SarahC's Reviews > The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
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's review
Jan 30, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: american-20th-c, wharton
Recommended for: early 20th century, strong tales of women
Read from February 11 to 16, 2010 , read count: 1

I often like stories where the characters are patchwork colors rather than black and white. Lily Bart is like that for me. The exquisitely beautiful Lily is in a defined situation-- raised to be a leading competitor in the marriage market, setting her sights on the upper crust of early 20th century New York society. Her parents have both died after a decline in the family fortune and she is living under the charge of a less-than-caring aunt. From that starting point, we watch Lily, a strong, smart and capable girl but one blinded by the direction in which she was aimed by a social-climbing mother.

She has reached her 30s only to learn the tiring competition among this society set and to continually see how tentative life among them is with their underhanded rules and constantly shifting loyalties. She sees the only refuge from her role of eternal society girl -- marrying wealth and keeping the wealthy happy. Making no immediate impact on her path are two friends from her set, well-connected but actually living middle class lives, a young attorney and a single woman devoted to social causes. Have they opted for the middle class life or did they have no choice? Lily is not even interested in asking that question -- she can only imagine that someone in her place should always be climbing the ladder. She looks for no other choices. Lily continues to involve herself in plans and liaisons with wealthy friends, trusting them while knowing they are untrustworthy.

In only a few scenes I saw glimpses life's most tangible and lasting elements within Lily. Her most honest moments and her most loyal acts are saved for her two closest friends, one of whom is possibly her real love and her true destiny. She ultimately has the ability to face the truth in her life and her choices and makes an honest admission to the man for whom she could never even muster small respect but was willing to marry for money.

Is Lily really the society girl weighing out the best marriage prospects, or is she many people in many parts of society chasing the dream of wealth and success and not settling for anything less that the top of ladder? Edith Wharton may have seen need even this early in the last century to pose this character so that we might look at our motivations or wonder how keen our vision is as we plan our future.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Robson Thanks for that review, Sarah. I have only read one or two of Edith Wharton's, but I should definitely add The House of Mirth to my TBR pile.

SarahC I lost the first comment I wrote here! I was lead to Wharton by a friend who has read a lot of American classics. I am glad I read it and would like to read some more. I am also hoping to read some Eudora Welty soon. I have only read a little of her writing and she is from my home state.

message 3: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Robson I really enjoyed Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings and the book features in my manuscript "Crossing Paths". It is one of the 52 books featured in the manuscript. I am still surrounding myself with books. I will have to put a stop to it soon!


SarahC How coincidental. I have read that one and it was lovely and made an impact with me. Honest and simple story. It sounds like you have an interesting project in the works!

message 5: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Robson It's finished actually. Just hard to find a publisher as it is a large manuscript and I'm an unknown quantity! There is more about it on Bookcrossing. Are you a member. I'm lakelady2282.


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