The Mother's Recompense
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The Mother's Recompense

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  345 ratings  ·  34 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 Ch...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 3rd 1996 by Scribner (first published 1925)
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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 4 of 5 stars
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
Christopher H.
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...more
‘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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Sammis
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...more
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 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.
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
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...more
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...more
Set in the 1920s, this novel tells the tangled tale of mother and daughter falling in love with the same man, years apart, and the mighty ramifications of their actions. I was captured by the beautiful writing, found the dilemmas to be realistic, even today, and thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Christopher Sutch
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
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...more
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...more
This novel was written in 1925 and it shows. i like Wharton's writing and characters but this is not up to her usual standards. I was glad to finish 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
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
Edith Wharton looks at the relationship of mother and daughter, marriage and consequences of choices made. Kate Clephane, unhappily married, has an affair, gets divorced, leaves her child and lives abroad for 20 years. Her daughter Anne when she's grown and independent asks her to come back. What kind of relationship can they have, and how much of the past will influence what happens to both of them in the present.
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.
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.
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?

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.
Despite describing earlier generations of women, the book still said a great deal about women and mother/daughter relationships. After lots of Italian, French, and Scandinavian detective stories (often in trans.), it was a pleasure to read such clever and precise prose.
This was a nice little page turner, in its simplicity . The time M.Whaton took to be desciptive of the character surroundings was nice as well. The end of Chpt. 28 has to be an all time best cliffhanger. Nice read, experience.
Really this should be a 3.5. Not nearly as entertaining as The House of Mirth. This was her last book I think. It was worth reading just to hear her descriptions of 1920s New York.
This is one of Wharton's later books. It's a lot like her others, but far less interesting. Same song, different verse... a woman with a 'shocking' past tries to reenter society.
I love Edith Wharton's style. I understand why this isn't one of her most famous works, but still very good. I'd give it a 3.5 if I could!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenn Tuccio
Jan 24, 2008 Jenn Tuccio is currently reading it
slowly making my way through but still great!
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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.” 0 likes
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