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The Reef

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,595 ratings  ·  195 reviews
Edith Wharton was at the height of her enormous literary powers when she published The Reef in 1912, and everything about this novel suggests a mastery so complete that it can achieve nothing higher. The plot, which tells of the drastic effects of a casual sexual betrayal on the lives of four Americans in France, is expertly turned, suspenseful, continually compelling. An ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 11th 2007 by BiblioLife (first published January 1st 1912)
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Cindy Sussman No I don't think she was as bad as all that- just an artist (singer?) with looser morals than the hotly toity Anna. I do think that Anna finally slept…moreNo I don't think she was as bad as all that- just an artist (singer?) with looser morals than the hotly toity Anna. I do think that Anna finally slept with Darrow before that last trip to Paris, and I hope she marries him. But if she does, she will always doubt him. Many marriages are based on that level of distrust. I do hope that Owen doesn't end up with Sophy (imagine those family holidays!) but I also don't think Darrow is good enough for the bright, honest Sophy. I hope she finds someone new!(less)

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3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,595 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
”In every nerve and vein she was conscious of that equipoise of bliss which the fearful human heart scarce dares acknowledge. She was not used to strong or full emotions; but she had always known that she should not be afraid of them. She was not afraid now; but she felt a deep inward stillness.”

 photo edith-wharton_zpsjctgypud.jpg
I've always really liked this photo of Edith Wharton.

No one was more surprised than George Darrow when the girl he was wooing married Fraser Leath. He may have dallied a bit. He may have flirted with ot

This is Wharton’s fifth novel. Published in 1912, it is considered, together with the previous Ethan Frome and the subsequent The Custom of the Country, as partly autobiographical. Not so much in deeds as in spirit. As I know very little about her life, I cannot agree nor disagree with this. Rather than engage in searching for the parallels between real life and its representation through a literary disguise, I was more interested in the dynamics of the plot, since it becomes the dynamics of hum
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wharton doing what she does so well, exploring the human condition and how the classes interact with one another when the artificial lines collapse. I loved this complex story that asked so many moving, and always pertinent, questions. A gentleman has a brief encounter with a girl who does not rise to his level, he is motivated by good intentions, but things become much more complicated than he expects. When she resurfaces in his life, will he have to pay too high a price for his mistake? Or, wi ...more
Here is the plotline in a nutshell. George Darrow plans to marry Anna Leath, the two having known each other since they were young. He had lost her once to another, to Fraser Leath whom she had married, but now Fraser Leath has died, and George Darrow has no intention of letting Anna slip by a second time. Anna has agreed to meet George, but she has now two left to care for, her daughter Effie of nine and her stepson, Owen, of legal age, almost an adult, but with whom she has become very close. ...more
"Morty," Edie said, "if you can do that again, I'll get naked !"

What was EWs lover Morton Fullerton like ? In her
most autobiographical novel he appears as George
Darrow, an aspiring diplomat who has a casual fling
with a young American woman while waiting for the
widowed Anna Leath (EW) to decide if she wants to
marry him. The ambivalent Anna lives behind a social
mask outside of Paris but she can't shake off her Olde
New York upbringing. Her controlling nature is disturbed
by his sexuality.

Henry Jam
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
Young diplomat George Darrow is on his way to meet Anna Leath, an old girlfriend who is now a widow with a young daughter and a grown stepson. When Anna abruptly postpones their rendezvous without explanation, Darrow concludes that she is no longer interested in him. A chance meeting with Sophy Viner leads to their brief affair. Unfortunately, the lives of Darrow, Anna, Sophy and Anna's stepson Owen become linked and the extremely discreet sexual relationship between Darrow and Sophy complicates ...more
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Edith Wharton addicts
This is supposed to be Wharton's Jamesian book....whatever that means. Probably, it's the convoluted plotting in which all is NOT revealed until the end...and then, we "Dear Readers" are treated to the weirdest ending in years. Anna, major female protagonist, visits the blowsy sister of the woman her fiance' has "known" in the biblical sense. Ensconced in a huge pink bed with those annoying barky dogs around her, this parody of who knows what is the last vision Wharton paints. Anna has been str ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Edith Wharton's The Reef was written in 1912 when she was essentially at her very best as a novelist, and I think her powers are quite evident in this engaging tale. Also, this is a very theatrical story that I personally think would lend itself very well to a stage adaptation. The book could just as easily have been entitled, The Chateau, as basically three-quarters of the novel takes place within the confines of Mrs Anna Leath's French estate, Givre.

This is the story of romantic relationships,
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
At the top of the box to write a review is the question "What did you think"? At some point during my reading of any book, phrases start running through my head as to what I do think about what I'm reading. I laughed at myself in this one. The question in school was always "and what do you think will happen next". I was so poor at this type of prognostication that I rarely even try, but I did try in this one. My surmises were wrong. And then they were right. And then they were wrong again. Maybe ...more
Nancy Oakes
I think a 3.5 is more than appropriate. Sadly I'm off again in a couple of days on another long weekend so like everything else in my life right now, my post is on hold.

I didn't care for this one as much as the others I've read so far, but she's in the blood and I'm addicted.

more next week
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting Wharton novel. Not my favourite of hers, but not a bad read. The characters are all difficult to like, and seem very confused about what they want. The "dramatic, soul-revealing" moments Wharton's writing is known for don't really come up in this book in the same way they do in, say, The Age of Innocence or The House of Mirth.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel started off very strong, but quickly became more dull as it progressed. Most of the characters are extremely vain and unlikeable. The last chapter was completely unnecessary and almost ruined the ending.
For it’s time though The Reef was a good novel.
The Reef was beautifully written, subtle and tense. We have for our story a simple drama between two sets of lovers. But the undercurrents of distrust, passion, secrets, loyalties and lies pull the story along inexorably.

Darrow, on his way to propose to the woman he has been courting, encounters an appealing young woman very unlike most women he knows. Sophy is direct, unabashed, self-sufficient and outspoken, but also very vulnerable. He takes her under his wing, so to speak, and introduces her
Karen Zelano
Aug 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
I love Edith Wharton, but this book was terrible! I was curious as to why it could be so bad, so I read a bit about it. She wrote it during a time when she was very unhappy in her marriage. The character Anna is said to be based on the author, and Sophy based on her alter ego. That being said, the writing was overdone with too many adjectives, too much whining, not enough plot. It was sooooo drawn out, I just couldn't wait for it to end to see what would happen to these miserable characters! Thi ...more
The Reef, Edith Wharton’s eighth novel and published in 1912, is a book that couldn’t possibly have been written today. Its subject matter is so dated that I found myself quite exasperated with its central character, Anna Leath because I cannot imagine any contemporary 30-something woman getting so worked up about a suitor’s ‘past experience’. However, despite the disproportionate angst that forms the novel’s raison d’être, The Reef is a fascinating exploration of trust – how easy it is to lose, ...more
Jamesians: why on earth have you not read this book?
Christopher Sutch
This is one of Wharton's best, tightly plotted, excellent characterization, and extremely painful emotional impact. Louis Auchincloss, who wrote the introduction to my edition, spectacularly misreads nearly everything about the novel. His statement that Wharton's "hero" is Darrow is belied by Wharton's obvious disgust with him for most of the work; Darrow, after all, lies and otherwise does his best to avoid responsibility for the lives he has ruined by his thoughtless actions at the beginning o ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
So lets explore issues like unfaithfulness in relationships and lets discuss how past actions can affect our current lives and how our actions sometimes affect others or lets just read 'The Reef' by Edith Wharton...

The widowed Anna Leath meets her old flame George Darrow who intends to marry her, but what she doesn't know is that George met her daughter's governess and had a fling with her, and to complicate it a whole lot more this governess Sophie, should be marrying her stepson, etc, etc...

Daniel Kelley
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Edith Wharton is amazing. And... I only had to look up about 65 words while reading this one, which is a respectable number considering how impressive her literary vocabulary is. From her immaculate characterizations of George Darrow, Anna Leith and Sophy Viner to the subtle descriptions of both the hotel where 'the action' occurs and Givré, this book is a masterpiece from start to finish.

I wish I could have finished it somewhat quicker than in seven weeks....

But so it goes. The House of Mirth i
Dana Loo
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Al di là dei temi cari alla Wharton , La scogliera (titolo puramente simbolico) è un romanzo che trova nella scrittura di un’eleganza impareggiabile, nella profondità della narrazione, nella finezza psicologica dei personaggi, nelle belle descrizioni, la sua arma vincente. Peccato il finale che sembra un po’ troncato….
Мария Стоева
"Тя беше като картина, закачена така, че можеше да бъде разгледана само под определен ъгъл – ъгъл, който не бе известен на никого другиго, освен на нейния притежател..." "Рифът" Едит Уортън
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
On audiobook. There's a paradox that is still alive and well today in some circles, and I found it infuriating in this book, which seems to me, although the author didn't intend it that way, like a long, subtly written argument in favor of human beings accepting their sexual nature. Here's the paradox: sex isn't supposed to matter. So when you're going to get married, you don't take your intended for a test drive, because you're really in love, and it's "just sex". But then, if someone has sex w ...more
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has been a while since I read anything by Wharton, but the elegance and perceptiveness of her writing immediately became familiar.

There are 4 main characters who Wharton portrays through minute observations of their automatic responses: physical gestures, changes in their physiognomy (blushing, paling), tone of voice, physical position in a room,the weather/sunlight as reflection of interior moods, etc. This is finest example of an author showing not explaining, and leaving readers to draw t
Megan Chance
Oct 26, 2012 rated it liked it
The Reef is a fascinating character study where the tension comes from the development of an impossible situation. George Darrow comes to France to be with the woman he has loved for years and intends to marry, Anna Leith. When he arrives, he is discovers that an old lover of his, Sophy Viner, is the governess to Anna’s daughter, as well as the betrothed of Anna’s stepson—and therein lies the impossibility. The past affair between Sophy and George begins to be an unbearably heavy and unwieldy we ...more
Angela Young
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I think this story is the Lancelot, Guinevere, Arthur story: Darrow is Lancelot, Sophie is Guinevere and Anna is Arthur (in the sense of their moral and psychological states, but also in action, because Darrow brings Sophie to Anna and on the way finds himself attracted to her). But it is much more subtle than the ancient story because the characters often don't say what they really feel and so the story is more complicated. And it is also complicated by the fact of a fourth character, Owen, who ...more
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
With her customary elegant, understated prose, Wharton demonstrates that, as much as relationships between the sexes have changed in a century, people continue to be the same.

Sophy is not quite the same level of tragedy as Wharton's better-known Lily Bart, but there's some similarities here. Wharton was acutely aware of the lack of options available to a gently-reared woman without a family to protect her. Anna, on the other hand, shows the ignorance that protection fosters. It’s a Wharton book,
May 11, 2009 rated it liked it
If you're looking for a real ending, this is not the book for you. But I think it works. You end up feeling the same conflict as Anna Leath. Darrow is an interesting character in that he discloses information when necessary and with sincere regrets when appropriate, but he also withholds information with a frank belief that it's best left so. At one point Anna asks to know everything about an affair, but he turns her down with the statement that it would only cause her pain and further conflict. ...more
Nick Duretta
Feb 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Wharton again analyzes the plight of upper-class women in the early 1900s, when social mores were changing quickly. The two principal women in this novel--Anna, the intended bride of George Darrow, and Sophy, the younger girl he had a brief fling with in Paris before he became serious with Anna--exert a lot of tears and hand-wringing over what would be a non-issue these days (a brief sexual tryst that occurred well before any betrothal). The whole thing comes across more soap opera-ish than some ...more
Carla Remy
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 20th-century-lit

I really like Edith Wharton. I'd never heard of or about this 1912 novel before so it was very fresh and new. The plot revolves around a former affair and the effect it has on lives and marriages later. Because of when the book is from it was unclear what exactly this affair consisted of. Sex? No sex? I think there was sex, and the book is all about it, but won't say. A bit frustrating a hundred years later. But this is classic Wharton. She feels very modern to me, yet still is of a different ti
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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
“There was such love as she had dreamed, and she meant to go on believing in it and cherishing the thought that she was worthy of it.” 5 likes
“Love, she told herself, would one day release her from this spell of unreality. She was persuaded that the sublime passion was the key to the enigma; but it was difficult to relate her conception of love to the forms it wore in her experience. Two or three of the girls she had envied for their superior acquaintance with the arts of life had contracted, in the course of time, what were variously described as "romantic" or "foolish" marriages; one even made a runaway match, and languished for a while under a cloud of social reprobation. Here, then, was passion in action, romance converted to reality; yet the heroines of these exploits returned from them untransfigured, and their husbands were as dull as ever when one had to sit next to them at dinner. Her own case, of course, would be different.” 2 likes
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