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No Gifts From Chance: A Biography Of Edith Wharton
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No Gifts From Chance: A Biography Of Edith Wharton (Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series)

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  34 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
The first new biography of America's foremost woman of letters in twenty years, No Gifts from Chance presents an Edith Wharton for our times. Far from the emotionally withdrawn and neurasthenic victim of earlier portraits, she is revealed here as an ambitious, disciplined, and self-determined woman who fashioned life to her own desires. Drawing on government records, legal ...more
Hardcover, 546 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1994)
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Nov 02, 2010 Lara marked it as to-read
I'm enjoying this biography infinitely more than Hermione Lee's. Benstock's style is much more engaging, allowing the biography to feel more like a story about a woman named Edith Wharton rather than the pretentious (and inaccurate!) dissertation that is Lee's biography.

UPDATE: I've read a little too much Wharton. Need a break.
Apr 27, 2015 Elaine rated it really liked it
I found the life of Edith Wharton fascinating and had no idea she was so active in WW1 and set up so many charities. I also loved the vignettes between Edith and her friends, Henry James, Codman, Fullerton. Her comment in French at the home of Isabelle Stuart Gardner at a New Years dinner which got her exiled from future events was embarrassingly entertaining....I really liked this book. The woman traveled, had fascinating friends, and really was a powerhouse.
Richard Jespers
Jan 27, 2015 Richard Jespers rated it really liked it
Extremely engaging and informative literary biography of Edith Wharton. Very comprehensive and impartial. Benstock remains clear of her subject and allows the facts to speak for themselves: Wharton's affair with Morton Fullerton; Wharton’s philanthropic work in France during World War I; twenty-four dependents whom she supported in the last years of her life; forty-eight books, mostly fiction except for some in architecture, memoir. A pioneer.
Feb 19, 2008 JFN rated it really liked it
I first read this book in 2004 and have since reread it. It's the only biography I've read more than once, due largely to Benstock's engaging writing style and the thorough treatment of the material. You won't really know Edith Wharton until you read this book. Fascinating. It just flies.
Oct 03, 2012 Sketchbook rated it it was ok
An upchucking example of flavorless bio writing :
Just throw anything into a pot of research-goulash.
This recipe should not be encouraged.
Jane Lopes
Oct 27, 2016 Jane Lopes rated it it was amazing
Edith Wharton was one of the most important writers of her time, a fascinating woman who counted Henry James among her closest friends, who was considered a mentor of sorts by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is a compelling book about this incredibly talented and, in many ways, incredibly lonely woman.
Meghan Portillo
This is the first biography I've read on EW, so I'm not sure if my disappointments will continue into other biographies. Maybe it's because EW was largely Victorian in her upbringing and manner, but it seemed like this book lacked emotion, for the most part.

One of my first surprises was that less than 80 pages into the book, Edith is in her 30s -- what was happening during those other years besides her marriage?? Benstock only really catches up with her when she starts to become a serious writer
Kay Davis
Jan 14, 2014 Kay Davis rated it liked it
Shelves: edith-wharton
Shari Benstock's ample biography is useful for its descriptions of Edith Wharton's trips to Washington, DC, and her illness and recuperation in Philadelphia. Benstock provides good critiques of Edith Wharton's short stories.
Aug 15, 2007 Brynn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Wharton Fans
Wharton's life, though full of privledge and wealth, was far more complex than I knew before reading her biography. Her work in Europe during the Great War alone is enough to make this biography worth the read.
Jan 12, 2009 Biosyd rated it liked it
Oh what a life. To have traveled in Europe before McDonalds and The Gap got over there would be glorious! Its hard to imagine living during her time and having the lesiure to write and create. I bet she never knew they made movies out of her favorite being "Ethan Frome" with Liam Neeson.
Sally Anne
Sep 01, 2012 Sally Anne rated it liked it
For the Wharton fanatic. Well-researched and mostly well-written, it is just too detailed for any but the devotee.
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