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A Son at the Front

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3.56  ·  Rating details ·  257 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Wharton's antiwar masterpiece, now once again available, probes the devastation of World War I on the home front. Interweaving her own experiences of the Great War with themes of parental and filial love, art and self-sacrifice, national loyalties and class privilege, Wharton tells an intimate and captivating story of war behind the lines.
Paperback, 239 pages
Published 1995 by Northern Illinois University Press (first published 1923)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  257 ratings  ·  33 reviews


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Duane
Edith Wharton lived in Paris during World War I, and with her incredible talent she paints a picture of the city and the people, and how they adapted to the the changes the war imposed on everyone and everything. One young man goes off to war and his parents pride for his bravery and horrible fear that he may not return is a scene played out countless times with families everywhere. Wharton was a correspondent and a homefront volunteer and her insights and descriptions give the reader a feel for ...more
Faith
May 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
I don’t believe that Edith Wharton wrote this.
Laura
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Edith Wharton’s pet subjects — failed marriages, social minefields, and stymied dreams — play out against the backdrop of the Great War. As always, Wharton’s prose beautifully combines criticism with compassion, lyricism with clarity, and subtlety with wrenching drama. I found myself re-reading passages and just sighing.

The set up for this novel hooked me before I even read it: In the summer of 1914, a divorced expatriate father living in Paris is anticipating a month’s travel with his son, Geo
...more
El
Oct 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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(Courtesy: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Way back in forgotten times, when the world was still all black and white, Edith Wharton lived in Paris. She was in Paris during World War I and through some connections was actually one of the few foreigners to be able to be on the front lines for her work as a war correspondent for Scribner's Magazine. In addition to her correspondent work she also did oodles for refugees of the war, found
...more
Jayne
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
the first Edith Wharton novel with a character that I disliked so much it colored my judgement of the entire novel, John Campton, in my opinion, is a self-centered and disagreeable character. If Wharton intended this kind of reaction, I would consider the novel a success .. If not, I will just retreat to 'Ethan Frome'...and delight in the obvious.
Rachael Moss
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Not my favorite Wharton; nonetheless powerful.
Pamela
John Campton is an American artist who has long lived in Paris and become famous for his portraiture. It is August 1914 and his son, George, is arriving so the two of them can travel together to Spain. John has felt estranged from his beloved son since he and his wife divorced and she has remarried a banker who has actually raised his son. His jealousy of this colors many of his actions throughout the novel as he refuses to see that Mr. Grant cares as much for his son as he does himself.

Almost a
...more
David Hines
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is indeed a shame that this wonderful novel by such a great writer is so little known today. I have read many of the World War I era novels, but I had never hard of A Son at the Front until I chanced across it and I am glad I did.

Instead of being the typical 1920s novel about the war or a soldier in it, this novel focuses instead on the families back home. Campton, a now famous artist, whose ex-wife remarried a rich banker before his art took fame, is concerned about his only son George, bein
...more
Dell Taylor
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
My rating: 3.5
A compelling story about the effects of war on those who are left behind. This is Wharton's anti-war statement, but she does it in the guise of a novel which raises questions/issues to ponder. Not well received at the time of its publication, it certainly does provide a thought provoking look back in time.
Christopher Sutch
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fine novel, under appreciated for too many years (even now, almost twenty years after its republication). Wharton writes about the part of World War I she knew the best, the life at the rear of the conflict, in Paris, including the charity work, the many, many people who continually receive news that their sons have died in the conflict, and artistic and social life. The editor of this edition, in her introduction, says that in this novel Wharton lays out her idea of the role of intellectuals ...more
Resa
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very rarely do I come along such a beautiful novel. I loved the author's style. She was very clear and it flowed well.
This novel is about a father's priorities for his son, but once he enters WW11, those priorities explode and the father is devastated. The father is very pessimistic and anti-war and his attitude reminds me of the current feelings concern the Iraqi war.

I am in love with this one :)
Donald
Oct 11, 2011 rated it liked it
This did not quite have the punch that I was hoping for. Fully cognizant that almost every man in France between the ages of 18 and 40 died in World War I, I was prepared for a sad outcome. While well written, it seemed like the characters were kept at a distance. You never really get to know them or care about them. It did not even provoke a tear at the end, a requisite for me to give four or five stars.
Peter
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
I love Edith Wharton. There are not enough stars to reflect what a beautiful book this is. I wish I could have experienced the gift of being in a conversation with Edith Wharton. She is, in my view, right there with Dickens, Garcia Marquez, and, yes, Steinbeck. I love them all, and am so grateful they took the time to write. The world, certainly my life, is better place for their work.
Angelina
I liked her characters (for the most part) and her plot, but something about her writing just does not grip me. I've been coming back to this book off and on for over a year, and I've finally managed to plow through it.

Still, I'd take this over "House of Mirth" ANY DAY.
Christine M. Kelly
Heartbreaking and Real

I last read Wharton in college. Found this novel by chance and remembered how I loved Ethan Frome. A perfect picture of a father's love and struggle with the man his son becomes. Too many memorable lines to cite just one. Much of a time, but not dated.
Michele
It takes a while to get into the story since the writing style is very different than that of modern writers. But I am a fan of Edith Wharton and she does a good job of depicting Europe, World War I and the friends and family on the home front.
Cecilia
Apr 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Very dry read, but overall an okay read.
Emily
May 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think what pissed me off most about this book is Campton randomly taking up an interest in clay at the very end, but trying to act as if he's liked it this whole time.
Gregory
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
(My rating is more of a 3.5)
One of Wharton’s less popular novels, the book was apparently out of print for many years until the Northern Illinois University Press put out a paperback edition with a useful introduction by Shari Benstock in 1995. I guess the book was still not popular, as I found my copy in a $1 bin.

In many respects, it is a strange book. Although the topic, of a family with a son in the army during the horrific first world war, seems familiar enough to gain a readership, the deta
...more
Monica
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I can see why this novel is less popular than other Wharton novels. The main character is difficult to like and the world of Paris in WWI is not nearly as well drawn and dazzling as her New York novels. I will admit that I had a very difficult time keeping characters straight throughout this novel. Other than the main character and his son, others moved in and out through a fog and weren't particularly memorable.

I did appreciate the story more and more as it went on though. While Campton is not
...more
Perry Whitford
I wasn't even aware that Edith Wharton, one of the very best writers of her era, wrote a novel about the Great War. It's fair to say that there's a good reason why The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth are familiar to any lover of classic fiction and A Son at the Front is not.

Not that it's a bad novel. Wharton didn't do those, she was far too talented. However, she made some essential errors in this story, most notably with the choice of her protagonist, a selfish and largely dislikeable p
...more
Barbara
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Actually I didn't finish this; thus, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and 3 stars. It isn't a bad book at all; Edith Wharton writes too beautifully and with so much insight into people that she isn't going to have written a bad book. And all of her books move slowly with a great deal of character development and detailed settings and time periods. But this book just bored me. I can uderstand why it had been forgotten and out of publication for many years, and was not at all popular at the time ...more
Rod
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The war was three months old--three centuries. By virtue of some gift of adaptation which seemed forever to discredit human sensibility, people were already beginning to live into the monstrous idea of it, acquire its ways, speak its language, regard it as a thinkable, endurable, arrangeable fact; to eat it by day, and sleep on it--yes, and soundly--at night.
The war went on; life went on...



A really good--if lesser known--Wharton novel that captures great truths about war and how we adapt; father
...more
Linda Kenny
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WWI story of father and son

I had to search for this book, hearing about it first in a course I took on WWI. Instead of being a story of a soldier son at the front, it tells the story of his family in Paris. Wharton brings together the struggle of divorced parents, the impact of the war on daily life, and in the forefront a father coming to terms with his son's decisions and his own art. I recommend it to anyone who reads Wharton these days or is a student of WWI?
David
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A different perspective of the great war.

I've never read a book about a divorced couples son going to war. What seemed almost a contest in concern. It also portrayed a mindset about war that was so different from now but she gave an insight into another time. How in the world could you get people into those trenches? I am now going to re-read Helprin's "A Soldier Of The Great War".
Jeslyn
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had a hard time with this read - Campton Sr was so self-absorbed, oblivious to his own hypocrisy in his jealousy and bitterness toward Brant, and for the vast majority of the book was borderline (or not so borderline) repellant. A few moments of decency, but most of them were still clouded by his pettiness toward Mr. Brant. In the end, I just wanted it to be over. I wouldn't rate this as a "masterpiece" for Wharton, frankly.
MaryKate
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Set during WWI in Europe with an artistic back drop beginning in Montmarte, reading between the lines, the book has an antiwar theme, while the privileged continue as they have always but with the nuisance of war.
Susan
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Review to follow.
Judy
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, wwi-related
It has been a very long time since I read anything by Edith Wharton. This one surprised me, because it was so different in setting, plot, and atmosphere from the ones I have read. I downloaded it from Library of America, which often send out links to American short stories, and they remarked that A Son at the Front has gotten little attention.

Written only a few years after WWI ended, this is the story of an American artist living in Paris whose son, because he was born in Paris even though h is
...more
Sam Mowry
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audiobook
Super good. Not what I would recommend for the first foray into Edith because it's not her normal subject matter, but it's still super good. While it's still very characteristic of her writing and her opinions (and I love her), it's just not *fun* like her society novels (for obvious reasons). But it's extremely well-rounded; she has enough time and makes use of it to really explore all of the contradictory feelings that you can have about war and, for example, your son's involvement in it. And ...more
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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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