The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

33 views
2011 Group Reads - Archives > Ethan Frome & Edith Wharton's Life and Times

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Adelle (last edited Feb 17, 2011 02:50PM) (new)

Adelle Thank you, Madge. I appreciate your getting the ball rolling. I checked out the links you provided. Nice.

From the pre-intro to my B&N edition: "Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862, into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase 'keeping up with the Joneses.'"

If true, I find that a fascinating little tidbit. I like those word and phrase origin histories.

I'll commence reading.


message 2: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Adelle wrote: ""Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862, into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase 'keeping up with the Joneses.'"

If true, I find that a fascinating little tidbit."


Adelle -- I have read that several different places. I suspect it is true.


message 3: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Great links, Madge! Thanks!

I have so much reading on my plate right now that I don't know if I can fit Ethan Frome in right now, but it is a book I have long wanted to read. I have read three of Wharton's other novels plus some of her short stories, although I don't remember which of the latter.


message 4: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I like the 'keeping up with the Jones' story Adelle!

It would be nice to have you with us Lily, for old times sake:).


message 5: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Thanks, Madge. I liked it, too. I had always assumed (you what they say about "assume") that it was just a made up kind of phrase. That if there were some logical basis in it, it was because there are probably more Joneses than anyone else...so I had "assumed" it meant trying to keep up with other people. (Smith and Jones used to be the common names. Sometimes the name one would chose if one wanted a fake name.)


message 6: by Adelle (new)

Adelle I don't have the source material to back this up....

Years back when I was reading all that Henry James, there was one particular story about James and Wharton. James's books, you may recall, seldom were huge sellers. Generally, his books weren't best sellers. Go figure.

Wharton and James had the same publisher. I had read that Wharton would on occasion ask the publisher to take some of the royalties from her books and include them in the publishing payments to James...but that James wasn't to know they were from her....She wanted him to think that it was money he had earned from the sale of his own books.

I thought that very generous of her.

I see now that she wasn't hurting for money. But it was still a generous action to make on behalf of a friend.

Might that be something to think about as we read Ethen Frome? Is loyalty a trait Wharton admired? Is there a point where something else takes more importance?


message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 19, 2011 05:12AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments That's another nice story:). From what I have read of her, particularly her bravery during WWII, she seemed a very generous spirited woman. However, was Ethan loyal or weak? Does Wharton (or the narrator) admire him or not? This is certainly something worth discussing.


message 8: by Adelle (new)

Adelle However, was Ethan loyal or weak? Does Wharton (or the narrator) admire him or not? This is certainly something worth discussing and thanks for pointing it out.

EXCELLENT questions. *I don't want to give the game away, but excellent questions. I couldn't make that judgment call on Ethan either way when I read the book a few years ago. Maybe this time. I do look forward to discuss those questions when we finish the reading.

*I don't think we've revealed too much here. The back of the book and the introduction allow us to see ... much more .... of the story.


message 9: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 22, 2011 10:40AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I am re-entering my links because I found better ones. Here is a nice little biog of Edith Wharton:-

http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/wharton/wha...

One of the reasons Wharton fascinates me is that, as well as being a writer, she was a landscape gardener and an interior designer. You all know of the Mount, her home at Lenox, Massachusetts - there are some nice pics and comments on the interior of The Mount here (as well as a great slideshow of the gardens):-

http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl...

She also had several nice homes in France and this one, Castel St Claire, is listed as having one of the notable gardens of France:-

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1214/4...

Another beautiful French home and garden is the Pavillon Colombe:-

http://www.saintbrice95.fr/media/medi...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gar...

And one of the bedrooms she designed for that villa:-

http://www.debraforce.com/Websites/de...

A few years ago I went on a coach tour which incorporated several of the gardens she wrote about in her Italian Villas and their Gardens, which was one of the best European holidays I have ever taken. This is one of the villas - I love formal Italian gardens, which I think inspired those at The Mount:-

http://www.atg-oxford.co.uk/trips1.ph...

I have also visited the spectacular Villa Carlotta, with gardens beside Lake Como, where she stayed with Henry James (the villas and gardens around Lake Como are superb!):-

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_Jt_YcmdZrYQ/Rkk...

Here is a nice portrait of Wharton with James in Italy, in 1904:-

http://26.media.tumblr.com/3FZnoU8PUn...


message 10: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 22, 2011 10:52AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments And of course Edith Wharton was a war correspondent and a heroine of WWI. She was made a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur by the French and her house Pavillon Columbe (where she died) is now on a street which was renamed Rue Edith Wharton. Here is something about her war experiences:-

http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/...


message 11: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 605 comments MadgeUK wrote: "One of the reasons Wharton fascinates me is that, as well as being a writer, she was a landscape gardener and an interior designer. ..."

Great pics Madge. I love the wall from The Mount.

She really liked the color green for interiors didn't she? I like it too. She could have thrown some yellow in there somewhere though.


message 12: by Loretta (new)

Loretta (lorettalucia) Thanks for all the excellent links, Madge.


message 13: by Jaime (new)

Jaime (janastasiow) So what Edith Wharton books has everyone read?

I've only read Ethan Frome and Summer.

Since I know EF is vary different from her other writing, I was just curious about eveyone's personal experience reading her as it will vastly change our discussion.


message 14: by Linda2 (last edited Feb 22, 2011 11:54PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3742 comments Frome twice, Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth (twice,) a number of her short stories.

Frome is not that different in theme from Innocence, although the setting is very different. They're both about the destruction of a relationship by traditional values and institutions. Wharton takes a dim view of the inequality in marriage marriage as it was then. She herself was married to a mentally ill man, and did the unthinkable in 1913: she divorced him.

Her writing gave her the financially independence that few women had. She moved to France and lived her life exactly as she wished.


message 15: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3742 comments Does anyone know if there's any truth in A Backward Glance, her autobiography?


message 16: by Jaime (new)

Jaime (janastasiow) I think Summer is that way as well. The Age of Innocence is the next one of hers I want to read.


message 17: by Loretta (new)

Loretta (lorettalucia) I've had a copy of The Age of Innocence for years now that I've never gotten aroudn to reading. I was hoping to get to it this year.


message 18: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Her writing gave her the financially independence that few women had. She moved to France and lived her life exactly as she wished.

I think the money from her writing was just icing on the cake because she came from a very wealthy family: 'Edith's parents, George Frederic and Lucretia Jones, were descendants of English and Dutch colonists who had made fortunes in shipping, banking, and real estate. Edith Jones belonged to the small, most fashionable society of New York which lived on inherited wealth and were interrelated.' (From the above biog.)


message 19: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I think the money from her writing was just icing on the cake be..."

Well, I really should check, Madge, but as I recall her income from her writing was substantial enough to support some of her major home and garden projects.

My own reading of Wharton has been The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, and The Buccaneers (unfinished at her death). I enjoyed The Buccaneers even though the critics generally pan the ending imposed upon it as well as the seeming lack of Mrs. Wharton's usual careful editing. I have not read Ethan Frome before, but I did read a few short stories somewhere along the way.


message 20: by MadgeUK (last edited Feb 24, 2011 05:09AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Certainly her novel writing must have supported many projects when she became well known although the first successful book she wrote was The Decoration of Houses. She was a wealthy woman who married a wealthy man - in 1888 they chartered a yacht for a 3 month cruise of the Aegean, which cost as much as their annual income. Even before her success as a novelist 'she travelled with a butler, a chauffeur, a Mercedes car, secretaries and housemaids, sometimes with a party of friends who were her guests'. Her biographer Hermione Lee says that 'while she didn’t have to write for a living she did have to write in order to sustain her extravagant lifestyle' - the more so after she divorced her first husband when he became mentally ill.

I think that one of the strengths of her writing was that she could write convincingly about the wealthy lifestyles of the Edwardians before WWI because she had known that lifestyle herself. Not many really wealthy people write novels so she gives us a fly on the wall view of them. I believe one of her characters is modelled on the first British woman MP, Lady Nancy Astor, another rich American of the period.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Well done, Madge! I really want to read Ms. Lee's biography of Wharton at some point. I have heard nothing but great things about it.


message 22: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Me too!! I have Lee's biography on my shelf. Wharton sounds like a fascinating woman.

In answer to Jaime's question, I recently read The House of Mirth and I adored it. The main character, Lily Bart is one of literature's greats, I think and the book haunted me. I would happily read it again for a group read.


message 23: by Sasha (last edited Feb 25, 2011 01:21AM) (new)

Sasha Thanks for all the links, Madge.

I want that bedroom in the villa! I am pea-green with envy. :)


back to top

37567

The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910

unread topics | mark unread


Books mentioned in this topic

Ethan Frome (other topics)
Summer (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Edith Wharton (other topics)