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The Buccaneers

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  3,227 ratings  ·  243 reviews
Nan and Jinny St George have both wealth and beauty in generous supply. In the New York society of the 1870s, however, only those with old money can achieve the status of the elite, and it is here that the sisters seem doomed to failure.

Nan's new governess, Laura Testvalley, herself an outsider, takes pity on their plight and launches them instead on the unsuspecting Briti
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Paperback, 406 pages
Published October 1st 1994 by Penguin Books (first published 1938)
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Community Reviews

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Madeline
I found a copy of this book in a used bookstore, and hesitated before finally caving and buying it. I loved The Age of Innocence, but (as I learned from reading the book jacket while in the store) The Buccaneers is unfinished. Wharton wrote about 89,000 words of the story before dying in 1937, and Wharton scholar Marion Mainwaring picked up where the book left off and finished the novel. There's a note at the end about how Mainwaring made some changes to Wharton's draft to account for later chan ...more
Sarah
I've fallen in love, readers!

It took me about 12 hours from start to finish to read the last of Wharton's novels, left unfinished for decades and then completed in Wharton's style by scholar Marion Mainwaring. As I mentioned earlier, I've watched the PBS series three times now and there's something about it that gets to me. Perhaps because it's sexier and funnier and looser than what one would expect from the era, and because [SPOILER ALERT:] its ending which actually arises from Wharton's notes
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Misfit
The St. George and Elmsworth families are *new money* and looking for brighter prospects for their daughters in the marriage market so they hie off to England looking for Dukes and Earl with aging homes in need repairs that only cold hard cash can bring them. The young ladies make their splash, make their marriages and then no surprise, have to lie in those beds that they've made for themselves. Some are successful, others not so - despite a very promising beginning.

"But it's rather lonely some
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Jessica
Feb 07, 2009 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 18+
Shelves: classics, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dawn
The synopsis for this 1938 edition for The Buccaneers (appearing above) is completely wrong! Who wrote that?! No swashbuckling pirates, here! Edith Wharton's "novel" was published as a lightly edited, incomplete manuscript in the year following her death. It was sure to have been her masterpiece!
The "Buccaneers" are 5 nouveau riche American girls who, steered by an English-Italian (cousin to artist/poet D.G. Rosetti) governess, "invade" the Bristish peerage in the 'seventies (1870's).
While later
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Susan
The Buccaneers is a romantic anti-romance novel, if that makes any sense. Five young American daughters of fortunate financial speculators, finding themselves excluded from the crustiest New York society, begin to marry into an extended family of English nobility. As attractive as marrying into the top tier of society initially seems, navigating their responsibilities to ancestral mansions, families and tenants brings unhappiness, particularly for the youngest, Nan, who has married a duke who wa ...more
Hilary Hicklin
As is quite often the case, Wharton's later work doesn't quite measure up to her earlier masterpieces, such as Ethan Frome, which is what I would recommend to anyone new to this writer, and being her last (unfinished) novel it lacks the polish of her other books. Marion Mainwaring has done a pretty good job of completing it though.

Wharton has fun exposing the petty snobberies of New York society as well as the pointless traditions of the British class system, as when the Dowager Duchess of Tint
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Judy
Although this novel is unfinished and Wharton would have done a lot of revision, there is still a lot of her wonderful prose and it is very interesting to see her looking back at the 1870s from the 1930s, which in places allow her to be sexually franker than she could in her earlier works. The novel centres on a group of young American women who marry British men and struggle to fit into British high society, and there are some powerfully-drawn characters, including the heroine, Annabel ("Nan"), ...more
Jenn
I really enjoyed reading this book and found it to be a very fast read. I was interested in it because I watched the BBC dramatization - which was heavily Americanized & modernized as it turns out. My chief exposure to Edith Wharton was the very short and quite depressing "Ethan Frome." I found that to be written in quite an impenetrable style and was turned off of her for years - until I saw the film and came across a copy of the book in a used bookstore.

The way she writes in "The Buccaneer
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RunRachelRun
Oh my God, if someone could resurrect the dead and had enough magic potion for one person, I would choose Madame Wharton. It devastates me that even if I visit the "W" shelf at the library a million times over, as if I were a pilgrim visiting a holy shrine, on my bleeding and torn knees, there will never be a new Wharton book propped there for me to read for the very first time. I guess I should be grateful that there are authors out there who inspire such devotion, dead or otherwise.
Laura
Lots of fun and often overlooked, this chronicles the marriage prospects of four daughters of nouveau riche Americans who hope to land cash-poor English aristocrats. After all, new fortunes can’t buy entrance to New York society, but the doors have to swing wide open if the families can boast a duke for an in-law. But can a titled marriage bring happiness? Of course not (at least not always), but the individual journeys make for great reading.
skein
I hardly feel this book can be classified as an Edith Wharton -- she died before it was completed, and apparently even before it was fleshed out. The complete-r, one Marion Mainwaring (writing in 1993), stews the final chapters with injudicious parentheses, romance-novel prose (Nan is "a flower unfolding ... a rose in bloom") and exclamation points galore. God help us all.
Annette
This book was finished by another author and frankly I just skimmed at end. I love Edith Wharton's writing but I think it was a mistake to let someone else finish this book. I thought the difference in writing styles was very obvious and it was a big let-down. The writing that I take to be Mainwaring's reads like a bad period romance.
Hilary
Mar 04, 2012 Hilary rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Edith Wharton left this novel unfinished at her death, and Marion Mainwaring finished it decades later. I was sailing on toward a 4-5 star rating until I reached that unfortunate transition. Wharton's beginning was wonderful, full of lively descriptions not only of the characters and their thought processes, but also of period elements that make books so enlightening. Mainwaring is a Wharton scholar, from my understanding, and while I'm glad she made it possible for this gem to be published more ...more
Eliza
Ce roman riche et foisonnant reprend le thème très prisé par Henry James de la rencontre entre la nouvelle Amérique et la vieille Europe. Cette opposition est encore renforcée par le choix de personnages féminins pour les Américains et de personnages presque exclusivement masculins pour les Anglais. Edith Wharton ne s’intéresse d’ailleurs que peu aux hommes dans ce récit, excepté les Thwarte, père et fils, confidents et amis respectifs de Miss Testvalley et d’Annabelle. Le roman se divise en qua ...more
Amanda
I give this book a qualified four stars. The qualification? Don't finish it. I only read the first two-thirds of the book when it suddenly became apparent where Wharton left off and Mainwaring took over. I almost stopped reading this book at the very beginning when I first realized it was finished by another author, but I decided I would give it a try anyhow. The part written by Wharton is excellent, but Mainwaring replaces all of Wharton's subtleties and wit with jarring observations that revea ...more
Lori
Feb 04, 2014 Lori rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Downton Abbey fans, Jane Austen fans
This unfinished novel tells the stories of five young American girls – the St George sisters, the Elmsworth sisters, and their friend Conchita Closson, and their quest to find suitable husbands. The girls are “dollar princesses” or “buccaneers” – their fathers have made money on Wall Street and in industry, but their lack of social status means they are not invited to fashionable parties and events in New York and appear to have little hope of marrying well in America. The youngest girl’s govern ...more
Barbara
Really enjoyed this one, completed by Marion Mainwaring who apparently studies Wharton's work for several decades, so I think she did it justice. This is the 3rd Wharton book I've read and enjoyed all. My daughter is reading House of Mirth for her AP Lit class as a high school junior. I think this book, House of Mirth and Age of Innocence are truly great American literature.
Galileosong
I have mixed feelings about this book. Edith Wharton is exceptionally skilled in describing interactions with people. She could write about the most boring subjects and still keep you enchanted with her writing.

The story in itself is not that thrilling or exciting, but I could not put the book down because of of how well it was written. However, near the last third of the book, completed by a different author, this changes. Gone are the beautiful descriptions and the story turns into some kind
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Debye
I really enjoyed this book--I found the differences between American 'high' society and British aristocratic society absolutely fascniating.
Jade Lauron
I watched the miniseries and then read this book. The miniseries did veer off towards the end (but was faithful to the parts that Wharton wrote) and put some "Hollywood" in, which made the viewer more sympathetic to the protagonist. It was more about drama, where the book focus more on the politics of social interactions. I'm not really sure which one I liked more.

To be honest, I was really disappointed that neither had more focus on "the making of a Duchess". I would have liked to see that par
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Jody
loved this one
Lauretta
Be warned: there are two versions of this book. In my opinion, if you are a fan of Edith Wharton, don't bother with the 1994 version of the book, which alters the unfinished manuscript left by Edith Wharton at the time of her death in 1937, by Marion Mainwaring. Although I understood that Mainwaring "finished" the story based upon the outline left behind by Edith Wharton, it appears she significantly altered the story throughout, such that it is a water-downed, drippy melodrama, not the enjoyabl ...more
Christopher Sutch
Being a Wharton fan, I was a bit uneasy about this posthumous collaboration. Wharton's style, wit, and sharp eye for social niceties are not things that can easily be maintained by a contemporary writer. I was also somewhat concerned about the quality of the original work that was uncompleted at Wharton's death; the three or four novels preceding this manuscript were not among Wharton's best work. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. Much of this novel reads like Wharton's more inspiring ou ...more
Sarah
Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors and The Buccaneers is one of the few of her novels I had never read. It is the story of five American heiresses in the later part of the 19th century who move to London to catch aristocratic husbands. It is a typical Wharton tale of social mores, cultural clashes and delicately fraught relationships. It was a nice follow up to Downton Abbey with more emphasis on American ways, and I loved it.

Wharton’s style is exquisite ( Henry James without the long
...more
Linda Grant
American Royalty would not except the novo Reich St Gorges and Elmsworths. So they had to travel to England to see if they could find an alternative to the American royalty they sought acceptance to society through.

England offered an new society for Virginia, Nan, Lizzie and Conchita to blossom and grow. It also offered them an expectable place to find husbands. All the girls enter into marriages that turn them into the societal socialites that they sought to be in American. However, these marr
...more
Linda Grant
American Royalty would not except the novo Reich St Gorges and Elmsworths. So they had to travel to England to see if they could find an alternative to the American royalty they sought acceptance to society through.
England offered an new society for Virginia, Nan, Lizzie and Conchita to blossom and grow. It also offered them an expectable place to find husbands. All the girls enter into marriages that turn them into the societal socialites that they sought to be in American. However, these marri
...more
Jen
Having been badly scarred by the abrupt lack-of-conclusion in Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, I knew I needed to read the version of The Buccaneers with an added ending. I was familiar with the story, having seen the BBC/WGBH miniseries, and looked forward to reading it.
Wharton's style is much lighter than her other works, but with serious issues at stake. In these stories, marriage is not the happy ending on the last page - it is only the beginning. She follows several wealthy young American wo
...more
Ellen B.
Sep 08, 2012 Ellen B. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ellen by: Hairpin Bookclub
Less echoingly sad than The Age of Innocence, which is my... most thorough experience with Edith Wharton, having been read for an American Literature course in college and less sad than my vague memories of Ethan Frome, but it doesn't really change my impression of her work as "beautifully written books about rich people being sad."

The part that I had the most difficultly with in this book were the sudden, unannounced time jumps. The chapter changes and it's two years later and oh, these charact
...more
Rose
Did Edith Wharton really intend to write a happy ending to this novel's marriage plot? If so, it was unlike her, and she passed away with a third of the book unfinished. The novel's title,The Buccaneers, refers to young, rich American women who upset Victorian social conventions and conquered the English nobility (Downton Abbey, the prequel)with their beauty and sex-appeal. The ultimate heroine is a woman strong enough to simply walk away from all the spoils she's won. True love does come at the ...more
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  • The Europeans
  • Edith Wharton
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  • The Edwardians
  • Phineas Redux
  • The Cranford Chronicles
  • Camilla
  • Miss Marjoribanks
  • To Marry an English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started
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  • Scenes of Clerical Life
  • Sanditon and Other Stories
  • Lucy Gayheart
  • The Making of a Marchioness
  • What the Butler Winked At: Being the Life and Adventures of Eric Horne, Butler
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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 The House of Mirth Ethan Frome Ethan Frome and Other Short Fiction The Custom of the Country

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“And for a long while they stood side by side without speaking, each seeing the other in every line of the landscape.” 6 likes
“She lay for a long time listening to the mysterious sounds given forth by old houses at night, the undefinable creakings, rustlings, and sighings, which would have frightened Virginia had she remained awake, but which sounded to Nan like the long murmur of the past breaking on the shores of a sleeping world.” 5 likes
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