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

Edith Wharton
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $10.95
Kindle Price: $5.99
You Save: $4.96 (45%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Edith Wharton’s lacerating satire on marriage and materialism in turn-of-the-century New York features her most selfish, ruthless, and irresistibly outrageous female character.
Undine Spragg is an exquisitely beautiful but ferociously acquisitive young woman from the Midwest who comes to New York to seek her fortune. She achieves her social ambitions—but only at the highest cost to her family, her admirers, and her several husbands. Wharton lavished on Undine an imaginative energy that suggests she was as fascinated as she was appalled by the alluring monster she had created. It is the complexity of her attitude that makes The Custom of the Country—with its rich social and emotional detail and its headlong narrative power—one of the most fully realized and resonant of her works.

Editorial Reviews


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

About the Author

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was born into high society in New York City. After divorcing her husband in 1913 she took up permanent residence in France. Her many stories and novels were critical successes as well as bestsellers and she won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence in 1921.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1201 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B009BIS1DK
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,388 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Savage customs June 8, 2012
Few social climbers are as surreally despicable as Edith Wharton's Undine Spragg, who doesn't care what happens to anyone else as long as she can shop and party. And "The Custom of the Country" is the perfect example of what such people do to the people around them. It's nauseating and brilliant, all at once.

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.

And he doesn't realize that Undine is hiding a (then) shameful secret -- she was once married and quickly divorced from a vulgar businessman. In the present, Undine continues her quest for a life of pleasure, moving on to a French nobleman and getting just as dissatisfied with him. The only way to succeed lies in the one man who sees her for what she is.

Undine Spragg may actually be one of the most despicable, selfish characters in all of classic literature -- she literally doesn't care about anyone but herself, or who she hurts. You'd think a book about someone like that would be dreary, but instead it's one long needle at the people like Undine, who care only for money, status and fun.

But it's also about the changing fortunes in late 19th-century America (and Europe). New money -- symbolized by Undine and her shrewd, megarich ex-hubby -- was squeezing out the old guard, who were never terribly rich to start with. Wharton's observations on their rise and decline have a sharp, biting edge. Although compared to the anti-heroine, the old traditions seem pretty innocent.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Such an icy gaze December 19, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wharton at her icy best spares no-one her cutting commentary as she decribes her heroine's ascent from Apex through New York society and then through the older European society. The beautiful, ruthless, heroine Undine, whose name evokes a water-witch, was named after a hair-dryer by her manufacturer father. Money, the power of sexual attraction and climbing the social ladder are the themes of the book. Materialism and spirituality are sharply opposed. Divorce figures largely. The characters are wonderfully named and the plot takes a clever twist.
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3.0 out of 5 stars good if you like novels of manners September 6, 2013
This is a novel of manners set in the early 20th century primarily in New York and France. The selfish and intelligent protagonist, who is well drawn and charming, drives the story, which takes the reader through 4 marriages and many escapades as she schemes and strives for status and wealth. It is an engaging book. Plot tension and characterization are handled well. The omniscient narrator - traditional storytelling voice - is well done. Her choices of what to include and how to tell the story are masterful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Undine Spragg-greed personified January 26, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What a great book and insight into the Gilded Age . A good follow-up to Twain's Gilded Age at its other end
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