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The House of Mirth

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  62,745 Ratings  ·  3,143 Reviews
First published in 1905, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH shocked the New York society it so deftly chronicles, portraying the moral, social and economic restraints on a woman who dared to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming the responsibilities.

Lily Bart, beautiful, witty and sophisticated, is accepted by 'old money' and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. Bu
Paperback, 351 pages
Published January 19th 2006 by Virago (first published June 12th 1905)
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Jody Yes! Highly recomend Emma Messenger! I just finished this yesterday. After listening to her performance of Pride and Prejudice, I'm working my way…moreYes! Highly recomend Emma Messenger! I just finished this yesterday. After listening to her performance of Pride and Prejudice, I'm working my way through all of the books she's done. She does not just read but injects a bit of performance and it becomes like listening to a play reading, different voices and speach patterns help keep all the characters straight.(less)
Hayley She paid back all the money that she owed because her personal integrity wouldn't permit her to return to society with a debt like that still unpaid.…moreShe paid back all the money that she owed because her personal integrity wouldn't permit her to return to society with a debt like that still unpaid. Also, there was the implication that Trenor at least expected some kind of "personal" favour in return for lending Lily money, and I can well imagine that anything she could do to avoid that prospect would also be high in her mind. (less)
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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
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
Jul 27, 2014 Dolors rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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
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
May 16, 2015 Madeline rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 29, 2008 Maggie rated it liked it
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
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
Apr 22, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
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
Jun 17, 2016 Phrynne rated it liked it
I enjoyed the social commentary and the author's beautiful way with words. The character of Lily Bart was portrayed excellently and I also liked Seldon very much and would even have appreciated more of him.
However the book was overwhelmingly depressing. Lily's fall from grace was so unfair and so extreme and I constantly wanted to see her find some way back. The ending is the ultimate in downers. So only three stars from me:(
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
Dec 22, 2015 Malia rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 25, 2008 Martine rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jul 25, 2009 Tatiana rated it it was amazing
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
Dana Stabenow
Apr 16, 2015 Dana Stabenow rated it did not like it
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
Aug 22, 2007 Ashley rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 24, 2008 Eric rated it it was ok
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
Cindy Newton
Jun 16, 2015 Cindy Newton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
This book is very thought-provoking, as most great literature is. It's the tragic story of a beautiful young woman who is trapped by her upbringing and the society in which she is born, doomed to chase the American Dream as it is defined for her position, but to ultimately fail. But is it an actual failure on her part, or her unconscious rejection of the role society demands that she play? Lily's story raises questions about honesty and morality. At what price do these principles come? Is there ...more
Jul 22, 2016 Faith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
"Once she's talked about she's done for." Lily Bart knew all of the rules of society, but she refused to follow them, out of pride, naiveness, stubbornness and integrity. This led to her downfall. This book demonstrated the snobbishness and hypocrisy of the society in which Lily lived, but she did not rebel against it, in fact she was raised to be a part of it and loved the glitter and comfort and wanted more of the same. However, she suffered from the problem of being a poor relation with expen ...more
Oct 24, 2008 Kim rated it it was amazing
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 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
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
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Chicks On Lit: "House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton- January 2016 Classic Read 84 56 May 23, 2016 07:29AM  
Thoughts on this book? 35 243 Apr 10, 2016 01:56PM  
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500 Great Books B...: The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton 4 34 Jan 09, 2016 04:14AM  
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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.” 159 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.” 146 likes
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