While America as a nation stayed out of the early years of World War I, with many Americans judging it to be strictly a European affair, the American writer Edith Wharton believed nothing less than that civilization hung in the balance in the allied battle against the Germans. Driven by a passion to save Europe from German domination, Wharton went to France and Belgium and involved herself with a number of war relief and charity activities. She raised funds, distributed medicine to the troops, and organized work projects for women. Most interestingly, she wrote a series of influential essays that sought to influence American opinion on the war and hasten U.S. involvement. She also edited an anthology of writings about and illustrations of the war by prominent writers and artists, the profits of which benefited war charities. Alan Price's book chronicles Wharton's wartime involvements and considers her wartime writings in an interesting view of an overlooked piece of literary history.
From Library Journal
Expatriate U.S. novelist Edith Wharton spent the years 1914-18 organizing, administering, and raising funds for relief for French and Belgian civilians displaced by World War I. Like her friend Henry James, Wharton identified a possible German victory with the "crash of civilization," and she fought it with forays into work unlike her other writings, such as war reportage and propaganda. Price (English and American studies, Pennsylvania State Univ., Hazelton) here uses Wharton's unpublished letters and the archival records of her relief organizations to depict a little-known period of her life and place it in historical context. He briefly discusses critical responses to Wharton's war writing and the uses she made of war in her later fiction. Smoothly written but without a strong narrative drive, his work will be most useful in academic libraries to support study of Wharton, women's war-relief activities, and the history of U.S. philanthropy.?Carolynne Myall, Eastern Washington Univ. Lib., Spokane
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