Lee Anne's Reviews > Twilight Sleep

Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton
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's review
Jul 31, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: favorite-author
Read in September, 2011

One of my favorite authors, one of my favorite styles of fiction: pretty people with pretty problems. And in this case, a satire of pretty people with pretty problems.

Pauline is the typical over-scheduled, constantly in search of happiness and enlightenment society matron. Her day is so full of "eurythmic exercise," silent meditation, and meetings of the Birth Control Society and the American Motherhood Society that she can't even pencil in a quick chat with her daughter Nona. Nona is Pauline's daughter by her second husband Dexter. Her first husband, Arthur (affectionately called Exhibit A by the whole family), is the genteel and shabby alcoholic father of her son, Jim. Jim is married to Lita, a choice slightly beneath him, who has become a bored party girl.

This is a master class on how to write a book without a single likable character that is still entertaining and wonderful (take a lesson, Flaubert). Pauline is as modern as she is a product of her time. She could just as easily be a character in a novel that satirizes contemporary New York society with just the addition of a Blackberry. She moves from guru to guru and never finds happiness, pushing any bad event or unpleasantry down deep or way off to the side. Nona is almost likable, but she's nearly as bored and lost as Lita, who is just a monster. Jim is weak, Dexter is a boob, and Arthur is (accurate to the time and social class, but still reprehensible) an anti-Semite. It's all very glamorous and witty.
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Reading Progress

09/15/2011 page 85
27.0% ""At that hour of the morning things did tend to look ash-colored; and she felt that her optimism had never been so sorely strained since the year when she had had to read Proust, learn a new dance step, master Oriental philosophy, and decide whether to bob her hair, or only do it to look so. She had come victoriously through those ordeals; but what if worse lay ahead?""
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