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Sanctuary (Classic Reprint)
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
In Part One, Kate Orme discovers shortly before her marriage to Denis, that her fiance has covered up the fact that his dissolute brother was secretly married to a lower class woman, and had a child with her. By this deception Denis prevents the woman from inheriting her husband's estate, and is able to hold on to his own inheritance, resulting in the suicide of the woman and child. Kate is repelled by her finance's deception, but marries Denis anyway. In Part Two of the novel, many years have passed. Denis has died at a young age, leaving Kate alone to raise their son, Dick who is now an adult. When Dick is confronted with a moral dilemma in his professional life, Kate waits to see whether the father's 'moral' flaw has been passed to her son, or if her nurture of her son has been strong enough to cure it. The novel is beautifully written and exquisitely nuanced, yet the difficulty for the modern reader is how to react to the story in our own modern age of moral equivalency. A modern reader may view Kate's extreme reaction to the moral dilemma provided to her son to be overblown.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Sanctuary" is a novella by Edith Wharton, published in 1903. From what I have read, the plot did not cause any surprises at the time, but today the story seems rather unusual. It is a story which deals with ethics, morality, and family honor. While there is nothing particularly unusual in that, some of the choices made by the main character, Kate, seem rather drastic today, and one has a difficult time imagining that any woman today would make similar choices. The story is divided into two parts.

In the first part, we get to know Kate Orme, a woman who is engaged to Denis Payton. She is a woman who has been sheltered from the realities of the world, and comes to learn of an unpleasant situation involving Arthur, Denis' half-brother after he has passed on. Through learning about the situation and how Arthur's family handles it, Kate is upset with Denis and pushes him to do the moral thing. Arthur mother comes to talk with her, and Kate learns that it isn't just Denis who is willing to protect the family name regardless of the act. Lastly, she learns from her own father that scandal's have been covered up in her own family. After a bit of soul-searching, Kate comes to the conclusion that the most moral thing for her to do is to marry Denis so that she can try to remove the character taint which his yet to be conceived son have. This decision appears to be very unusual and it is doubtful that anyone today would reason in such a way. Kate also seems to ignore that she herself must be tainted since her own father and family also has displayed moral weakness.

Part two picks up several years later. We learn that Denis passed on when their son, Dick was young, and that he squandered most of their money. We also learn that Kate has put her own interests aside to get Dick the best education she can. Dick is starting his career and an ethical dilemma arises which has Kate worried. She is suspicious of the motives of those around Dick, and becomes worried that he is making the wrong choice. Everything seems to be pushing him towards the wrong path, and the similarities between his reaction and that of his father Denis when he was trying to hide the truth from her are readily apparent.

It will likely be difficult for many modern-day readers to understand the motivation of Kate in this story, but that is due to changes in our society, and not a flaw in the book itself. Nevertheless, I don't think this book is quite as good as Edith Wharton's previously published works and so I round this one down to three stars. It is still worth reading, especially for those who enjoy her other works, but it isn't quite as accessible.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Edith Wharton's writing wallows in moral struggles and societal pressures, usually about adultery and social-climbing. But she tries a different approach for the novella "Sanctuary," a story that is thought-provoking and well-written, but feels more like the outline to a full-length novel than a story in its own right.

Kate Orme is wrapped up in her idyllic engagement to Denis, when a woman claiming to be his dissolute brother's wife kills herself and her child. To Kate's shock, Denis confesses that the woman was, but to avoid having a low-class person in the family, he suppressed evidence and lied. Even worse, he feels no guilt because he considers it worth the sacrifice.

Kate breaks off the engagement, but to protect any child of Denis' from his hypocrisies, she marries him. Many years later, Denis is dead, and their young son Dick is a blossoming architect about to enter a prestigious contest. But then a friend of his dies tragically, and leaves Dick his brilliant architectural plans... to enter in the contest as his own. Now Kate must see if her careful upbringing will make Dick do the right thing, or if he will follow in his father's footsteps.

Most of Wharton's books are wrapped up in ethical dilemmas or one kind or another, but "Sanctuary" tackles a very different kind of problem. And Wharton does a good job spinning out a sense of suspense, all about a young man who could tip either way, and inspiring disgust and outrage at Denis' weak, whiny defense of his crimes.

Sadly, the second half reads like Wharton was sketching out an enlarged outline for a novel, but got bored and just published it as-is. Details are sketchy, as is the society that these people live in, and more than two decades are skipped over instantly. Little of the storyline is fleshed out except for Kate's (seemingly endless) angst, which trickles on throughout way too many of the few pages.

Kate herself isn't easy to relate to -- she marries wussy Denis for a kid that might or might not be born, and spends most of the book torturing herself over Dick's future choices. She comes across as naive at best, manic at worst. Dick himself is a far more interesting character, since he exists in the grey area that most human beings inhabit -- he's a partying, slightly slackerish guy, but essentially good at heart.

"Sanctuary" tackles the grey areas and hypocrises of many "upright" people, but the second half drizzles off into a lot of bad angst and extreme reactions. Interesting, but it feels half-written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
After reading all these reviews, I have to ask: Are any of you people mothers of sons who have faced a moral crisis and and come out on top? This booklet resonated with truth and I applaud it.
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on March 5, 2014
I listened to the audio book version of Sanctuary narrated by Lee Ann Howlett. Sanctuary is one of Wharton's earlier novellas, having been published in 1903. As such it does not have the polished quality of her more famous works, such as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. However, Sanctuary includes Wharton's trademark use of dramatic irony.

The story centers on Kate, who marries a man after she discovers that he is morally flawed by failing to acknowledge his now deceased brother's wife and son, thus cutting them out of their legitimate inheritance. After her husband dies and she raises her son into adulthood, the son starts displaying many of his father's flaws. Personally, I felt Kate's actions to be that of a "helicopter parent" and very uncomfortable.

Lee Ann Howlett's performance was solid, having different tones and inflections for the varying characters. Her reading pace was also good and set the proper atmosphere for the story.

In short, Sanctuary is worth reading or listening to, especially as a study into Wharton's development of life and moral struggles in her characters, which would eventually earn her a Pulitzer Prize.
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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Edith Wharton was born in 1986 to an upper class family in New York City. She could trace her ancestry back three centuries, and was expected to live an aristocratic life. She was educated at home, and married Teddy Wharton in 1885, settling into her role as society marm. Her marriage ended with the discovery of Teddy's affair in 1913, and Edith set herself free to publish many books, of which the most well known is probably The Age Of Innocence. Edith Wharton was a contemporary of Teddy Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Henry James. The quality of her writing is just beginning to be appreciated.
Kate Orme is a young woman engaged to Denis Peyton. They are both aristocrats, and as such are expected to remain in rigid roles, with the man shielding the woman from all upsets. When Denis confesses to a despicable act to protect his family's name involving the death of a young, pregnant woman who was secretly married to his brother, Kate is shattered by the exposure of this act. She decides to marry Denis anyway to protect his future children, and sets out to become the perfect mother. She has a son, who she raises by herself after Denis' death, but this son seems to have inherited the faulty character gene of his father. When a situation arises to test the meddle of her son, Kate has her doubts as to her ability as a mother:
"As she sat there in the radius of lamp-light which, for so many evenings, had held Dick and herself in a charmed circle of tenderness, she saw that her love for her boy had come to be merely a kind of extended egotism. Love had narrowed instead of widening her, had rebuilt between herself and life the very walls which, years and years before, she had laid low with bleeding fingers. It was horrible... How she had come to sacrifice everything to the one passion of ambition for her boy..."
Wharton is, obviously, a first rate writer who has gone without accolades for far too long because of her gender. It is fitting that her works be rediscovered by a wider audience. Her insight into gender differences and difficulties is far ahead of her time...a time when women were relegated to narrow roles of motherhood because they were thought to be of inferior intellect. Aside from that, Wharton's writing is so smooth that the reader is instantly ensnared. A great read.
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on July 25, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Although she is from another era I find her work interesting and easy to follow and would read more of her work.
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on September 3, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book started off very well with the death of a woman and her unborn child and if the book had continued in the solving of this situation and had then went on to the moral value of the story about how to live your life it would have been great but it just stopped and then started on something completely unrelated and it took to the end of the book to hook up the two parts and to me it just took away from the story.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is a slow-moving, albeit short, story about a woman who realizes that her husband-to-be is amoral, marries him anyway, and then is burdened with the fear that her son is a chip off the old block. The woman's mental state is enough to drive anyone crazy, so unless you're really wanting to be depressed, don't bother to open the cover of this one!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I got a whole bunch of free books to download. Haven't read it yet. Doesn't appear to be any issues with downloading.
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