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Ethan Frome

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3.34  ·  Rating Details ·  73,087 Ratings  ·  3,897 Reviews
Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena's vivacious cousin enters their household as a "hired girl", Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.

In one of American fiction's finest and most i
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Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 28th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1911)
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Jane Mclean Definitely clean. I read it in school as a 16-year-old [50 years ago], saw the Liam Neeson movie twice, read it again today. I believe "Ethan Frome"…moreDefinitely clean. I read it in school as a 16-year-old [50 years ago], saw the Liam Neeson movie twice, read it again today. I believe "Ethan Frome" is wasted on teen-agers; they don't have the life experiences to empathize with his plight, to "get" his stark and depressing life. Better suited for adults with a few life challenges in their resumes.(less)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank1984 by George OrwellThe Road by Cormac McCarthyBridge to Terabithia by Katherine PatersonNight by Elie Wiesel
Most Depressing Book of All Time
41st out of 998 books — 3,171 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
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383rd out of 6,838 books — 45,319 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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dead letter office
Apr 24, 2009 dead letter office rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 05, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
“He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of it's frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing nothing unfriendly in his silence. I simply felt that he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had hinted, the profound accumulated cold of ...more
George
Aug 30, 2007 George rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: drivers who don't use turn signals, people who talk out loud in a movie theater during the film
"Hey Mrs. Kinetta, are you still inflicting all that horrible Ethan Frome damage on your students?" - John Cusack, Grosse Pointe Blank

If you're looking for a book with an ever-increasing level of misery, this one is hard to beat. Try this test the next time you're with a group of your friends: just mention "Ethan Frome" out loud, and see how many of them groan audibly.
karen
Dec 05, 2011 karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: littry-fiction

spoilers?? what spoilers??

i have changed my stance on the cover. a) initially, i thought that it was showing an altogether different type of activity, and then b) when ariel called it a spoiler, i reinterpreted it to something else and was still wrong, and then c) everything that may potentially be spoiled is pretty much spelled out in the first ten pages. so is that a spoiler, or is that foreshadowing??

tomato, potato...

what is so excellent about this book is that it is not at all a depressing
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Shovelmonkey1
Oct 30, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: for people who've got a little winters chill in their hearts
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
I have been on a bit of a four-star roll recently and am beginning to fear that I accidentally pressed against my generous ratings button when I was slumped against the bookcase last week trying to figure out what to read next. It's cold and dreary outside and I was seeking something warm and fuzzy, maybe a bit light hearted or some sort of serial fantasy to see me through the onset of the winter months.... and then my hand brushed by the spine of Ethan Frome...

Which is clearly none of the thing
...more
Susie
Finally, I have the right word for this predicament: When a capable author uses her prowess to create a work whose sole purpose seems to be to depress the reader, it can be described as Frome. This word can also be used as a verb, noun, adjective (Frome-ish, Frome-ier, etc), adverb (Frome-ly), etc. to similarly describe the effect it has on the reader, (ie, "I was Fromed.")

An example used in a sentence may be: "John Steinbeck was clearly suffering from a touch of the Frome when he penned The Pe
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Jason Koivu
Oct 03, 2016 Jason Koivu rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Jesus H Christ but this is bleak stuff! Even the town name Wharton chose, Starkfield....holy shit, hide the guns, rope and knives!

I was born and raised in New England, wandering about the wooded, hilly landscapes of Massachusetts, Vahmont, New Hampshah and Maine for much of my youth. The springs and summers were green and alive. The autumns and winters were dark and dead. So half the year was glorious, good times and the other half you spent desperately trying to survive while wondering if it wo
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Stephanie
Hauntingly sad... beautifully written... classic story!!!

5 shiny stars!! Edith Wharton has woven an ironic, tragic, and phenomenally written tale! Ethan Frome was published in 1911 and is different from her other works. It is notable that Wharton was going through a period of dissatisfaction with her own marriage and a "doomed" affair around the time of writing this story.

The book is set in a fictional rural Massachusetts town called Starkfield. The winters are brutal and the people are toug
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Fabian
Oct 13, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing
Magnificent, spectacular... I somehow always assign many types of superlatives to the magnificent and spectacular Edith Wharton! Definitely top ten writers of ALL TIME contender. Her best is "Age of Innocence," and her not-as-much is "House of Mirth", but sandwiched between them is this tense novella about the restrictions of "unconventional" feeling. And it has the type of invigorating force that compels the reader to do his one job and do it good. I adore this slim tome, admire Wharton for ...more
B0nnie
Feb 02, 2012 B0nnie rated it liked it
*Spoilers, proceed with caution*. This very sad tale Ethan Frome is an account of the life of Zenobia Frome, ‘Zeena’. She was named after the great Roman queen who led a revolt against the empire - somewhat like Princess Leia.

Zeena had sacrificed her life to the man she loved, Ethan Frome. However, he repaid her by having a secret love affair with Zeena’s pennyless and lazy cousin, Matty, to whom Zeena had given a home. She was pretty, and knew when to flutter her eyelashes.

But poor Zeena was
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Lindsey
This book is a good one to read if you live with someone who has also read it. This way, any time there is a lull in the conversation you can talk about how depressing it is. Conversations between me and my roommate often go something like this:

"You know what I was just thinking about? Ethan Frome."
"GOD. That book is so depressing."
"I know, right."

The book is not only enjoyable, but also a great conversation piece. Do not read it if you cannot stand unhappy endings.
Johnny
Sep 09, 2008 Johnny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Johnny by: William Chu
Shelves: literature
Ever read a book as required reading (in high school or college) and then, rediscover it as an adult? Ethan Frome had receded to the dark recesses of my mind such that I had even forgotten that I had read it. I remembered reading Age of Innocence, but good old Ethan had left my mental building. When my youngest son left his retired textbook edition at my house (an old Scribner’s edition in trade paperback priced at $1.25 original price—oh for those days again!), I grudgingly put it on one of my ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started reading this on the Serial Reader app but finally paid for the full version so I didn't have to wait so long to finish it.
"Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters."
I read this long ago, in 8th or 9th grade. I imagine we were assigned this at that age because it was a short novel, more of a novella, but it could not possibly have been as meaningful without having lived through some life first. Probably back then we were looking at Ethan and the symbols of winter, but this time ar
...more
Jan-Maat
Just when you think that it's safe to kiss someone you're not married to, just then, disaster lurks barely a sledge ride away!

Ethan Frome is remarkable, in probability wrongly, in my mind for its relentless bleakness. This is an American novella, by an American author in which there is no escape. The West is there, but the protagonist can't afford the journey. This an impoverished landscape, the modest hero ploughs an infertile furrow. An ungallant way to refer to a marriage, but there you go, i
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❀Julie
There is a lot of emotion packed into this haunting cautionary tale of forbidden love.  Set in old fashioned (circa early 1900’s) rural Massachusetts, it is written of the poor society, unlike other books I’ve read by this author.  It is a thought provoking read and addresses hardships and the moral choices made despite them.  The characters Ethan and Mattie were developed in such a way that the reader has compassion for them despite their moral dilemma of Ethan’s difficult marriage.   These ...more
Erika
Feb 28, 2016 Erika rated it really liked it
For me, this novel is not Wharton’s best work, but still scores an easy 4 stars. She is that great.
Ethan Frome is a farmer married to a woman he dislikes so intensely that he blows out the candle before undressing so he doesn’t have to look at her when he gets into bed.
And Zenobia is truly horrible. She’s a manipulative, self-absorbed, black hole of negativity who suffers from vaguely described “shooting pains” that keep her from doing any real work. Partly to help Zeena out, the couple brings
...more
Trish
Jul 08, 2016 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, classics
"They stood together in the gloom of the spruces, an empty world glimmering about them wide and gray under the stars."

The perfect soundtrack for this novel: Trouble Will Find Me by The National, my personal favorite song, "I Need My Girl".

Wow, I'm speechless. It's ten past midnight and I just couldn't go to sleep without finishing this story. Don't let its size fool you, every page of this book is full of raw emotion that will leave you feeling heavy and achy all over. The writing is so elegant
...more
Jennifer
Jan 03, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
“He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of it's frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing nothing unfriendly in his silence. I simply felt that he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had hinted, the profound accumulated cold of ...more
j
If you told me this was a longish deleted segment of Winesburg, Ohio, I would totally believe you, even taking into account the fact that one of the books was written by Sherwood Anderson and the other by Edith Wharton. Like the stories in that much revered short story cycle (no not novel), Ethan Frome concerns itself with grim characters burdened by unfulfilled dreams, dreams unfulfilled because of the strictures of society or their own inability to truly sieze the day. A chilly atmosphere, a g ...more
Helle
Apr 14, 2016 Helle rated it it was amazing
This novel wrenched my heart in a way that I had not seen coming! For a novel that has only a few austere characters, whose nearest town is called Starkfield and which takes place in a bleak, wintry and isolated countryside, it packed a surprising punch, more than the other novels I’ve read by Wharton, most of which take place in upper-class, dazzling New York, a setting which most people, me included, would find much more compelling.

In the beginning I practically swooned at Wharton’s exquisite
...more
Jacob
August 2012

(view spoiler)

Good news, everyone!

Or rather, good news, everyone who had to read Ethan Frome in high school or college and developed a fanatical hatred of Edith Wharton and all her works
...more
Sandy
This story tore my heart out. Quite appropriately, I finished listening to the audiobook on a frosty winter day following a heavy overnight snowfall. Gazing out at the white landscape from my warm and comfortable place, I pondered this strange tale (which took place in another - a fictitious - winter setting) and grasped for some pearl of wisdom or kernel of truth with which to soothe my heart.

Ethan Frome could have been a contemporary of ours. He entered adulthood optimistically -- with a dream
...more
Jason
Dec 20, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen
Nov 22, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haunting, tragic tale of forbidden love
Chrissie
Sep 05, 2015 Chrissie rated it did not like it
I absolutely hated this book.

OK, two things were good. The author draws New England landscapes, particularly in winter, beautifully. Secondly, the book was exceedingly short, so my misery wasn't prolonged. I need to joke after reading this sad, dismal, depressing book. Jeez, how can people look at life with such eyes?! Stop griping and do something with your life. It is your own fault if you just sob and moan.

You follow a couple that is ill-fit. The reader has to listen to their arguments. On
...more
John Wiswell
Aug 17, 2007 John Wiswell rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Literary readers who love the depressing stuff
Bleak fiction for bleak fiction’s sake about a miserable man in an inescapable, loveless marriage and his desire for another woman. Hollow and myopic, easily one of the most disappointing experiences I’ve ever had with a supposed classic. Other gothics would earn their tragedy, but this is just cold. If it has any merit it is an argument against theodicy, for look what gods we make when we play as authors.

Don't bother reading Ethan Frome. Go sledding instead.
TK421
Jan 27, 2012 TK421 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
You know that feeling you get when you see or read or hear something that is horribly sad, that feeling of loss or pity or depression, you know, the one that weighs around your neck like an anchor...well, ETHAM FROME is the type of story that evokes these types of emotions. For the most part, it is a simple story (I will spare you the details, the book is slim, read it), and then suddenly, like an errant thundercloud on a beautiful sunny day, it pelts you wind and rain and hail, and leaves you ...more
RachelAnne
Nov 30, 2007 RachelAnne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people wanting to commit suicide but in need of more motivation to end it all.
Shelves: novels, historical
HATE! Wharton as usual writes well enough to make you sympathetic with characters forever imprisoned in bleakly miserable lives with no hope of redemption. One would inflict this on oneself willingly WHY?
Cindy
I read this last night in an insomniac fit. It was cold and dark and rainy, and I was alone. I can't think of a more fitting setting for reading this, unless you were in an old farmhouse with drafty windows, sitting by a stove in your rocking chair. Throw in a batty old lady, and you could be in Starkfield itself!

I love creepy stories - ones that slowly start to overwhelm you with that sense that something just ain't right. "Oh dear, this isn't going to go well." The build-up of foreshadowing, i
...more
Sherien
Apr 04, 2009 Sherien rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-century
Edith Wharton is certainly one of my favorite author. I remember I was first captivated by her short story called “Roman Fever” and then amazed by “The age of Innocence”. What fascinates me about her is how well she narrates her story. The language may seem easy compared to other works in her time, but is certainly beautiful and flowing. Her works is always a fast-moving page-turner for me.

I just love how she describes the bleak-winter-rural area of New England in "Ethan Frome". The atmosphere
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Why the point of view is so effective in this book 3 23 Jun 02, 2016 10:55AM  
Around the Year i...: Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton 9 40 Feb 19, 2016 08:01PM  
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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 ...more
More about Edith Wharton...

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“I want to put my hand out and touch you. I want to do for you and care for you. I want to be there when you're sick and when you're lonesome.” 53 likes
“They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.” 32 likes
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