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The Mother's Recompense

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  489 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Opening on the French Riviera among a motley community of American expatriates, The Mother's Recompense tells the story of Kate Clephane and her reluctant return to New York society after being exiled years before for abandoning her husband and infant daughter.

Oddly enough, Kate has been summoned back by that same daughter, Anne, now fully grown and intent on marrying Chr
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 3rd 1996 by Scribner (first published 1925)
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Sep 22, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Edith Wharton's later novels.
Kate Clephane has lived on the French Riviera since being exiled from New York where she eloped with her lover.
Left behind was Kate's young daughter Anne.
We move on twenty years when Anne sends a telegram asking her mother back after the death of her grandmother.
She settles back down to life in New York.
The joy is soon threatened by the reappearance of the only man Kate had truly loved.
Very gripping story.
A tale of secrets which leads us to a surprising ending
Sep 08, 2009 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
After reading "The Age of Innocence", "The House of Mirth", and "Custom the Country" I thought I'd read the best of Wharton. Not So! Wharton is always exemplary in portraying upper class New Yorkers and their staid customs. Some things are de rigueur and others just aren't allowed. Unlike her earlier gilded age settings "Recompense" takes place post World War I and there are cars, easier travel within and without the country, telephones provide easier communication. In her early twenties Kate ra ...more
Apr 22, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Gale Bunnell
Shelves: classic, american-lit
A little gem of a novel about scandal and shame as only Edith Wharton could dream up! Actually, this is the sort of situation Edith Wharton might have gotten herself into, so it probably didn’t take too much imagination. Kate Clephane has been exiled abroad after abandoning her husband and infant daughter years earlier. Now the daughter is grown up, engaged to be married, and wants to reunite with her mother. A crisis arises when Kate discovers that she knows her daughter’s fiancé a bit too well ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
What a hauntingly beautiful novel! One cannot help but empathize with poor Kate Clephane and the life she has lived. After many, many years, Kate re-enters her, now adult, daughter's life, and the New York society she fled so long ago. The problem is that times have changed, and Kate does not well understand the social mores of the new age, her daughter's age, and this contributes to the moral dilemma she encounters.

The Mother's Recompense is vintage Wharton, and like much of her work, this nov
May 28, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘The Mother’s Recompense’ is one of Edith Wharton’s later novels, published in 1925.

It tells the story of Kate Clephane, an American who lived in exile on the French Riviera. She had been unhappy in her marriage, trapped by a controlling husband, and so she fled with another man. He left her, but that wasn’t what broke her heart; losing her infant daughter did that. And so for more than twenty years Kate her life among the quietly alongside so many others who had broken society’s rules.

It was no
Jan 30, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Sammis
Jan 17, 2013 Sarah Sammis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pc, read-in-2007
BookCrossing introduced me to Edith Wharton's books, first through a bookring (The Age of Innocence) and then through a wild catch (The Mother's Recompense) back in 2004. As a lover of old books, imagine how thrilled I was to find a 1925 copy with a BookCrossing label on it!

The Mother's Recompense is a story of mistakes and regrets. Kate Clephane lives in Europe in self imposed exile after a disastrous affair where she left her young husband and infant daughter home in New York. She lives a dull
Jan 06, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
The first twenty pages are worth three stars, and then it's all downhill from there. I did not like this book, in the sense that I'd rather have badgers chew off my toes than read it again.
May 26, 2017 Kathe rated it it was amazing
Where has Edith Wharton been all of my life? Everything she wrote, that I have read, was wonderfully written - strong, evocative, beautiful, unsparing writing.
Paul Bartusiak
Oct 09, 2016 Paul Bartusiak rated it really liked it
Another Edith Wharton classic. The story unfolds in a carefully paced manner, but then takes on life when the main character, Kate Clephane (the "Mother") attends, with her daughter Anne, a "little evening party."

You see, Kate ran away to Europe a long time ago, away from her husband, her young daughter...her country. Move to the present, and Anne has asked Kate to live with her (after the deaths of Kate's well-to-do husband and mother-in-law).

And oh, that "little evening party." This is where
"Malgrado la solitudine, o in conseguenza della solitudine, la sua vita era molto piena."
— Anna Karenina - Lev Tolstoj

Kate Clephane, quando torna a New York richiamata dalla figlia, è una donna animata dai sensi di colpa, è stupita e al tempo stesso sospettosa della precisa volontà di Anne, spera in un perdono, si dibatte su come comportarsi, si chiede come sarà accolta, sente prepotente una svolta nel suo destino di esiliata, dopo quell'indelebile scandalo provocato da lei medesima, molti anni
Dec 18, 2010 Shannon rated it really liked it
This isn't among my favorite Wharton novels, but it's a compelling and thought-provoking story. My favorite thing about it is that the writing feels very mature. It may not be the most important story Wharton ever had to tell, but her command of language seems to be at its peak.

Kate Clephane, having left her husband 18 years ago, lives her life in European exile among people like "the Horace Betterlys and their dull noisy friends, who wanted to 'see life' and didn't know that you can't see it u
Matthew Wilson
Sep 08, 2016 Matthew Wilson rated it liked it
The plot: daughter is (unwittingly) going to marry her mother's former lover. This is pretty extreme stuff for 1925, but what's even more extreme is the Introduction by Louise Auchincloss (which I'll get to in a minute.) The mother, when she discovers who her daughter has fallen in love with, is freaked, and does everything she can to prevent the marriage (short of telling her daughter, which, for complicated reasons, she feels she can't do). What further complicates the plot is that the mother, ...more
I was completely taken by this mother/daughter story published when Edith Wharton was 63 years old. The mother Kate Clephane comes from early 1900's respectable New York society but is living an expatriate life on the Riviera because of her fall from grace twenty years ago....the result of having impetuously left her domineering husband and 3-year-old daughter to go off with a lover.

The story opens with Kate’s now grownup daughter Anne telegramming her mother to come back home and live with her
Lee Anne
Imagine Edith Wharton had written The Graduate, and it was set in post-WWI New York, and you'll get a vague idea of this book.

Kate Clephane left her cold, boring husband and toddler daughter for an outwardly exotic, actually faux-bohemian and depressing salon life on the Riviera. Now, twenty years later, with her ex-husband and his mother dead, her twenty-something daughter calls her home to New York. Except, whoops! Anne Clephane has fallen in love with Chris Fenno, the thirty-something former
Christopher Sutch
Jan 05, 2013 Christopher Sutch rated it liked it
This is a pretty tame novel by Wharton standards (or by my idea of Wharton's stature and talent lead me to believe). There are places in the story where I see her groping for the sort of social complexity and conflicting codes of social conduct that marks her best works, but all of that in this book fails to come off. It is almost tiresome to read: I felt little for the protagonist's quandary (or perceived quandary) and became increasingly bored with her rationalizations and lack of self-knowled ...more
Christina Dudley
Jul 24, 2012 Christina Dudley rated it liked it
Not my favorite Wharton, but a fast, compelling read all the same. A woman who, in earlier years, deserted her husband and young daughter, finds her way back cleared by the passage of time and some convenient deaths. All is peachy until the mother finds her grown daughter attracted to man she herself has been involved with.

As a strong believer in the power of confession, I admit to impatience with secrets driving a plot, and I experienced irritation with Kate Clephane that approached Tess Durbe
Jul 24, 2008 Katherine rated it liked it
I found a copy of this book in an antique store in Nebraska. It was written near the end of Wharton's career, twenty years after The House of Mirth. I'm not totally taken with this book. I think there were some good scenes with mothers and daughters, which is cool, but there are only so many times you can read Wharton blabbing on about the sunlight in the Riviera waking someone up before you wish she would just get on with it. Also, because this book was published in 1925 (and the novel's action ...more
May 20, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
Plot: It was pretty easy to figure out where things were headed in this book, but that didn't detract from the story. It's interesting to read about how once small incident can so greatly affect the lives of many.
Characters: None of the characters were particularly likable, but Wharton excels at writing characters that are fully fleshed out and seem very real. They don't need to be likable because you feel like you're reading about real people.
Overall: Some of Wharton's less famous works are rea
Lindsay Heller
Aug 29, 2016 Lindsay Heller rated it really liked it
I love Edith Wharton, and I liked this one a lot. This is the tale of Kate Clephane, an unhappy woman who has been living in exile in Europe after leaving her stifling husband and infant daughter, Anne, twenty years ago. Now her mother-in-law and husband are dead and her grown daughter has invited her mother back to New York. A happy reunion until Anne announces her engagement to Chris Fenno, a man she doesn't realize had been in a relationship with her mother years earlier. It's a little bit sc ...more
Jul 27, 2011 Christina rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
After spending much of the last two decades in Europe, Kate returns to 1920s New York to reunite with the daughter she abandoned eighteen years ago. All goes well until she discovers that her daughter is engaged to one of Kate's former lovers. The Mother's Recompense is not as strong as House of Mirth, Custom of the Country, Age of Innocence, or many of Wharton's short stories, but it is an entertaining read nonetheless. It keep me absorbed during the down time on my last two days of jury servic ...more
Pam Mezaraups
Not her best and clearly much ado about something...Kate Clephane is neither as interesting or sympathetic as Lily Bart...and Anne is not a heroine to be much loved. The biting social commentary is somewhat missing ...and you can't help but feel sorry for poor Fred Landers - marry him already, there is no reason not to!!!! And so no hero like a Lawrence Selden or a Newland Archer. And yet I enjoyed it...not many writers can describe earrings as the poisonous antennae of some giant insect and the ...more
Claire McMillan
Mar 19, 2016 Claire McMillan rated it it was amazing
It's Edith so I'm biased. The plot is a ripper. If you like the deliciously melancholy ends of House of Mirth and Age of Innocence, you'll love the end of this. If you don't understand why Lawrence Selden and Lily Bart couldn't get their shizz together or why Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska couldn't be together in Paris after all, you'll want to hurl this book across the room. As far as a chapter by chapter lesson in plotting and character arc, it's tight. Check it out.
Sep 26, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok
Edith Wharton might have been the first woman to win the pulizter prize(for her book, AGE of Innocence), but if you're familiar with her works, (i.e. "House of Mirth,") her stories build up, climax, and then once everthing is about to end and come together as it should, she pulls a completely depressing 180!!!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...... The ending was not cool!!! IT almost made the whole story pointless if you ask me-
The Mother's Recompense - Edith Wharton

Thank you Shannon!

Wharton is always a favorite for me, this is one less read, but very much worth reading. Interesting view into the psychology and change of outlook for a woman of a middle age. Wharton is at her peak here with her description and character portrayal, this really has me wondering what becomes of Kate after the the end of the novel.
Jan 24, 2016 Antusa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I made the mistake of first reading the "introduction" that is at the start of this edition. I appreciate the literary criticism, but it really should go at the end so the story isn't spoiled. The story itself is all right, although I share Louis Auchincloss's opinion that the main character goes overboard on her freak-out over her admittedly awkward situation, and it's a little annoying.
Oct 06, 2013 Patrice rated it liked it

Edith Wharton is my favorite! Interesting and still some what scandalous, this book was certainly not in the league of Age of Innocence or The House of Myrth. However, her writing is always so elegant, mature and often biting--I will read a work by her any day rather than some of the modern fiction being churned out today.
May 18, 2013 Hamish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Probably the weakest Wharton novel I've read, though it still has enough of the things that you like about her to make it readable. It's just a little ponderous, with even more teeth-gnashing than usual and it gets to be a little too much. This is the only late period novel of hers I've read; did she start losing it towards the end?
Mar 14, 2010 Gwen rated it did not like it
I think I understand why there are 3 bookmarks in this book- looks like I tried to read it 3 times before, and made it to just about the same place each time.

Kate seems to want to torture herself unecessarily, and it's beginning to bug me. Looks like Wharton had moved beyond 'insightful social commentary' to 'bitter' by the time she wrote this.
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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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“This new resolve gave her a sort of light-headed self-confidence: when she left the dinner-table she felt so easy and careless that she was surprised to see that the glass of champagne beside her plate was untouched. She felt as if all its sparkles were whirling through her.” 1 likes
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