- Paperback: 428 pages
- Publisher: Nabu Press (August 7, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1174565519
- ISBN-13: 978-1174565519
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.9 x 9.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,069,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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About the Author
Edith Wharton (1862-1937), American novelist and short-story writer, was born in New York City. Strongly influenced by Henry James, she is best known for her subtle and su-perbly crafted studies of the tragedies and ironies in the lives of members of middle-class and artistocratic New York soci-ety in the the nineteenth century. She was educated in New York and Europe, and married Edward Wharton, a Boston banker, in 1885. When her husband became mentally ill, she cared for him until 1913, when she settled permanently in France and divorced him. Among her best and most characteristic works are The House of Mirth (1905) and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she received a Pultizer prize. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
There's plenty to entertain, though. I found her stories of early "motoring" in the Berkshires of Massachusetts illuminating and fun - for instance her observation that the automobile opened up an entirely new range (both in terms of miles traveled and sights seen) of day trip, and the excitement that provided.
I was interested to read how the ten years creating and living at The Mount, her famous house near Lenox MA received rather short, if affectionate, mention in the text. I've always taken her book with Ogden Codman, The Decoration of Houses, to be a defining work not just for decorators and the history of American interior design, but for her as well. Now I sense better how much of that book is Codman put into her words. Still, later in the book she frequently recalls those days, especially the motoring, and the trips they took through the country and into the mountains provide much of the rich background in novels like Summer and Ethan Frome - works she herself rates highly.
It may be that the European setting of much of the 20th century years makes the book take off at that point, but it's also the work she does in that era, and, necessarily, the people that fame brings into her life. Her friendship with Henry James is paramount among these, and the poignancy with which she writes about his last years (during WWI) and her regretted neglect of him at the end (she was in Paris, while he was in England) is moving. When, out of loyalty to his adopted England and before America joined the war, James renounces his American citizenship and officially becomes an Englishman, she thought it a mistake. "Not knowing what to say I refrained from writing to him; and I regret it now, for I think the act comforted him, and it deeply touched his old friends in England."
There is so much of value about writing and regret and achievement in the 2nd half of the book. Wharton provides insights into character development and the role of readers and critics in the writer's life. She's frank about the sense that she and her contemporaries were attacked when new for being radical, and when established for being quaint. Her own development as a writer is illumined by the changes the world was undergoing at the time - from travel in carriages to the independence of automobiles and expanded, faster rail service; from the Wright brothers experiments to warplanes and, though not mentioned, the passenger air travel available by the time she wrote this memoir The sense of the rapid change in the lives of women remains rather unspoken but still one of the elements affecting her own existence. (Of course, she also clearly believed her own generation in New York to be a turning point from the old-fashioned ways of a slower, duller city that preceded.)
So, for Wharton fans, for WWI aficionados, and for the rest of you who find some attraction here - go for it. The writing is obviously expert, the observations sound or, when not, provocative.