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The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton - Bogormen
So many books, so little time.
The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton
Title: The House of Mirth
Author: Edith Wharton
Genre: classic
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 329
Date read: July, 2009

The beautiful Lily Bart lives among the nouveaux riches of New York City - people whose millions were made in railroads, shipping, land speculation, and banking. In this morally and aesthetically bankrupt world, Lily, age twnty-nine, seeks a husband who can satisfy her craving for endless admiration and all the trappings of wealth. Her quest comes to a scandalous end when she is accused of being the mistress of a wealthy man. Exiled from her familiar world of artificial conventions, Lily finds life impossible.

I don't do well with books with sad endings. That's a personal quirk and I'm well aware it has no influence on the literary quality of the book.

"The House of Mirth" falls into the same genre as "Ditte Menneskebarn" and several other Danish books of that era - books that are well-written, but where the author for one reason or another decide to let the main characters fail in all his/her endeavours rather than succeed. This inevitably leads up to a depressing book, so that no matter how much I enjoyed other aspects of it I can't enjoy the book as a whole.

However, I did appreciate that Edith Wharton didn't let Lily lose her integrity along with everything else.

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mattiescottage From: mattiescottage Date: July 29th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for reviewing this. A friend of mine had encouraged me to read this, but I was concerned it would be a downer. I agree with you; I would like at least some tangible threads of hope in a book. We need encouragement in our everydays.
bogormen From: bogormen Date: July 30th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. I do anyway. Some people can look past the depressing bits in a good story and enjoy the book for the writing itself (substitute movie and acting at will), but I've never learned how to do that. Objectively I could see that it was well-written and poignant, but it was too sad ever to become a favourite of mine.
irinaauthor From: irinaauthor Date: July 31st, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think it was the author "letting" Lily fail; Lily did just fine all on her own and in my opinion having her win in the end would've been a great betrayal of the character as she'd been written. Would it have been better if Lily had managed to marry a super rich guy after all and live a life of luxury, even after subconsciously doing everything she could to sabotage it? What would that have meant for Wharton's illustration of the conflict between women's personal desires and the social laws they had to follow in the early 20th century, which was really her point in telling the story in the first place?

I guess what I'm saying is that it's not a romance novel where the woman can have it all and live happily ever after; it's about the choices women of Wharton's social class were forced to make and the freedoms they had to live without. There was never any possibility of happily ever after for Lily. She had two choices: sell out because she's greedy enough to compromise marrying for love in exchange for a life of luxury, or hold out for something more. She chooses the former consciously, but her subconscious chooses the latter and tanks her every time she gets close. What possible happy resolution is there between those two needs, within the confines of her society? But isn't she a fascinatingly written character?

I can't help but admire her. I love this book, even though it's sad. And even if you didn't like the story it still gives you a neat picture of the social history of New York, right?
bogormen From: bogormen Date: August 1st, 2009 06:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Honestly, I don't think it could have ended any other way either without ruining the integrity of the book. Not by the time Lily had gotten that far anyway. Had Selden not been so quick to scorn her after seeing her leave Trener's apartment, I think it could have ended very differently, because at that point she seemed ready to make amends - but he did, so she didn't and ended up sinking down further than ever before.

I would have loved to hear Trenor's reaction to her paying back his money though! That would have to have been quite a jolt to his pride I could imagine.

Yes, Lily is absolutely fascinating and I fully appreciated the book for its literary value, so I'm glad you recommended it to me :)
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