's cold character, revealing to Ethan how much is missing from his life. He and Mattie immediately fall in love, but with Zeena's constant presence their love is doomed from the start. All of the characters are well-defined, especially Ethan. Although her writing style is hardly complex, Wharton, a woman, demonstrates an amazing skill in creating a believable sensitive and stern main character. Her vivid descriptions of nature throughout the book create an environment that is chillingly beautiful and captivate the reader. Wharton creates a sense of isolation and regret, often countered content and happiness. Ethan Frome is a classic. Wharton writes a novel that is both easy to follow and sophisticated. The ending is extremely suspenseful with a surprising result. This novel is recommended for anyone who wants to read a short, simple love story.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon February 3, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Ethan Frome," by Edith Wharton, is a fine example of Wharton's skill and power as a writer of fiction. But beyond that, this is a really depressing read. The story is basically a domestic tragedy set in the cold, grim town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. The title character is a poor farmer whose wife, Zeena, seems to be a hypochondriac. Their life together is complicated by Ethan's problematic attachment to Zeena's cousin, Mattie, who has come to live with them.
Wharton's prose is impressive on many levels. She really brings the reader into Ethan's tormented mind, and the effect is heartbreaking. Her representation of American vernacular speech is intriguing, as is her use of foreshadowing. Ethan--"the most striking figure in Starkfield, though he was but the ruin of a man"--is a memorable creation.
Ultimately, "Ethan" is a horrific vision of human coldness, cruelty, bitterness, hopeless, and longing. Despite Wharton's abundant talent, the book is a hard pill to swallow.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure why folks read Amazon reviews with regard to the classics, so I will try to be relevant with this one.

1. I started an aggressive reading program seven (7) years ago at the age of 51. I delayed getting to Edith Wharton because I was intimidated by her. I thought she was unapproachable and uninteresting. Big mistake. Her autobiography, "A Backward Glance" is a hoot. But for a first Edith Wharton story, read "Ethan Frome."

2. "Ethan Frome" is all of 70 pages long; it can be read in one sitting.

3. Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

4. Get the Wordsworth edition; it has a wonderful introduction/critical review of "Ethan Frome" as well as Edith's own introduction. But don't read the Wordsworth introduction until AFTER you've read the story. (You should read Edith's introduction, however.)
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Edith Wharton filled her novels with a feeling of ruin, passion and restriction. People can fall in love, but rarely do things turn out well.

But but few of even her books can evoke the feeling of "Ethan Frome," whick packs plenty of emotion, vibrancy and regrets into a short novella. While the claustrophobic feeling doesn't suit her writing well, she still spins a beautiful, horrifying story of a man facing a life without hope or joy.

It begins nearly a quarter of a century after the events of the novel, with an unnamed narrator watching middle-aged, crippled Ethan Frome drag himself to the post-office. He becomes interested in Frome's tragic past, and hears out his story.

Ethan Frome once hoped to live an urban, educated life, but ended up trapped in a bleak New England town with a hypochondriac wife, Zeena, whom he didn't love. But then his wife's cousin Mattie arrives, a bright young girl who understands Ethan far better than his wife ever tried to. Unsurprisingly, he begins to fall in love with her, but still feels an obligation to his wife.

But then Zeena threatens to send Mattie away and hire a new housekeeper, threatening the one bright spot in Ethan's dour life. Now Ethan must either rebel against the morals and strictures of his small village, or live out his life lonely. But when he and Mattie try for a third option, their affair ends in tragedy.

Wharton was always at her best when she wrote about society's strictures, morals, and love that defies that. But rather than the opulent backdrop of wealthy New York, here the setting is a bleak, snowy New England town, appropriately named Starkfield. It's a good reflection of Ethan Frome's life, and a good illustration of how the poor can be trapped.

Even when she describes a "ruin of a man" in a cold, distant town, Wharton spins beautiful prose ("the night was so transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked gray against the snow") and eloquent symbolism, like the shattered pickle dish. There's only minimal dialogue -- most of what the characters think and feel is kept inside.

Instead she piles on the atmosphere, and increases the tension between the three main characters, as attraction and responsibility pull Ethan in two directions. It all finally climaxes in the disaster hinted at in the first chapter, which is as beautifully written and wistful as it is tragic.

If the book has a flaw, it's the incredibly small cast -- mainly just the main love triangle. Ethan's not a strong or decisive man, but his desperation and loneliness are absolutely heartbreaking, as well as his final fate. Mattie seems more like a symbol of the life he wants that a full-fledged person, and Zeena is annoying and whiny up until the end, when we see a different side of her personality. Not a stereotypical shrew.

"Ethan Frome" is a true tragedy -- as beautifully written as it is, it's still Wharton's description of how a man merely survives instead of living, hopeless and devastated.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2006
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Edith Wharton was sort of an American Jane Austen, in that she wrote almost exclusively about the society of her time. However, I have found Wharton to be better than Austen, if for no other reason than Wharton's characters have more depth--Wharton's characters are immediately recognizable as people. Ethan Frome was one of her most famous novels, and it is actually a departure for her, since it occurs in a rural Massachussetts town rather than turn of the century New York, but the stifling society presence is still here, and the story is very much a tragedy, just like her other works. However, I found this book to be even more devastating than The House of Mirth.

The book is about the titular character, a man who lives with his cold, unlovable wife and his young and lovely cousin. Clearly he is stuck, and much of the book revolves around his attempts to sort out his feelings and deciding what to do. It's not an exceptionally complex story, but it is a powerful one, with an ending which I found extraordinarily sad. In a way, Ethan gets what he wants, but it can only bring him endless sorrow. I don't want to give it away if you haven't read it, but it is quite well-done.

This book, if it isn't already, should be considered the very definition of American tragedy. The beautifully-drawn imagery and setting, the sublimated love and hate, the inevitable course and its tragic conclusion make this one of the finest novels I have ever read, and, I hope, one of the finest you will have ever read, too.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I recently checked out another edition of this book from our local library to enjoy this great writer's melancholy tale once again. The library had the 1997 Scribner paperback edition, with an afterword by Alfred Kazin.

Don't read that edition! Choose one of the other available editions, like this one or others offered by Amazon. Kazin totally ruins the reading experience. He compares Wharton unfavorably with other writers and mocks her choice of words and word pictures. When he does compliment her, it is always preceded by a caveat that strips her of her every achievement.

What an uncharitable piece of writing. It's incomprehensible to me why a publisher would chose to accompany Wharton's fine tale with this mean-spirited rant. An online encyclopedia says of Kazin that he wrote "out of a great passion -- or great disgust -- for what he was reading." You can say that again.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton, is a twisted love story that takes place in a New England country town in the middle of one of its infamous winters. Ethan and his sick wife Zeena live on an unmanageable farm where they live their life in poverty. When Mattie Silver comes to take care of Zeena, she brightens up Ethan's life and he falls deeply in love with her. He could never live without her... Wharton uses exlicit techniques so the reader can see and feel the story unfolded before them. In my opinion, Ethan Frome was enjoyable to read. The characters were more then they seemed on their surfaces. This made them dynamic and mysterious enough to keep me engaged and thinking even after I was done with the novel. The short length of the book gave the reader the chance to read slowly and carefully to catch the many hidden symbols.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
Ethan Frome (Dover Thrift Editions)
Ethan Frome (Dover Thrift Editions) by Edith Wharton (Paperback - January 1, 1991)
$2.70

Ethan Frome (Wordsworth Classics)
Ethan Frome (Wordsworth Classics) by Edith Wharton (Paperback - October 5, 2000)
$4.99

The House of Mirth (Dover Thrift Editions)
The House of Mirth (Dover Thrift Editions) by Elizabeth Ammons (Paperback - August 6, 2002)
$5.00
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.