Jenny's Reviews > Summer

Summer by Edith Wharton
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's review
Aug 16, 2011

it was amazing
Read from August 16 to 22, 2011

I loved this book so much more than I thought I would! It has all of the compelling romance and drama that one would expect from a short novella about the sexual coming-of-age of a young woman in a small New England town and, admittedly, that's what kept me turning the pages. However, Wharton is no writer of silly, frivolous romances. The story of Charity Royall is also one of complex class structures, gender limitations, the discovery of one's identity, and missed opportunities.

Charity Royall, originally born in a desolate, crime-ridden mountain community, is adopted at a young age by Mr. Royall and his wife, who passes away while Charity is still young. Charity passes her childhood in North Dormer, a lower middle class town that offers limited opportunities to a young woman as independent and spirited as Charity. As Charity reaches womanhood, her relationship with her guardian becomes more complicated and, in the midst of this arrives Lucius Harney, a handsome, young, worldly architect who is visiting from out of town. Charity is immediately smitten with this unlikely match, and a summer romance ensues.

This is no fairytale, however, and as the outside world, social structures and expectations, and Charity's own growing sense of her own true identity complicate things, the story takes some turns that are--although somewhat predictable, it's true--seemingly inevitable. This inevitability is powerfully disappointing, considering Charity's unique strength, independent spirit, and spunk. Charity is by no means flawless, however, and, generally, Wharton's complex characterization of all of the main characters urges the reader to look beyond a simple "life is unfair" moral and to really consider what leads Charity to her destiny (I'm still pondering this, personally...)

Wharton's prose is quite rich, with lush descriptions that perfectly capture the essence of a golden, dreamy summer of youth, one that is abuzz with life and bursting with possibilities. At the end of the book, as Charity is contending with the fallout of her summer romance and, at the same time, coming face-to-face with who she really is, autumn has set in with its cold, hard nights, and it is apparent how easily reality can steal away the fleeting freedom of summer.
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04/01 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Johnny I just started it...hopefully I'll have it read to discuss before September 1!

Jenny Great! I'm interested to hear what you think...I'm thinking of teaching it after Catcher/Six Degrees (and before Gatsby). The themes seem appropriate and Charity seems like a good female counterpart for Holden in some ways....

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