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Novels: The House of Mirth / The Reef / The Custom of the Country / The Age of Innocence (Library of America) Hardcover


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Novels: The House of Mirth / The Reef / The Custom of the Country / The Age of Innocence (Library of America) + Edith Wharton: Vol.2 Collected Stories 1911-1937 (Library of America)
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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America
  • Hardcover: 1328 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (May 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940450313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940450318
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Along with her good friend Henry James, Edith Wharton was an expert at studying the stiff social fabric of New York in the 1800's. In this collection of some of her best work, the reader is invited into the lives of characters who struggle against the confines of society, for love and/or their own sanity. The House of Mirth is one of the best novels I've ever read, with the thoroughly captivating character of Lily Bart taking center stage. Wharton proved that she could see love and all of its tribulations through the eyes of a man when she wrote The Age of Innocence. No matter what she wrote, she did so with unerring detail and an almost uncanny knack for "the right phrase" for every situation. This collection is an interesting study not only of "old New York" but of characters who stay with you long after the last sentence is savored.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
America and Europe of the 1800s were stiff, gilded, formal place, full of "old" families, rigid customs and social transgressions.

And nobody chronicled them better than Edith Wharton, who spun exquisitely barbed novels out of the social clashes of the late nineteenth century. This collection brings together four of her best books, exploring the nature of infidelity, passion, social-climbing and a woman's place in an unfriendly world.

"Age of Innocence" is a pretty ironic title. Newland Archer, of a wealthy old New York family, has become engaged to pretty, naive May. But as he tries to get their wedding date moved up, he becomes acquainted with May's exotic cousin, Countess Olenska, who has returned home after dumping her cheating count husband. At first, the two are friends, but then they become something more.

After Newland marries May, the attraction to the mysterious Countess and her free, unconventional life becomes even stronger. He starts to rebel in little ways, but he's still mired in a 100% conventional marriage, job and life. Will he become an outcast and go away with the beautiful countess, or will he stick with May and a safe, dull life?

"The Custom of the Country" takes whatever is biting about "Age of Innocence" and magnifies it. Undine Spragg is a mesmerizing beauty from a tiny town, whose parents made a small-scale fortune and have moved to the glitzy world of New York. Undine wants the best of everything, more than her family can afford, but she thinks it's all worth it -- so she marries a besotted son of "old New York," but it doesn't take long for him to realize how incompatible they are.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
America and Europe of the 1800s were stiff, gilded, formal place, full of "old" families, rigid customs and social transgressions.

And nobody chronicled them better than Edith Wharton, who spun exquisitely barbed novels out of the social clashes of the late nineteenth century -- both social clashes, and ones between the sexes. This collection brings together four of her best books, exploring the nature of infidelity, passion, social-climbing and a woman's place in an unfriendly world. And each story is tinged with tragedy, satire or romance.

"Age of Innocence" is a pretty ironic title. Newland Archer, of a wealthy old New York family, has become engaged to pretty, naive May. But during his engagement, he becomes acquainted with May's exotic cousin, the still-legally-married Countess Olenska -- and after his marriage, his attraction to the mysterious Countess and her unconventional ways becomes even stronger. Will he become an outcast and leave with her, or stick with a life of conformity and safety with his young wife?

"The Custom of the Country" takes whatever is biting about "Age of Innocence" and magnifies it. Undine Spragg is a mesmerizing beauty from a tiny town, who wants the best of everything -- more than her family can afford, or ever will be able to. She begins by marrying a young scion of "old money", and leaving divorce, death and broken hearts in her wake. She does all this while hiding a then-shameful secret. The only way to succeed lies in the one man who sees her for what she is.

But the mockery in "House of Mirth" is not meant to be funny, but saddening and eye-opening instead -- because an impoverished single woman's lot in the 1800s was a sad one. Lily Bart is on the prowl for a marriage to keep her in luxury and affluent circles.
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By reading man on April 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Edith Wharton is sometimes called the female Henry James, and there's an element of truth in this, because both write almost exclusively about the upper classes.

James clearly was a great artist, even though at least half of his output is unreadable expect by professors or English Lit completists. Wharton's virtues are modest by comparison, and I would say that unless you have a particular interest in the period and the people she writes about (as did, for example, Louis Auchincloss), she won't hold your interest.

Her later novels, written after the four included in this volume, are a genuine falling-off. I defy anyone other than an academic to read them.

Not a great writer, in my humble opinion, and the fact that she's included in the "Library of America" indicates the paucity of major literary talents in the 19th/early 20th century American scene.
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