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The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton Hardcover – August 9, 2010

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The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton + Edith Wharton at Home: Life at the Mount
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description
Edith Wharton, author of Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth, and other acclaimed novels, was born into a wealthy family. Beginning in childhood, Edith found ways to escape from society's and her family's expectations and follow an unconventional, creative path. Unhappily married and eventually divorced, she surrounded herself with male friends. She spent much of her life in Paris and was recognized by the French government for her generosity and hard work during World War I. Her literary and personal life, her witty and incisive correspondence, her fondness for automobiles and small dogs--all are detailed in this warm and sparkling account of a woman well ahead of her time. Includes a bibliography, source notes, and an index.

Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author of The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton

Dear Amazon Readers,

A good book always makes me curious about the person who wrote it. That happened in a big way when I finished Edith Wharton's novel The House of Mirth. After I read the biographical sketch on the back cover and the dedication, I was more curious than ever and started devouring everything I could find about her.

I'd read plenty of books about people who escaped from poverty to pursue their dreams. What I discovered about Edith Wharton was that she escaped from a life of wealth and luxury to pursue hers: New York society women of the Gilded Age didn't work, and they most certainly didn't write fiction. Edith Wharton defied the expectations foisted upon her to become a best-selling, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who made a terrific living with her pen. Why were there no books for young people about this courageous, fascinating woman?

Since I was a writer of picture books, I decided to try my hand at a short piece about her escape from society's expectations. But something else I discovered started pulling me another way. As an adult, Edith Wharton left the United States for Paris and found herself living there when World War I broke out. She should have decamped to England and waited things out in a luxurious country home she'd rented there. She chose instead to remain in Paris, endure the privations of the war years, and lay her writing aside in order to open a number of charities where orphans, refugees, and victims of tuberculosis could be cared for. I had the thought that maybe I should focus my picture book on her war work.

I pored over old letters in research libraries, visited Wharton's summer home in Lenox, Massachusetts, and found myself pulled in more and more directions. I began to think that I needed more room than a thirty-two-page book would give me--that I would have to write a full-length biography to tell Edith Wharton's story properly. But I was a picture book writer, a teller of very short, focused nonfiction tales. Should I defy the expectations I had imposed on myself and try this new thing? The answer was obvious: If Edith Wharton had the courage to strike out into uncharted territory, how could her would-be biographer do anything less?

So it was Edith Wharton's books that first drew me to her. But it was her determination to follow her writer's call, as well as her rich, well-lived life, that led me out of my own comfort zone and inspired me to write The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton.

I'd love to introduce you to Edith Wharton. As her writer friend Henry James observed, "You will find nothing stupid in her and nothing small."

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Mount--Edith Wharton's Estate in Lennox, MA

(The Mount photo © David Dashiell)

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-9–The Brave Escape begins with an explanation of the saying, "Keeping up with the Joneses." The term was coined during the 1800s to describe attempts at social climbing and as a direct reference to the family into which Edith Jones Wharton was born. This hook heightens the monumentality of the unconventional "escape" Wharton made from the rules of Gilded Age New York society into a writing career and a life of intellectualism. The narrative follows her from birth to death and continually highlights her struggle to reconcile society's expectations and her own upbringing with her lifestyle and career choices. Glimpses into her "imagining" sessions as a child and the heartache caused by a broken affair as a middle-aged woman create a vibrant and often endearing portrait of Wharton. Her writing underscores all, but just as much weight is given to describing her relationships, travels, and numerous homes. The target audience for a book of this scope and readability, however, appears to be quite far below the purview of the typical, mature Wharton reader. Black-and-white photographs and reproductions are included. A straightforward, sometimes charming title that may struggle to find an audience –Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT © Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1030L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books; 1 edition (August 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547236301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547236308
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge's vivid imagination and spirited storytelling are fueled by her love of travel, adventure, and the unconventional way she embraces all life has to offer.

She's lived in seven states, Washington, D.C., Athens, Greece and Seoul, South Korea; was a Latin major, a flight attendant for a major airline, raised four children who are five years apart in age, and worked at a job she'd dreamed of having as a little girl - a librarian in an elementary school.

From the time she learned to read, Connie loved to escape into her favorite stories - mysteries and fantasies. While other girls were devouring Laura Ingalls Wilder's adventures on the American prairie, she lived in the fantasy worlds created by 19th Century Scottish writer George MacDonald or went sleuthing with Nancy Drew.

Her love of travel began early in life, as her father's work moved the family from Black Mountain, North Carolina, where Connie was born, to several homes in Northern Ohio and finally to Sherborn, Massachusetts, where she graduated from high school. Connie attended Mount. Holyoke College, where she majored in Latin and earned a teaching certificate. After a year with American Airlines and two years teaching first grade at an English-speaking school in Korea, she attended the University of Chicago graduate school, where she received a double Masters degree in library science and education in 1977.

During this time she was recommended by Zena Sutherland, children's literature professor and editor of The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, to serve first on the American Library Association's Newbery-Caldecott Committee, which each year selects the recipients of children's literature's most prestigious awards, and then on the Notable Books Committee, which compiles a list of the best children's books published each year.

Married in 1977, she and her growing family made several moves while her husband was finishing his medical studies. She took her first step toward her dream of writing for children by taking a correspondence course through The Institute of Children's Literature. Her first acceptance, by Highlights for Children, was a Korean folktale adaptation. Soon she was a regular contributor to both Highlights for Children and Cricket Magazine.

Connie is the author of five picture books and a young adult biography...

Just Fine They Way They Are (Calkins Creek, March 1, 2011)
The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton (Clarion Books, 2010)
Thank You Very Much, Captain Ericsson! (Holiday House, 2005)
When Esther Morris Headed West (Holiday House, 2001)
The Legend of Strap Buckner (Holiday House, 2001)
Wicked Jack (Holiday House, 1995)
Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge and her husband, Carl, live in Richmond, Indiana where she serves on the Richmond Symphony Orchestra Board, the Every Child Can Read Board, and volunteers for Communities in Schools. They have four grown children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Cathe VINE VOICE on July 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I enjoyed reading this biography about an author I didn't know much about. According to the book, Wharton defied convention to become "the most accomplished and admired American writer of her day." Before reading this biography, I had only heard of a couple of Warton's titles and hadn't realized just how much she had written--and this book has definitely inspired me to check out some of her lessor known works.

Though the book is intended for a middle/high school audience, it was definitely interesting enough for an adult to read. The beginning of the book, which talks about her childhood, seemed almost geared for an upper elementary audience--it is written rather childlike. As the book progresses to her adult life, the writing becomes more sophisticated and the story more complex. My only criticism is that the middle of the book dragged a bit (for me) when the book focused more on Wharton's relationships with her many bachelor friends and travels. I hadn't even realized Wharton was writing during these period until suddenly it's mentioned that Wharton was on her 20th book or something.

Anyway, that small detail does not keep me from recommending this well-written book about an interesting woman and author. This would be a great addition to a high school or junior college library.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marie Antoinette VINE VOICE on August 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Just like another reviewer, I didn't realize that this book was intended for adolescents until after I received it. But nonetheless, I found the book very interesting while being informative. Additionally there are many great pictures throughout the pages. One of the things that I really enjoyed reading about was the Mount, which was a mansion that Edith and her then husband had built in Lenox Massachusetts to live there a few months of the year. I enjoyed reading about the Mount since I had recently been there and toured its spacious rooms and lovely grounds. It was also interesting to read about her life in France, as she spent time in her residences in both Paris and Provence. She also loved to travel throughout Europe.

It's interesting to note that Edith's parents were members of the prominent New York Jones family that inspired the old saying "Keeping up with the Joneses". Although Edith Wharton may be best known as the prestigious Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Age of Innocence" making Edith the first woman to achieve such an honor, many people may not know that she volunteered her time and energy in creating and running different charities during World War I, and because of this, she received Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France's highest and most distinguished award. Another book that I recommend (for adults) is an autobiography by Edith Wharton called "A Backward Glance". While I found her autobiography enjoyable to read, it's not as revealing as this book. As a matter of fact, this book sheds light on some issues that were not too clear on her autobiography.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Girl Friday Reader VINE VOICE on August 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I count Edith Wharton as one of my favorite authors and one of America's preeminent writers of the 20th century. Though this book is targeted towards children, I was surprised to see how honest and open it was concerning Wharton's life--from her cold childhood, to her unhappy marriage, and beyond--and found it a welcome companion to Hermione Lee's 2007 biography, Edith Wharton (Vintage). This incredibly rich and detailed biography is the perfect introduction to this very talented novelist. In fact, I foresee that Wooldridge's easy style will make young adults curious to read Wharton's fiction, for this biography details her influences and passions whilst writing her much-beloved works such as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton is well worth its price and is superb reading material for both adults and children.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mom of Sons VINE VOICE on July 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Edith Wharton is a fascinating American character, and "The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton" does a terrific job of describing why. It places her in the times in which she lived, as a really good biography must do, and American life in the upper social set at the turn of the (last) century, those late 19th and early 20th century years in old New York, the ritzy Atlantic coast summer homes, and abroad in France, really comes to life.

Her "brave escape" was her career as a novelist, a profession almost completely limited to men at the time, and her independent lifestyle in which she chose to distance herself from the vain and vapid socializing and customs of the upper crust, high society circles into which she was born.

I must confess that at age 53 I thoroughly enjoyed this "juvenile nonfiction." I felt comfortable with the language and never felt as if the author were talking down to her youthful target audience. There is something about nonfiction written for kids--it's not stuffy and it's understandable, it works with the reader instead of trying to impress, and it's not afraid to tell a good story. Writers of adult non-fiction, take note!

I think the best use of this book in schools would be in concert with the reading of one of Wharton's great novels, my personal favorite being "The Age of Innocence," which I learned from this book won Wharton the Pulitzer prize and made her the first woman ever to receive that award.

Recommendation: Two thumbs way up.
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