Bridget's Reviews > The Children

The Children by Edith Wharton
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's review
Sep 30, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009-reads
Read in October, 2009

I was surprised when I saw this book on the shelf at the library, because I wasn't even aware it existed! But being a fan of Edith Wharton, I thought it was worth a try.

The story involves a civil engineer, Martin Boyne, who is aboard a ship on his way to visit Mrs. Rose Sellars, who has taken a summer home in the Dolomites. They are old acquaintances, and Mrs. Sellars' husband had recently died. Martin travels to her both to cheer her up, and because he feels that it would now be OK for him to confess his true feelings for her.

On board the ship, he becomes aware that the Wheater family will also be traveling. He realizes that Cliffe and Joyce Wheater, the parents, are people he knew back in his college days at Harvard. Long before he reunites with them, he has encounters with some of their children, and is both enchanted by them and puzzled about their histories.

The eldest daughter, Judith, confesses to Boyne that her parents have been marrying and divorcing and remarrying in the years since they knew him, and that the children are a mishmash of biological children, half-sisters and brothers, and stepchildren. The parents do a lot of traveling, and so do the children - though not necessarily together! The children, it turns out, are shipped back and forth to wherever their parents are staying. Judith has decided that she will do her best to keep the children together by the time she meets Martin Boyne.

Reading the book, you become aware of the fact that neither parent is all that invested in their children. They more or less think of them as a group that can take care of themselves, and they have a nurse and a governess employed to keep track of them. In their own way, they do love them, but mostly they are too busy with their society lives to pay much attention to them. Once the ship arrives in Italy, things take a definite turn, when Judith, the nurse, and the governess take things in hand regarding the future of the children and the family. Boyne becomes involved, much more than he ever thought he would, and the rest of the book details the struggles and relationships in this strange group. Boyne involves Mrs. Sellars in his attempts to help the children, and this has a definite effect on their relationship.

This was a great read. It had all of the Wharton trademarks - wealthy family, lavish settings, interesting characters. The story is both sad and comical, but never contrived or false. As the reader, you become very involved in the turn of events, and you have to keep reading to see what might happen.

I am so glad I found this book - it was well worth the time spent reading it.

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