Hilary Hicklin's Reviews > The Buccaneers

The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton
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's review
Jun 07, 2011

really liked it
Read from June 04 to 18, 2011

As is quite often the case, Wharton's later work doesn't quite measure up to her earlier masterpieces, such as Ethan Frome, which is what I would recommend to anyone new to this writer, and being her last (unfinished) novel it lacks the polish of her other books. Marion Mainwaring has done a pretty good job of completing it though.

Wharton has fun exposing the petty snobberies of New York society as well as the pointless traditions of the British class system, as when the Dowager Duchess of Tintagel says "What would happen next, as I said to her, in a house where the housekeeper DID take her meals with the upper servants?".

This is a story of the clash of the Old World and the New, of marriages of convenience, of infidelities and boredom. But the key character throughout this book, the person who holds the plot together, is Laura Testvalley (or Testavaglia which is her original name) who belongs in neither camp being the daughter of Italian immigrants. An unmarried governess with spirit and allure, she perhaps points to a more independent style of womanhood and provides a contrast to the other female characters in this novel.

The story ends on a note of hope and optimism in contrast to other novels by Wharton which end in sadness and despair. Is that the ending she envisaged, or was this tacked on to make the book more appealing to modern readers?
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Reading Progress

06/14/2011 page 250

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