Join us for our next book discussion series. Suzanne Brown will be facilitating our discussions for 3 Edith Wharton books on the following dates:
“Age of Innocence,” March 3rd at 4:30
“House of Mirth,” March 31st at 4:30
“The Reef,” April 28th at 4:30
Join us at the library or virtually by following this link (the passcode is “Blake”) – http://bit.ly/BMLBookDiscussion
Sponsored by The Vermont Humanities Council
Age of Innocence – “Winner of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, The Age of Innocence is Edith Wharton’s masterful portrait of desire and betrayal during the sumptuous Golden Age of Old New York, a time when society people “dreaded scandal more than disease.”
This is Newland Archer’s world as he prepares to marry the beautiful but conventional May Welland. But when the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after a disastrous marriage, Archer falls deeply in love with her. Torn between duty and passion, Archer struggles to make a decision that will either courageously define his life—or mercilessly destroy it.” -goodreads
House of Mirth – “While The House of Mirth was only Edith Wharton’s second novel, Cynthia Griffin Wolff points out in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, with it Wharton “emerged as a professionally serious, masterful novelist.” Published in 1905 it had the fastest sales of any of its publishing house’s books at the time. The novel, as well as many of Wharton’s other works, continues to enjoy great success to the present day.
In The House of Mirth, Wharton explores the status of women at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century; indeed, Wolff believes that the novel “echo[es] the many dissatisfactions Wharton felt at this time.” Heroine Lily Bart is a beautiful woman who has been brought up to achieve one goal: marry a wealthy, well-placed man. Although Lily, twenty-nine when the novel opens, has had opportunities to do so, her spirit has always recoiled from taking the step of marrying for money. However, the fate dealt to Lily in life is not spinsterhood but a fall from grace, that is New York’s social circle, which comprises the only world Lily has ever known.
Over the past century, scholars and readers alike have applied numerous interpretations to this complex novel. Upon its initial publication, many readers saw it as a critique of the so-called marriage market. Contemporary scholars, however, have tended to read the novel, and Lily’s actions, with a feminist slant. As Linda Wagner-Martin writes in her study The House of Mirth, “[It] is a key example of a woman’s voice exploring significant women’s themes in a covert manner: fiction as disguise.” – BOOKRAGS
The Reef – “”I put most of myself into that opus,” Edith Wharton said of The Reef, possibly her most autobiographical novel. Published in 1912, it was, Bernard Berenson told Henry Adams, “better than any previous work excepting Ethan Frome.”
A challenge to the moral climate of the day, The Reef follows the fancies of George Darrow, a young diplomat en route from London to France, intent on proposing to the widowed Anna Leath. Unsettled by Anna’s reticence, Darrow drifts into an affair with Sophy Viner, a charmingly naive and impecunious young woman whose relations with Darrow and Anna’s family threaten his prospects for success.
For its dramatic construction and acute insight into social mores and the multifaceted problem of sexuality, The Reef stands as one of Edith Wharton’s most daring works of fiction.” – Amazon
“Set mostly at a villa near Paris, “The Reef” is a story of complex morality and its intricately woven place in society…. Wharton’s talent for balancing emotional turmoil and all the social manners of her time is blended into this philosophical work that explores the metaphorical reefs in the hearts of women.” – goodreads