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Twilight Sleep Paperback – December 9, 1997

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reissue edition (December 9, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684839644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684839646
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


New York Evening Post 1927 A brilliant and penetrating study of life in the upper social circles of New York...its people all fully and sharply characterized, its story managed with the most praiseworthy dexterity, and the whole seasoned with the acid of Mrs. Wharton's keen satire.

Gore Vidal There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as "major" -- and Edith Wharton is one.

About the Author

America's most famous woman of letters, and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, Edith Wharton was born into one of the last "leisured class" families in New York City, as she put it, in 1862. Educated privately, she was married to Edward Wharton in 1885, and for the next few years they spent their time in the high society of Newport, Rhode Island, then Lenox, Massachusetts, and Europe. It was in Europe that Wharton first met Henry James, who was to have a profound and lasting influence on her life and work. Wharton's first published book was a work of nonfiction in collaboration with Ogden Codman, The Decoration of Houses (1897), but from early on, her marriage had been a source of distress, and she was advised by her doctor to write fiction to relieve her nervous tension. Wharton's first short stories appeared in Scribner's Magazine, and although she published several volumes of fiction around the turn of the century, including The Greater Inclination (1899), The Touchstone (1900), Crucial Instances (1901), The Valley of Decision (1902), Sanctuary (1903), and The Descent of Man and Other Stories (1904), it was not until the publication of the bestselling The House of Mirth in 1905 that she was recognized as one of the most important novelists of her time for her keen social insight and subtle sense of satire. In 1906 Wharton visited Paris, which inspired Madame de Treymes (1907), and made her home there in 1907, finally divorcing her husband in 1912. The years before the outbreak of World War I represent the core of her artistic achievement with the publication of Ethan Frome in 1911, The Reef in 1912, and The Custom of the Country in 1913. During the war she remained in France organizing relief for Belgian refugees, for which she was later awarded the Legion of Honor. She also wrote two novels about the war, The Marne (1918) and A Son at the Front (1923), and although living in France she continued to write about New England and the Newport society she knew so well and described in Summer (1917), the companion to Ethan Frome, and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Old New York (1924), The Mother's Recompense (1925), The Writing of Fiction (1925), The Children (1928), Hudson River Bracketed (1929), and her autobiography, A Backward Glance (1934). She died in France in 1937.

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Customer Reviews

This shockingly modern novel ranks among Mrs. Wharton's finest.
L. Dann
The characters are annoying and shallow and you don't find yourself really caring what happens to any of them.
Martha W Kellner
I sometimes stumble upon a phrase that is so sharply honed that I pause to think, "Wow! That's perfect!"
L. McCall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By L. McCall on September 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
Whenever I come across a novel by Edith Wharton, I know that it is only a matter of time before I read it. I look forward to the entertainment of visiting an exotic culture--the high society that Wharton inhabited. And I also expect to find an insightful portrayal of the human foibles that are not constrained by time and social class.

Edith Wharton was both a master of the English language and a keen observer of human nature. I sometimes stumble upon a phrase that is so sharply honed that I pause to think, "Wow! That's perfect!" Such was the case in TWILIGHT SLEEP, which holds up well to Wharton's better known novels.

In this story, the members of an extended family pursue all manner of diversions, fads, and fantasies to compensate for their inability to fully embrace life. There are some archaic attitudes and politically incorrect references, but on the whole, I was amazed at how contemporary the book felt. Although written and set in the 1920s, there are modern parallels to nearly every indulgence explored by the book's characters. In many ways, little has changed!

Pauline Manford, the matriarch who links the characters together, is an archetypical American in this affectionate satire. She's an optimistic, energetic but hopelessly simplistic meddler. Her daughter Nona, however, is thoughtful and perceptive. Like other Wharton heroines, Nona sees through many of her society's standards but can't bring herself to break free of them.

I could sense the plot accelerating toward a tragedy or at least a confrontation, so surprisingly, the book became quite a page-turner. Thanks to Scribner to bringing this and other out-of-print Edith Wharton works to my attention.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By L. Dann on November 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
This shockingly modern novel ranks among Mrs. Wharton's finest. Hard to imagine EW in the roaring twenties? She writes with the same personal grace and sly eye for the details behind the facade when focusing upon the moderns as when drawing the old New Yorkers. Those fading, listless aristocrats are included here as contrasts for the self-obsessed, alienated and narcissistic flappers. The novel resonates with modern themes, unfinished American themes; it may be the Jazz Age, but it is as now as anything I've ever read. It is also a gripping page turner- with characters at odds with the fates and the customs of society- as unforgettable as Lilly Bart's sipping of laudanum in House of Mirth and the farewell dinner for Countess Olenska in Age of Innocence.
Those uniquely Wharton flourishes abound; the sumptuous dinners with the invisible calculus of seating assignments, shifting winds of wars with reality and passion, all carried out in black boudoirs, silver crusted serving plates and overseen by women draped in jewels. Within it all the people suffer against an atavistic demon hell bent on tearing their refinement and their highly ritualized world to shreds. It is all here- within this fortunate reissue. If you are a fan of Wharton, I guarantee you will devour this book. Edith Wharton's novels are national treasures- and this one is one of her finest.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Wharton is as stunningly effective as in "A House of Mirth", here conveying the frustration of a circle of people interdependent upon one another, destined to follow society's rules no matter what the cost. Each character desperately clutches at a "twilight sleep"; the mode of coping each engages to distance reality. Masquerading as habit or whim, the painted veil of illusion overlays each mode of addictive escape. Nona, the beautiful, well-bred New Yorker struggles with an imperatrix sister-in-law Lita, whose values (and their consequences) threaten the entire social order Nona's family fabric is woven of. The Marchesa dispenses her social value as Pauline erases her son's debts. Lita's tabloid exposure and screen career must be suppressed. The men escape into work while the women flail at vanity of excess. The whistle of tragedy sounds in the distance as Nona falls into love with a married man, her brother Jim hopelessly esconced in a bad marriage with a woman he idolises, while her father works himself into an eagerly embraced oblivion, while Jim's father openly drinks to forget the societal oasis he knew before his divorce. Nona's mother compulsively schedules all their lives to death, while pursuing the escapist mysticism of faith healing and the blind support of the latest guru. As the Jazz Age brings down the curtain on the theatre of old New York and its values, Art and Cinema loom. While the family coalesces at their country estate to save Jim and Lita's marriage, each battle with their chosen talisman against life and its evils. Much more is at stake and much more is lost. This startlingly psychological novel will fascinate any student of life. The sacrifice of a fragment to obtain the societal whole inevitably comes, more starkly portrayed here than anywhere, the novel having served as forceful denouement. In the tolling bells of Whartons' worlds, the death of illusion sounds the deepest peal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Doc Occula VINE VOICE on December 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
Face it: few women writers in the canon, much less male writers, can skewer women the way Edith Wharton can. Her brilliance is unparalleled, and 'Twilight Sleep' is no exception. Where Fitzgerald soft-shoed around the mores of the Jazz Age with a refined touch, Wharton simply goes for the jugular. Sometimes her sarcasm is blatant; other times, so subtle that upon finally 'getting it', I laughed aloud. And yet she never sacrificed the skill of her prose to make a point about society. Fabulous!
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