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The Custom of the Country (Bantam Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Edith Wharton
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $5.95
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Highly acclaimed at its publication in 1913, The Custom of the Country is a cutting commentary on America’s nouveaux riches, their upward-yearning aspirations and their eventual downfalls. Through her heroine, the beautiful and ruthless Undine Spragg, a spoiled heiress who looks to her next materialistic triumph as her latest conquest throws himself at her feet, Edith Wharton presents a startling, satiric vision of social behavior in all its greedy glory. As Undine moves from America’s heartland to Manhattan, and then to Paris, Wharton’s critical eye leaves no social class unscathed.

Editorial Reviews


"Edith Wharton's finest achievement."
--Elizabeth Hardwick

From the Trade Paperback edition.


"A well-presented edition. Orgel's introduction is superior."--Marvin Magalaner, NYU

"An excellent edition, with just the right amount of apparatus."--Burton Raffel, University of Southwestern Louisiana

Product Details

  • File Size: 687 KB
  • Print Length: 378 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1414291132
  • Publisher: Bantam Classics (December 26, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000W9183C
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,376 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
100 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wharton's Best June 16, 2000
What a marvelous author Edith Wharton is! I like to copy passages from her books just to feel how beautifully she constructs her sentences and paragraphs. I've also read Ethan Frome, Summer, House of Mirth, and Age of Innocence; they are all terrific novels. But The Custom of the Country is her best. Could there be a worse mother, wife, or daughter than Undine? And yet, she is too pathetic to hate; she is so needy and dependent upon material things. She's perhaps the most unliberated woman in literature! Do read this novel; you will love it and learn from it.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A spoilt heiress destroys the lives of all she meets. December 22, 1998
By A Customer
I have just finished reading Edith Wharton's THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY and have never wanted to strangle a protaganist so much in my life! Ms. Wharton has created a character that could rival any modern day soap opera vixen. Undine Spragg is spoilt, selfish, vain and socially ambitious. When Ms. Wharton writes from her perspective, I found myself at times feeling sorry for her. When she writes from the perspective of the people Undine ruins, I despised her. In the end, there is nothing kind that I can say about Undine Spragg. About Ms. Wharton, however, I can say she has again reestablished herself as a literary genius. In the character of Undine, Ms. Wharton criticizes the emptiness of greed mixed with vanity in a shallow person who knows nothing else. However, Ms. Wharton also makes it clear that Undine is not soley to blame for her character. "It is the custom of the country" her second father-in-law explains of Undine's stupidity, insensitivity and unending selfishness. Women who are so totally pampered and kept ignorant of the real world remain spoilt brats until they are old enough to truly hurt so many lives. The two saddest victims of her ruthlessness are her second husband Ralph, a sensitive writer from an old-money family, and their son Paul. Though it is doubtful anyone will like Undine, you will at times pity her. However, the genius of Edith Wharton is that through Undine we see the destruction of society and families by the ridiculous treatment of women in society of early 1900's. Another note on this particular edition of this and all Everyman books is that they are so beautifully crafted, it is always a treasure to read any book printed by this company. Besides being beautifully designed, Everyman editions also have wonderful chronologies of the author and historical references and literary events. They are truly elegant additions to any library.
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47 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Heroine is a True American July 26, 2000
By Scooper
To anyone who has read The Custom of the Country, the idea that Undine Spragg is the perfect personification of America would be something to think about. To those who haven't read it, my humble advice is that they read it and form an opinion on that subject. For now, I'll explain my reasoning: Undine is decidedly ambitious,and the levels of her ambition are often praised and lamented by other characters. She is a social climber, and she uses other people as the rungs in her ladder. So do many business moguls, however. So do normal people. We simply refer to it as 'doing what has to be done,' or 'having a way with people,' or even 'brown nosing.' Monopolies are built with these adverbs as their hammer and nails. Our way of life is founded on them. Yet we relish our dislike for Undine Spragg for attempting to build her life in this way, the only way she was taught. We do not notice that the essence of Undine is floating all around us. It built the house we live in and produced the computer we are using right now. It is the essence of Cold Ambition. It builds itself up with or without help, reaches its peak, sees a better peak, and climbs even higher. Success is never achieved, because to profess success is to say that we can do no better now. We are raised to believe that that idea is profane. We can always do better and go higher. Just read the last line of The Custom of the Country. It's a killer.
I think Undine was dangerous, personally. If I knew her, I would stay away from her as well as I could. But just look at the thoughts that this book brings out. Read it and join in the fun.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A woman trapped by society and personal greed. April 29, 1998
By A Customer
Undine Spragg - a beautiful women with very little intelligence. Her petulant behaviour carries us through this novel as she uses her family to propel herself through the ranks of New York society. She marries to further her stature and soon discovers that moving in the right circles only takes her so far without the money to maintain the lifestyle she craves. Undine discards the people of her life as they fail to provide the monetary support she needs and looks to affairs and friendships to cover her shortcomings financially. It would be easy to hate her character except for the fact that she is not smart enough to realize the hurt she causes those around her, she never seems to hurt them intentionally they just get in the way of her greed and ambition. At times I even pitied her.
Other readers thought she was content by the end of the book, but I don't think Undine will ever be content, there will always be greener pastures...
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among Wharton's best May 6, 2007
In The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton creates one of the most unlikable, even despicable, characters I know of in American fiction. Undine Spragg is not a murderer, sociopath, or monster, but an ambitious young woman determined to climb New York's social ladder to the very top. The ambitions in themselves are not inherently bad, and other characters clearly share them. It is Undine's utter lack of regard for anyone else, from her aging parents to her neglected son, that makes her contemptible. What makes her chilling is the odd combination of ingenuousness and its opposite; with rare exceptions she is oblivious to the rights, aspirations, and feelings of others if they do not pertain to her own objectives.

In Wharton's world, choosing the right man was as important to a society woman's future as selecting the right college, graduate school, or first job is today for a professional woman. For Undine and her friends, divorce carries no more significance than as a means to get out of the wrong job. As she tells her fiancé's shocked traditional New York family, "I guess Mabel'll get a divorce pretty soon . . . They like each other well enough. But he's been a disappointment to her . . . Mabel realizes she'll never really get anywhere till she gets rid of him." This dinner conversation foreshadows the rest of the novel.

Wharton reveals Undine's competitive nature through her childhood rivalry with Indiana Frusk, and her unsatisfied, reaching one through her travels with her parents. Undine will never be happy because there will always be someone with something she doesn't have, whether it is greater wealth, fame, or a title or position.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
good but not great. Much below the level of the Age of Innocence
Published 2 days ago by richard
3.0 out of 5 stars I like Edith Wharton novels.
Edith Wharton is one of my favorite writers. She writes about people of her era and how she lived. My two favorite novels written by Wharton are The Age of Innocence and The... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Grandma
5.0 out of 5 stars Poor girl. She was not careful what she looked ...
Poor girl. She was not careful what she looked for. I also realized that there was a real woman very similar to the protagonist, but born a generation later. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Joan Elder
5.0 out of 5 stars Man Eater
Undine Sprague is an unforgettable character. Beautiful, desirable, manipulative and completely self-absorbed, unconcerned with the feelings and needs of others, even her son. Read more
Published 8 days ago by M.E.
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
The story of Undine, a spoiled girl who marries and divorces her way to the top but will she ever be happy and how many will she destroy to get what she wants. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robbi Podgaysky
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the descriptions the author provides of society
A story of a very spoiled young lady wanting wealth and prestige no matter the cost. Interesting how she achieves that goal. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S. Stephens
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good representation of an ambitious woman
Undone really schemes her way thru life on two continents as she tries to be the leader of society in New York and Paris
Published 2 months ago by Hariot R. Lippmann
5.0 out of 5 stars More Than Meets the Eye
This is a profoundly insightful satire of manners and the power of rationalization. It is also a keen observation of the cultural setting, and timeless human interaction. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Anna Niemann
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a very good study of someone whois never satisfied with what...
This is a very good study of someone whois never satisfied with what she has. As the Bible says, "a lover of silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Writing - Ambitious Young Woman Wreaks Havoc On Everyone
This was my first Edith Wharton book, and the lady certainly could write. This is somewhat of a saga and follows the social climbing exploits of an excessively spoiled young woman,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Gettysburg Girl
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