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The House Of Mirth

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  61,306 Ratings  ·  3,049 Reviews
A literary sensation when it was published by Scribners in 1905, "The House of Mirth" quickly established Edith Wharton as the most important American woman of letters in the twentieth century. The first American novel to provide a devastatingly accurate portrait of New York's aristocracy, it is the story of the beautiful and beguiling Lily Bart and her ill-fated attempt t ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published 1976 by Scribner Book Company (first published June 12th 1905)
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Samadrita
On occasions like this, I rue the absence of a 'tragedy' shelf or some variation of the same because mere 'melancholia' seems too modest, too equivocal a word to convey the kind of heartbreak Lily Bart's story inflicted on me.

It is, perhaps, apposite that I came to this with my mind still fresh from Anita Desai's stirring homage to a resolutely single, unsung fictional heroine who holds together a disintegrating family, unacknowledged, misunderstood, left behind and forgotten (Clear Light of Day
...more
Jason
Feb 16, 2010 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Lily Bart, the protagonist of Edith Wharton's stunning first novel, is introduced to the reader as a young woman traveling within high society. While her blood and wealth may place her on the fringe of that society, her "pale" beauty (as it is continuously characterized throughout the novel) elevates her within its ranks. Lily is marriage material. And within Manhattan's high society at the turn of the century, women are meant to marry; and in order to marry women are meant to maintain a reputat ...more
Sabah
Feb 04, 2016 Sabah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah!
forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah!, forget my fate!

On thy bosom, let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.


Like the aria of lament, Wharton develops elements of muted yet still luminescent prose, to fashion a tragic utterance. For within her prodigiously rich hues and alternating writing styles, her lyrically accurate exposition once aga
...more
Dolors
Jul 27, 2014 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: There's a hole in my pocket about Lily's size
Shelves: read-in-2014
Edith Wharton sets the New York social stage of the early twentieth century for a succession of short scenes that glitter with glossy superficiality. Lightning, backdrops and lush costumes are put on display to create a natural effect in this tableaux vivant of a novel, where Lily Bart stands out as the most stunning living painting ever. She is the leading actress of this theatrical narrative, a delicate flower bred for exhibition and ornament whose beauty shines with the precise effortless gra ...more
Glenn Sumi
Poor, lovely Lily Bart
Her tragic story
will break your heart

She runs in the best circles
Wears the right clothes
And flirts with rich men

But everyone knows
That she needs to marry
Someone – and fast!

At 29 her looks won’t last
She’s ringing up debts
Borrowing from men

And displeasing their wives
Not to mention her friend
Lawrence Selden, a lawyer
(but not very rich)

It’s Gilded Age New York
And life’s a bitch
If you’re not “old money”

Like the Trenors, Dorsets
And that odd Percy Gryce
The most you can do is p
...more
Henry Avila
Sep 23, 2014 Henry Avila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lily Bart, born poor but from a blue blood family, grew up privileged, well her mother pretended they had wealth, always telling her hard working husband, she will not live like a pig! He succumbs to an early grave, broke, at the turn of the century (20th), that is, the mother spends money, they haven't got, going to Europe, buying expensive clothes, jewelry, furniture, all for the sake of appearances, their friends, in High Society are very well - to- do. Since childhood, Lily is told one thing ...more
Joe Valdez
Jan 30, 2016 Joe Valdez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-general
Reading Edith Wharton's second novel The House of Mirth was like being kidnapped by Barbary pirates and held for ransom for ten fortnights; not a comfort, but an adventure. Published in 1905, this tale of Miss Lily Bart -- a young woman held prisoner by New York high society for her grace and beauty until her dependence on wealthy patrons makes her vulnerable to their whims -- carried me off against my will and held me with jeweled prose, breathless detail to character and droll wit. Wharton's m ...more
KOHEY.Y.
Mar 27, 2016 KOHEY.Y. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-library
I know many authors who can write beautiful scenes beautifully,but there are few who can also write sad scenes as beautifully as Wharton.Yes,she is a real pro at love tragedies.When reading,sometimes I cynically wonder if each description and character gangs together to dig nasty holes here and there,even though the heroine tries every possible effort to get herself out of them.The story line is simple and easily predictable,which leaves it to your imagination why each character thinks and acts ...more
Alasse
This book reminded me of when I used to tutor a particular 15-year-old boy. I'd arrive and he'd be snacking and watching this dreadful MTV reality show called “My Super Sweet Sixteen”. I used to spend a lot of time over there, so I caught enough bits and pieces of it to feel thoroughly revolted.

Those of you in the USA have probably seen it – it follows over-privileged kids as they organize and throw their lavish 16th birthday parties. But what I find scary about it aren't the 6-figure cars these
...more
Shannon
Dec 29, 2007 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-books-ever
This book has inspired my next tattoo. That is some fine literature. (And I am sure that if Edith Wharton were alive today, she would appreciate the tribute.)

I have this theory that the mark of great literature is that no matter how many times you read it, you can always plausibly hope, as a reader, that things might turn out differently in the end. Not that the actual ending is wrong; it's just that the character of Lily Bart is so alive for me, I seriously believe she might make a different ch
...more
Madeline
May 16, 2015 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The House of Mirth is the third Wharton novel I've finished so far, and while reading it, I was able to figure out why I love her books so much. Edith Wharton is witty, and her writing is beautiful, but more importantly, she is honest and realistic. She portrays rich, spoiled society exactly as it is - full of people who hide their own misery behind lavish homes and strict manners - and condemns it, but even as her characters realize how toxic this environment is, they are still driven by an ins ...more
Maggie
Mar 29, 2008 Maggie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I need to clarify here. Did I love it? No. Would I read it again. Probably. Would I recommend it to others? Probably. Did I recognize that it was beautifully written? Of course. The nuances of every thought, every move were so beautifully told. Do I realize the important part the book played in advancing the lives of women. Well yes. I guess I just wasn't fully engaged in the book. It didn't take me away. I just kept thinking "Oh you stupid woman." I also just may have identified with the positi ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 12, 2012 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Elizabeth
This will end up being a review of The House of Mirth, sort of.

“Wasn’t she too beautiful, Lawrence? Don’t you like her best in that simple dress? It makes her look like the real Lily – the Lily I know.” p.142

Let’s begin with rich, beautiful people. I am neither, and I come from a long line of neithers. I come from hardy, working-class stock – Scots-English, mostly. Lots of ‘em orphaned or abandoned and left to fend for themselves as a result of various kinds of neglect, addictions or just plain
...more
Laura
Apr 22, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, american-lit
So depressing I had to read two Nancy Drew mysteries afterward to cheer up. This is Edith Wharton’s other masterpiece, a Gilded Age tragedy of the beautiful and charming Lily Bart, who is trained only to be an ornamental wife — a big problem if you care who you marry and you’re dependent on relatives for money. Although essentially honorable, Lily does have her share of weaknesses and more than her share of bad luck. Assisting her inevitable downward trajectory is a society full of opportunistic ...more
Paula
Aug 15, 2011 Paula rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001
Dear Ms. Wharton,

I recently finished your book, The House of Mirth and am once again left disappointed. I so very much want to love your books. Your style of writing is beautiful and real, but the characters, oh the characters! I feel like I get to know them so well, and feel such hope for them, only to be crushed down at the end!

Let us not start with Lily Bart as that would be jumping in rather hastily. First, let's discuss the handsome Lawrence Selden, that book-loving, philosophical lawyer wh
...more
Agnieszka
May 11, 2014 Agnieszka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2011, reviewed

All the men and women she knew were like atoms whirling away from each other in some wild centrifugal dance...

House of Mirth is a satirical portrait of New York high society at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries . Opulence and sumptuous life , luxury and carelessness , false glitter , rituals and conventions . All that creates the title house of mirth , world of fun and easy pleasure , fascinating and cruel at the same time . Absolute vicious circle .

Lily Bart is charming and beautiful
...more
Malia
Dec 22, 2015 Malia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2015
If you have read anything by Wharton, you will know that mirth is rarely to be found in her work;-) That being said, her style of storytelling, for me at least, is so compelling and really draws you in. I liked this even more than The Age of Innocence, which was a surprisingly engaging novel, once you get past the fact that it's rather depressing.
The House of Mirth is the story of Lily Bart, a beautiful young woman, who gets into money-related trouble, which haunts her for many years to come. Wh
...more
David
Oct 16, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth made me think about a lot of 'stuff'—so if you're one of those self-righteous hall monitor types who scolds reviewers on Goodreads for not being relevant enough, then be on your way. There's nothing for you to see here except for some navel-gazing. Proceed at your own peril.

The House of Mirth centers on a privileged white female named Lily Bart who's navigating the precarious social landscape of New York City and its environs at the tail-end of the nineteenth c
...more
Martine
Jun 25, 2008 Martine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like good, insightful parlour drama
I love books about people who perish for staying true to their principles, regardless of what these principles are. I also love books which make me wonder what I would have done in the hero/heroine's situation -- whether I would have given in to temptation or let my better self prevail. So I love Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, which delivers on both counts, and then some.

The House of Mirth chronicles the rise and fall of Lily Bart, a stunningly beautiful late-nineteenth-century socialite wh
...more
David
Edith Wharton's House of Mirth is, I believe, her at her consummate best. The character of Lily Bart is complex, she is a moral battleground, she is both distinctly a product of her Golden Age society and paradoxically a modern heroine, a timeless heroine; she is both hero and villain, she is both to be pitied and hated; she is always ambiguous. Whatever Jonathan Franzen may say about Edith Wharton's unloveliness, what he has to say about her characters is not irrelevant: they are tortured beaut ...more
Hades
Jan 27, 2016 Hades rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hades by: 7jane
[Recommended by 7jane]

What can one say about the HoM other than it contains very high doses of both hope and despair. It gives with one hand yet takes with another. It builds then destroys, you will taste beauty within its words and you will taste the poison and then wait whilst it slowly decimates the pleasure it offered you momentarily ago. A Not really a story but a journey of hope and sadness, along the way you too will yearn for the delicate linger of optimism and compassion and will equall
...more
Dana Stabenow
Apr 16, 2015 Dana Stabenow rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Okay, I didn't finish it, I'm on page 41, I'm just not sure I can or want to continue reading. Wharton feels such contempt for all of her characters. A sort-of friend describes Lily as

...a captured dryad subdued to the conventions of the drawing-room; and Selden reflected that it was the same streak of sylvan freedom in her nature that lent such savour to her artificiality.

Ouch. Of one potential victim slash husband:

She had been bored all the afternoon by Percy Gryce...and all on the bare chance
...more
Tatiana
Jul 25, 2009 Tatiana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, classics, 1001
Edith Wharton was awarded a Pulitzer prize for a reason. Her writing is exquisite and her portrayals of 19th century American "high" society is meticulous and realistic (well, as much as I can tell living over 100 years later). "The House of Mirth" is no exception.

This is a story of Lily Bart - a young woman born and raised in luxury and sophistication who at the age of 19 finds herself penniless and depending on patronage of her wealthy relatives. Lily is an ambiguous figure. On one hand, she i
...more
Ashley
Aug 22, 2007 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this book earlier in the year, but couldn't really get into it. As it turns out, the book gets really interesting at about the exact same place I stopped reading before. I'd recommend this book for all of the "Jane Austen Haters" out there (and I keep stumbling onto them for some reason), because the ending would probably please you. It's not as pretty as it would be if Austen wrote this. I've heard this book described as a brilliant commentary on upper class society, but because of th ...more
Eric
Jan 24, 2008 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: peteredout
I completely soured on this by the end of Book I and start of Book II. I really don't want to finish it, but I might when in a better mood. The melodrama of Gus Trenor's attempt on Lily's virtue and of Lily's flight to Gerty really disgusted me; that's not the Wharton I like, the lofty and relentless social anatomist of The Age of Innocence. It was horrible to see Wharton's cool, classic prose break down into the exclamation marks and fervid dashes of a Gothic romance. In addition to the mawkish ...more
Jill
Love? Or money? You’ve read this story approximately 3,472 times before. But I encourage you to read it again.

Lily Bart, a Manhattan socialite at the beginning of the 20th century, must choose between love and money. It’s a seemingly tired plot, though truly it is not. Because nowadays the question is not love or money? The question is both please? in extra large quantities if possible? Somehow in the past hundred years, love and money have been concatenated. Simply consider recent trends: the
...more
Kim
Oct 24, 2008 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Leslie, Brittany
This book stunned me. I had no idea that Edith Wharton was so brilliant. I remember reading Ethan Frome in high school and thinking it was just way too depressing. I love reading authors as an adult and finding their prose luminous and wise...it makes you realize how little you knew as a teenager. Maybe we shouldn't even read classics in high school...I digress.
The thing that struck me about Wharton is her ability to dissect the female mind with a cold and objective accuracy. She has an almost m
...more
Sandy
Thoughts while reading
January 3, 2016 - I almost abandoned this book at the halfway point, thinking that I was finding it annoying but I kept at it. Book 2 is more compelling than Book 1 was and I find myself abandoning the audiobook in favour of the ebook in order to re-read complex passages. Come to think of it, I remember having done that with Ethan Frome and The Custom of the Country. Maybe it is the reader that I find annoying, or maybe Wharton is just not meant to be read aloud.

Upon finish
...more
Jenn
Feb 05, 2009 Jenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. I remember really enjoying Ethan Frome in High School, and, while I haven't read The Age of Innocence, I love the film, which gives such wonderful life to Wharton's words. When I started reading The House of Mirth, I kept hearing the narration in the voice of the Narrator from the Age of Innocence film. Then I began to realize how different this novel was. While the Age of Innocence shows how stifling the social aspects of upper crust New York society can be, this n ...more
Misfit
Aug 20, 2008 Misfit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19c-lit
"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" Ecclesiastes 7:4 KJV. Hence begins the story of Lily Bart, raised from birth with no other purpose in life than to be a beautiful ornament to society. Lily is left with little money of her own and must rely on family and friends until she can make an advantageous marriage. Unfortunately, she makes some poor choices in life which diminish her social status, which eventually leads her to attempts t ...more
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Edith Newbold Jones was born into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the a ...more
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“She had no tolerance for scenes which were not of her own making.” 152 likes
“Do you remember what you said to me once? That you could help me only by loving me? Well-you did love me for a moment; and it helped me. It has always helped me.” 139 likes
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