2008: 52. Edith Wharton    


“In Paris, in 1848, a young American couple on their Grand Tour of Europe found themselves, to their surprise, in the middle of a French Revolution.”

Edith Wharton, Hermione Lee


In what is an exciting turn of events (at least from a blogging perspective), I have begun to read real, grown up, non-mystery fiction.  This biography of Wharton came out last year, and after six futile months trying to borrow a copy from the library (thanks for nothing, interlibrary loan!), I decided just to bite the bullet and buy it in hardcover.  I’m glad I did - the book is extremely well written - enough so that I could read 762 pages on Wharton’s life without getting bored.  Even better, I managed to finish the biography without thinking that the subject was a miserable human being who wasn’t worth reading 762 pages about - a sensation that it rarer than one would think with biography.  Lee tells Wharton’s story, good and bad, but manages to respect her without being either 1) overly fawning or 2) destroying her reputation.  My favorite parts of the books were the sections where Lee discussed Wharton’s works, her novels and short stories, managing to provide both literary analysis and to show how her writing reflected her own life experiences.  Anyone interested in American literature, turn of the century of American history and society, or the evolution of artists would enjoy this biography - or people interested in how the rich live, scandalous divorces, Henry James, expatriate life in Paris, and, of course, The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth (no matter what Lee tells me, I cannot believe that anyone is interested in Ethan Frome).  


Date/Place Completed: 4/5/08; D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017