House of Mirth
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House of Mirth

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  48,234 ratings  ·  2,439 reviews
An immensely popular bestseller upon its publication in 1905, The House of Mirth was Edith Wharton's first great novel. Set among the elegant brownstones of New York City and opulent country houses like gracious Bellomont on the Hudson, the novel creattes a satiric portrayal of what Wharton herself called "a society of irresponsible pleasure-seekers" with a precision compa...more
Paperback, 317 pages
Published March 14th 1984 by Bantam Classics (first published 1905)
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Jason
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
Shannon
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
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
Maggie
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
Agnieszka

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
Laura
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
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 12, 2012 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Paula
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
Martine
Jun 25, 2008 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Ashley
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
Tatiana
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
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
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
Dana Stabenow
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
Jenn
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
Kim
Oct 24, 2008 Kim rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Eric
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
Misfit
"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
Elena
I read the House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence almost at the same time, and while The Age of Innocence is the better book -the title is less euphonic, mind- House of Mirth has meant something to me. I've declared in another review my undying love for fools, whatever their size or shape. Lily is one of gigantic proportions. That, given the title, is hardly a surprise, 'cause:

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth"
7:4 Ecclesiastius

My...more
Juanita Rice
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton; a Review.
By Juanita Rice

Edith Wharton: the name seemed familiar. I was browsing in a bargain book bin at a used book store. Edith Wharton. As I dredged up some fragments from the memory-stew, out came Ethan Frome. We read it in high school English class. And then I snatched at another floating wisp: an image of Julie Harris in the movie. That's all I really knew about Wharton, and it's probably more than many people do. So I picked this up, on a whim, to know...more
Regina
After finishing this book I feel all over the place. On a purely emotional level, the book is very tragic, sad and depressing. There is no hope, there is no happiness. Normally, that is reason enough for me warning someone off of a book but House of Mirth is an exception. Edith Wharton’s novel is a must read for so many reasons. It is a must read as a critical examination of upper class politics, specifically late 19th century New York – but I believe that Wharton’s portrayal of the upper crust...more
Anna
I had the great delight of hosting a friend over the weekend. We knew each other throughout college, lived down the hall from one another, and constantly figured in the other's socializing--but somehow, the two of us never grew close. That's what happens when you move within a circle of mutual friends for years.

Well, by Sunday, we agreed that our friendship had grown startlingly stronger. And I'll wager that this happiness is, in part, due to Edith Wharton.

I've had a copy of The House of Mirth o...more
Lena
Lily Bart is a woman with the misfortune to have been born with a taste for the extravagances of old New York society without the means to satisfy that taste. Though blessed with the extreme beauty and sophisticated social graces that should allow her to marry into a secure position within that society, Lily's ability to do so is sabotaged from both within and without. The House of Mirth is an extravagant portrayal of Lily's subsequent tragic decline.

As a modern woman accustomed to freedoms Lily...more
Tyler
Oct 16, 2008 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All; Literature Fans
Recommended to Tyler by: Top 100 reading list
Superbly written naturalism. The words fit together in sentences like gemstones in a jewelry setting.
Samantha
Edith Wharton. She gets me every time. I know I should expect it and she shouldn't be able to surprise me, but she does.

People do not write like this anymore. If they did, publishers would reject it or send it back saying, "Remove flowery language and cut some details." But that is what makes the story so moving. Wharton's lyrical language is entrancing enough and into it she weaves a story that pierces your heart.

The House of Mirth follows the life of Lily Bart, a young woman with dreams of es...more
Diane
What a beautiful and tragic novel! As frustrating as Lily Bart could be -- she was constantly making foolish choices -- I also pitied her for how she was mistreated by society. Lily was unable to marry the man she loved because he wasn't rich enough, but she also couldn't tolerate the dull, wealthy men who tried to woo her. Lily tried to do the right thing, but somehow it never ended up in her favor.

This is the second Edith Wharton novel I've read this year (the other was The Age of Innocence) a...more
Lisa
The House of Mirth has cemented my love for Edith Wharton and I can now officially count her among my all-time favorite authors. Wharton's writing is top-notch, filled with wit, literary allusions, and historical references that show her intelligence and education. The House of Mirth is both a critique of the upper class New York society at the end of the nineteenth century, and the story of the rise and fall of Lily Bart, a socialite in that society.

This was not an easy book to read, not only...more
Ben
I highly recommended House of Mirth for your boyfriend if he won't shut up about how great Hemmingway is. Man vs Lion? That's nothing. Woman vs. New York Society. That's a f---ing fight.

Allusion to Ecclesiates aside there are - spoiler alert - two things wrong with the title of House of Mirth. 1) This ain't a comedy... and 2) There's no house at the end. This novel shares something with those newspaper examinations of chess games only Wharton uses characters as chess pieces to illustrate how eve...more
Piperitapitta
Orgoglio e sentimento.

Una Wharton che non ha ancora trovato la sua cifra stilistica, una storia e una scrittura che comunque, anche se ancora imbrigliate da sovrastrutture manieristiche, fanno de La Casa della gioia una lettura intensa e appassionante; soprattutto nella seconda metà del romanzo, quando la storia di Lily Bart, giovane benestante caduta in disgrazia alla morte della madre, in età da marito ma a un passo dall'essere considerata zitella a tutti gli effetti, si scontra con tutti i li...more
Krys

The House of Mirth was a did-not-finish for me, which is an utter shame because I ordinarily love Edith Wharton. I made it halfway through, but never connected with the main character, Lily Bart. I was at a loss for much of the book and grew bored, which we know is never a good sign. Weariness often breeds contempt.

Lily Bart struggles with two things - her desire for wealth and comfort and her longing for a marriage of love and adoration. Because of this she has thrown over a few marriage propo...more
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Thoughts on this book? 29 167 May 10, 2013 04:17PM  
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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
More about Edith Wharton...
The Age of Innocence Ethan Frome Ethan Frome and Other Short Fiction The Custom of the Country Summer

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“She had no tolerance for scenes which were not of her own making.” 116 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.” 104 likes
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