We are delighted to announce that sign up is open for all interested in participating in the January 2010 Classics Circuit: Edith Wharton.
Below you will find some general information about Edith Wharton, her writing, summaries of her novels, and links to blogger’s reviews and other reader’s reviews. Yes, it is a lot of information! Believe it or not, even this is not comprehensive. Some stories, novellas, and poems by Wharton are collected in different publications, and those would work too! We hope this might help you decide what you’d like to read for the tour and in what way you may like to welcome Wharton to your blog. And maybe it, along with all the Wharton stops, will help you decide on your next Wharton read once the tour is over.
If you already decided how you’d like to participate, skip to the “To Participate” section for information on how to sign up.
About Edith Wharton and Her Writing
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was an author of more than 40 works including novels, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Her love of writing started in her childhood and was encouraged by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She received the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence in 1920 and became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale.
Many of Wharton’s works use dramatic irony. Her privileged upbringing gave her first-hand insights into upper-class society which effected the tone of her works. The themes in her work include the moral downfall of the high society, the treatment of women as objects, and the need for order in society. Her desire to escape this lifestyle allowed her to create what is considered some of the best ghost stories of her age. Wharton’s works are still relevant and valuable as they provide a glimpse into a particular place and time in American culture. They also reveal the dark side of human nature which pertains to everyone of any period.
The New York Times noted in their obituary: “There can be no reading of human character without ethics, no tragedy without conflict between things that matter. This Edith Wharton knew and never forgot, and by that token we know her for the artist she was.”
Author information compiled by Christine.
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The Age of Innocence (about 340 pages; Pulitzer Prize winner) (Free ebook from Girlebooks; Project Gutenberg; DailyLit). New York Society families are shaken when Countess Ellen Olenska returns after her divorce. Newly engaged Newland Archer falls for Ellen and must decide between love and family honour. Reviews:
- “I would recommend The Age of Innocence for it’s view of Old New York Society and the terrific writing.” book-a-rama
- “Wharton gives us a poignant picture of how a person adapts to his or her society.” Jandy’s Reading Room
- “Wharton is a brilliant wordsmith, and she perfectly captures the heyday of New York society.” Books and Movies
- “Edith Wharton has written a beautiful masterpiece about the battle between the sexes.” Auxiliary Memory
The House of Mirth (about 400 pages) (Project Gutenberg link). Lily Bart needs a rich husband if she wants to maintain her expensive habits, clothes and gambling, but she doesn’t want to marry without both love and money leaving her in the precarious position of being judged by society and her peers. Often billed as the first “novel of manners”, Wharton’s book follows the life of Lily Bart as she struggles to live by her own desires in a society which has little use for the individual. Reviews:
- “I loved the way Wharton writes. It’s rich and descriptive. Wharton is brutally honest and hard on New York society, of which she herself was born into.” Book-A-Rama
- “I said this novel split me in two; on the one hand the professional side of me recognised the chilling brilliance with which Wharton planned the inexorable descent of her heroine, and admired the thousand details, placed with the artistry and exactitude of beading on an elaborate ball gown, that were used to support and reinforce the inevitability of her fate. Yet the simple reader in me cried out for justice for Lily Bart…” Tales From The Reading Room
- “If you are looking for “mirth,” The House of Mirth is not the book for you. The House of Mirth is about a woman searching for happiness where true happiness will not to be found: through money and a life of materialism.” Rebecca Reads
The Custom of the Country(about 370 pages) (Free e-book from Girlebooks; Project Gutenberg). Undine Spragg’s social ambitions move her from a comfortable life in the Midwest to New York City. She attempts to climb the ladder of New York Society all while keeping her past a secret. Reviews:
- Curled Up: The entire book is written with a subtle sarcasm toward Americans and toward the rich. Wharton describes what is going on in the book with an apparent wide-eyed naiveté, but she is twisting a sharp blade under all that innocence.
- Susan Platt at Amazon: Do read this novel; you will love it and learn from it
- Scooper at Amazon: To anyone who has read The Custom of the Country, the idea that Undine Spragg is the perfect personification of America would be something to think about. To those who haven’t read it, my humble advice is that they read it and form an opinion on that subject.
- A Customer at Amazon: The genius of Edith Wharton is that through Undine we see the destruction of society and families by the ridiculous treatment of women in society of early 1900′s.
The Buccaneers (416 pgs in Penguin Edition; Wharton died before completing it, so Marion Mainwaring wrote ending) (not available on Project Gutenberg). Told in large part through the eyes of American débutantes, the story portrays innocent, wide-eyed, almost ethereal girls who turn into socially conscious women with financial worries–unrecognizable even to themselves Reviews:
- In an interview, Michelle of GalleySmith said: “If I’m thinking classics I love Wharton’s The Buccaneers.”
- Plenty More Books Inside: “Despite the things I didn’t like about the book – the noticeable change in authors, the change in tone and style – I really did like the story”
- Dwelling in Possibility: “I ended up loving it.”
- Educating Petunia: “I should never have watched the movie first. Really. It ruined the book for me.”
- Green & Gardenia: “And, yes, this book is kind of a “how-to-catch-a-husband-in-Victorian-England” kind of a book, but that’s just the kind I like! What’s the latest book that you’ve read?”
The Reef (about 250 pages) (Project Gutenberg link). Summary from Barnes & Noble: “Edith Wharton was at the height of her enormous literary powers when she published The Reef in 1912, and everything about this novel suggests a mastery so complete that it can achieve nothing higher. The plot, which tells of the drastic effects of a casual sexual betrayal on the lives of four Americans in France, is expertly turned, suspenseful, continually compelling. An assured, unhurried dramatic instinct governs the great moments of confrontation and revelation. The central characters, two of whom are innocents and two of whom are burdened by experience and tinged with desperation, are perfectly delineated: their relationships to one another are constructed with a classical feeling for harmony, proportion, and balance. ” Reviews:
- “This story is indeed a reef….fascinating on the surface and full of terror and danger underneath.” by Gina on Goodreads
- “[...] I highly recommend this, it lived up to all of my Wharton expectations [...]” by our very own Eva
- “I loved this book and I think it was infinitely intelligent and modern.” by Lorraine Scotti on Goodreads
- “[...] I was greatly surprised by how much caught up with the story I was.” by Schmerguls on LibraryThing
- “This is an exquisitely written and fascinating novel, a real bridge from the Victorian style, structure, and values, to a more modern sensibility.” by Terry on Amazon.com
The Glimpses of the Moon (about 300 pages) (Google Books). Glimpses of the Moon tells the story of Susy and Nick who form a secretive alliance in the hopes of bettering their situation, but soon their fake engagement becomes a bit more complicated. Reviews:
- Pages Turned includes a 1922 review of the novel by Rebecca West.
- Bookgirl’s Nightstand says the novel made her think of “how people can muck up relationships all because there is a lack of communication”.
- Stefanie at So Many Books, on the other hand, was more focused on the “corrupting power of money”.
- Amazon reviewers call the novel spell-binding and say it has “chiseled prose, trenchant humor, sociological precision, briskly paced and compactly dramatized”.
The Valley of Decision (about 440 pages) (Project Gutenberg link; Google Books). Edith Wharton’s first novel is a historical novel of eighteenth century Italy, specifically the rise to power Odo Valsecca during the intellectual and political tumult which preceded the French Revolution. Reviews:
- Dave at GoodReads: The scope and detail are there, but the execution is not quite up to the level which she would later attain.
- Cambridge Collections Online: Edith Wharton’s first novel, The Valley of Decision, is one of her most important and distinguished novels, yet it has received relatively little (and mostly superficial) attention, in spite of its initial popularity.
Sanctuary (216 pgs in Pine Street Books edition). Short description from Amazon: Originally published by Scribners in 1903, this is the story of Kate Orme, who marries a man of weak moral character. When they have a child, she fears that the sins of the father will be the sins of their son. Kate dedicates herself to instilling morality in the boy as he grows, especially after her husband dies. This is a typical Wharton examination of upper-crust society strewn with flaws. (longer description if needed can be found here.) Reviews:
- “Most of Wharton’s books are wrapped up in ethical dilemmas or one kind or another, but “Sanctuary” tackles a very different kind of problem. And Wharton does a good job spinning out a sense of suspense, all about a young man who could tip either way [...]” by E.A. Solinas on amazon.com
- “With precision, beauty, and sharp awareness of the cracks in upper class New York society that made her one of the great writers of the twentieth century, Edith Wharton offers a subtle critique of the nature versus nurture debate that raged in the early 1900s.” from the editorial review at Barnes & Noble’s site
- “An interesting plot written with the skill of a master story-teller.” by seoulful at librarything
- “[...] the plot did not cause any surprises at the time, but today the story seems rather unusual. It is a story which deals with ethics, morality, and family honor.” by Dave on Goodreads
- “The novel is beautifully written and exquisitely nuanced [...]” by L. Young on amazon.com
The Fruit of the Tree (about 420 pages) (project Gutenberg link). Summary from Amazon: “Set in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts during the height of the progressive era, the book centers on heroine Justine Brent, a professionally trained nurse who is called upon to attend her childhood friend Bessy Westmore, a rich textile mill owner left paralyzed by a riding accident. When Bessy begs to be released from a life of intense pain and suffering, Justine debates the moral issues and makes the difficult choice to administer a lethal dose of morphine. After Bessy dies, Justine falls in love with her widowed husband and joins him in his efforts to create better conditions for the factory workers. Questions surrounding Bessy’s death, however, haunt their relationship, and Justine learns first-hand the tragic consequences of social idealism and reform.” Reviews:
- “If you’re interested in a different work by Edith Wharton, one that involves industrialism, professions for women, euthanasia, divorce, and a host of interesting events, try THE FRUIT OF THE TREE.” by A Customer at amazon.com
- “There are three main strands to this novel: the question of the need for reform in the cotton mills, the issue of euthanasia and whether or not it is justified “when all the good of life is gone”, and a conventional romance plot.” by scarletslippers at LibraryThing
- “[...] the novel should be read and discussed. Even a hundred years later.” at Disability Studies
- “Although not as beautifully rendered as her more well-known works (such as House of Mirth, Age of Innocence, and Custom of the Country), The Fruit of the Tree is still a gripping story, with all of the miscommunication and heartache that one would expect in any novel by Wharton.” by Kplatypus at LibraryThing
- “A little-known, unusual, and fascinating Wharton.” at LonelyMountain.net
A Son at the Front (about 220 pages). Excerpted summary from Publisher’s Weekly: Largely criticized or ignored by a war-weary public when it was originally published in 1922, A Son at the Front is an extraordinarily poignant novel chronicling the effects of WWI on painter John Campton and his only child, George. Because his American parents were visiting France at the time of his birth, George is called to duty in the French army. Campton, his ex-wife, Julia Brant, and her husband, wealthy banker Anderson Brant, immediately butt heads over how to keep George safely at a desk job. Reviews:
- “This novel departs somewhat from Wharton’s regular novels of manners to explore the trauma the first World War inflicted on Americans living in France during the conflict. As usual, she writes in a rich, realistic style, providing readings with plenty of details and descriptions.” By Kyle from Goodreads
The Mother’s Recompense (about 365 pages). Excerpted Summary From Amazon.com: Kate Clephane had exiled herself from husband, child and the rigidity of New York society because of her guilty elopement. Now, living quietly on the Rivera, she is overjoyed to be summoned home by her daughter, Anne. But back in the charmed circle, she finds post-war New York, though changed in many ways, still locked into petty and snobbish constrictions. This touching study of complex issues shows how Kate’s joy in being with Anne is soon threatened by the reappearance of the only man Kate had truly loved. Reviews:
- “The book has its flaws, mostly in its propensity for melodrama and sometimes Kate’s indecision grows tiresome but overall I enjoyed The Mother’s Recompense.” Puss Reboots
- “A little gem of a novel about scandal and shame as only Edith Wharton could dream up! ” Laura from Goodreads
Twilight Sleep (about 320 pages). Summary from Amazon.com: A brilliant and penetrating study of life in the upper social circles of New York…its people all fully and sharply characterized, its story managed with the most praiseworthy dexterity, and the whole seasoned with the acid of Mrs. Wharton’s keen satire. Reviews:
- “If you can get through the language, it’s not half bad–witty but in a very subtle way. Definitely one of those that you actually have to pay attention to every word though instead of just kind of skimming lazily through it.” Rachel from Goodreads
- “Wharton’s female characters are spunky but the younger women are rendered through distasteful elderly eyes and with a certain amount of regret.” Caitlin from Goodreads
- “There are some archaic attitudes and politically incorrect references, but on the whole, I was amazed at how contemporary the book felt. Although written and set in the 1920s, there are modern parallels to nearly every indulgence explored by the book’s characters.” L. McCall on Amazon
The Children (368 pgs in Virago edition) (not available on Project Gutenberg). A comic, bittersweet novel about the misadventures of a bachelor and a band of precocious children. The seven Wheater children, stepbrothers and stepsisters grown weary of being shuttled from parent to parent “like bundles,” are eager for their parents’ latest reconciliation to last. A chance meeting between the children and the solitary forty-six-year-old Martin Boyne leads to a series of unforgettable encounters. Reviews:
- ceaseless dreamer: “I highly recommend this book for the heartfelt drama and beautiful prose.”
- tyrant_mouth: “I never thought I would like this novel, but hey, I end up loving it (and I want to read other works by Edith Wharton)!”
- Educating Petunia: “I suppose I should start off by saying that I did like it.”
- Bridget of Goodreads: “This was a great read. It had all of the Wharton trademarks – wealthy family, lavish settings, interesting characters. The story is both sad and comical, but never contrived or false. “
- Peter of Goodreads: “One of my favorites of Wharton’s lesser read novels.”
Hudson River Bracketed (556 pgs in Virago edition) (not available on Project Gutenberg). Naive young writer Vance Weston, convalescing by the Hudson River, meets Halo Spear and is fired by her passion for literature. They meet again, much later, and, with her rich, cultivated husband, Lewis Tarrant, she introduces him to New York’s literary and artistic circles. But an impulsive marriage has brought Vance poverty and unwelcome responsibilities which inhibit his writing until one summer, Halo inspires him to write the novel which makes his name. Reviews:
- My Porch chose this as one of his favourite reads of 2008.
- Studiousgal at Amazon: This book occasionally felt a bit like a pot-boiler, but it did hold my attention, particularly due to the way that Vance was in many ways a difficult person, yet undeniably a talented writer.
The Gods Arrive (464 pgs in Virago edition) (not available on Project Gutenberg). Sequel to Hudson River Bracketed, so don’t read plot summary if you don’t want to know how that one ends. Halo Tarrant, abandoning her failed marriage, elopes to Europe with the brilliant young writer, Vance Weston. As they travel around, her only wish is to serve him and his genius. But, ignoring the pain her ambiguous status brings, Vance takes her loving attentions for granted and rejects the critical advice he had formerly welcomed.
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Ethan Frome (about 100 pages) (Free e-book from Girlebook; Project Gutenberg; DailyLit) A brutal New England winter changes the lives of three people. Ethan Frome must choose between duty and desire. Reviews:
- “It’s a haunting story.” book-a-rama
- “This is a beautifully written book and a departure from Edith Wharton’s other works, in that it’s character’s are not of the upper classes.” Tammy’s Book Nook
- “It is a deeply affecting work and you will not soon forget the heart rending plight of Edith Wharton.” Brothers Judd
- “Wharton’s firm grasp of setting, her understanding of human vulnerability, and her sense of drama all combine to make Ethan Frome a compelling must read.” Caribousmom
The Touchstone, (about 125 pages) (read it on Project Gutenberg). In this first published novella Wharton wrote, a man betrays his former love by selling her letters so he can marry his current fiancée. Reviews:
- “The story is quite simple, but the novella is still a page turner.” C.B. James at Ready When You Are, C.B.
- “it has a surprisingly modern theme.” Lizzy Siddal at Lizzy’s Literary Life
- “One of Edith Wharton’s shorter, earlier, and happier books, The Touchstone looks at the ways in which the choices we make can come back to haunt us.” Kplatypus at LibraryThing
- “The story is mesmerizing and dangerous, a Faustian tale of betrayal, greed and the consequences paid, and the more often I read through it, the more hidden meanings emerge.” A Customer on Amazon
- ” The author takes an interesting premise, and creates an engaging story which is easy to read and flows quickly.” Dave at GoodReads
Summer (about 145 pages) (Read it on Google Books). From Amazon: “Summer” is the story of the sexual awakening of the young woman, Charity Royall. Charity, the daughter of mountain moonshiners, is adopted by a poor New England family and falls for Lucius Harney, an educated young man from the city. “Summer” is the story of a young girl coming to terms with her feelings and sexuality in an environment of overwhelming social pressure in early 20th century America. Reviews:
- A.J. at Amazon: Edith Wharton did the impossible with “Summer” and wrote a love story I actually cared about. Not because her protagonists are likeable, but because their character flaws render them believable and intriguing and fill the reader with sensational expectations.
- Mary Whipple at Amazon: Wharton’s bold depiction of sexual themes makes this novel unusual for its period. She depicts a young woman who has a fierce desire for independence but who has few opportunities to escape her environment, a young woman who latches onto a relationship which broadens her world.
- E. Rothstein at Amazon: Her personal favorite of all the novels she wrote, Edith Wharton captures the very essence of love and longing in this beautiful, sensual story of Charity Royall and Lucius Harney.
- Chris at Book-a-Rama: Wharton did an excellent job conveying angsty teenage romance, especially the turbulent emotions of the girl, Charity. Young love hasn’t changed all that much in 100 years. Hopefully, the role of young women has by now.
- Incurable Logophilia reviews Summer and Ethan Frome together.
Old New York (about 300 pages) (Read it on Google Books). This collection of four novellas reveals the customs of 19th century New York through orphans, adultery, the class system, and infatuation. Reviews:
- Avid Reader at Amazon: I have just finished reading the four exquisite novellas in this set by Edith Wharton and, after drying the tears, I am ready to say that I was inthe company of genius.
- Westley at Amazon: Overall, this collection is likely to please fans of Edith Wharton and people who enjoy American literature from the early 20th century.
- CoffeeGurl at Amazon: There is no doubt about it. Edith Wharton — the stunning creator of amazing novels like The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth — had outdone herself with Old New York.
Madame de Treymes (about 60 pages) (Project Gutenberg link). Summary from Barnes & Noble: “Perhaps her most Jamesian work, Madame de Treymes was Edith Wharton’s first publication after the widely successful The House of Mirth. Inspired by her entree into Parisian society in the spring of 1906, it follows the fortunes of two innocents abroad: Fanny Frisbee of New York, unhappily married to the dissolute Marquis de Malrive, scion of a great house of the Faubourg St. Germain; and John Durham, her childhood friend, who arrives in Paris intent on persuading Fanny to divorce her husband and marry him instead.” Reviews:
- “It’s a love story that can never be consummated. It’s about a man of truth and integrity doing what he knows to be right even though it means giving up his own happiness.” at Educating Petunia
- “So many questions! How does it end? What did the husband do? What is Madame de Treymes doing? Very good!” at Book Reviews
- “This was a very quick and satisfying read.” at Classic Novels
- “From whatever point you look the story shows no flaw.” at virginia.edu
- “This is a short novella and great read.” by Patrick Acuna on Goodreads
The Marne (about 130 pages) (Google Books). The Marne is a novella about Wharton’s war experiences where Wharton criticizes America’s slowness in aiding France. Reviews:
- cyberpiglet at Amazon: The character’s take on the war is hardly suprising as it is simply a reflection of the author’s own feelings, but it allows an interesting view of American involvment in the great war prior to the formal declaration.
- A Customer at Amazon: If you’re going to read this “literary masterpiece” at least prepare a strong rope tied in a noose, and a sturdy headbeam.
Fast and Loose (about 140 pages) (not available on Project Gutenberg). This was Edith Wharton’s first novella written when she was just 14 years old. While it misses out a bit on her genius, it does show the foundation of her later writing. It is apparently out of print and hard to find. Reviews:
- Smithereens: Overall, I find this hit-and-miss novel quite comforting. We get to see how much Edith Wharton has improved over the years to achieve her most brilliant novels. It really is a proof that writing is not an innate gift but needs hard work.
Short story collections
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The Greater Inclination (project Gutenberg link; Google Books). Summary from Dave 42′s review at Amazon.com: “”The Greater Inclination” consists of 8 works, 7 works of short fiction, and one two-act play. It is a somewhat diverse collection with several stories which touch on aspects of human relationships and interactions, a very dark story which delves into the psyche, and a light and humorous story included as well. In all, it is a very strong first effort and well worth reading.” The stories included are The Muse’s Tragedy, A Journey, The Pelican, Souls Belated, A Coward, The Twilight of the God, A Cup of Cold Water, The Portrait.
Crucial Instances (Project Gutenberg link). Summary from Dave 42′s review at Amazon.com: “”Crucial Instances” is the second collection of short fiction from Edith Wharton and was published on March 30th of 1901. This book consists of six works of short fiction, and one dialogue, most of which had been published previously in magazines, but there is also a previously unpublished story, “The Confessional”, included as well. ” The stories included are: The Duchess at Prayer, The Angel at the Grave, The Recovery, Copy: A Dialogue, The Rembrandt, The Moving Finger, The Confessional. Review:
- “This is a great collection of stories, from those with a bit of a horror feel, to ones which just make the reader feel good. This collection is even better than her first collection, and that is not an easy task. This one earns its five stars.” Dave 42 from Amazon
The Descent of Man and Other Stories (Read it on Google Books). To read the stories in this collection individually online, click on the following links: The Descent of Man, The Other Two, Expiation, The Lady’s Maid’s Bell, The Mission of Jane, The Reckoning, The Letter, The Dilettante, The Quicksand, and A Venetian Night’s Entertainment. Reviews:
- Dave at GoodReads: He reviews each of the stories individually and then had this to say about the collection as a whole: This is a very nice collection of stories, with a good amount of diversity in the subject matter and styles. Edith Wharton once again shows that she can write short fiction very well, and that she can use all aspects to create an engaging story which keeps the reader’s interest.
The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories (Project Gutenberg). This collection was first published in 1908 with the following seven stories: “The Hermit and the Wild Woman,” “The Last Asset,” “In Trust,” “The Pretext,” “The Verdict,” “The Pot-Boiler,” “The Best Man.” Reviews:
- “This book contained far more gems then trash and I enjoyed the majority of the tales within. Highly recommended to fans of Wharton who have already read her novels and are jonesing for some more. I would not – however, recommend this as a starting place for her fiction.” From Kristen at GoodReads
Tales of Men and Ghosts (Read it on Google Books). This collection consists of ten stories, primarily fantastic and detective based tales which subtly elevate the psychological aspects of horror. The entire collection can be read online at Google Books or the individual stories can be read online by following these links: The Bolted Door, His Father’s Son, The Daunt Diana, The Debt, Full Circle, The Legend, The Eyes, The Blonde Beast, Afterward, and The Letters.
Xingu and Other Stories (Read it on Google Books). A collection of short stories including Xingu, Coming Home, Autres Temps, Kerfol, The Long Run, The Triumph of the Night, The Choice, and Bunner Sisters. Reviews:
- Eva at A Striped Armchair (on Xingu): “… this is a wonderful, sparkling story. It has none of that life-ruining bitterness that sometimes accompanies Wharton. Instead, it’s a sharp satire of the intellectually pretentious that is as relevent today as it was one hundred years ago. And it’s funny enough to hold its own against a Wilde play!”
- Everyday Reads (on Xingu): “It’s a comedy, really. I can’t help myself laughing at the entire thing. Even if the demeanor of most of the ladies of the club is not exactly uh, proper in the sense that they think of themselves as way better than other people. Then again a lot of people think that way, be they moneyed or not.”
- The Well-Read Child: Kerfol is “a story about a young Frenchwoman, Anne de Barrigan, who was convicted of murdering her husband. She claimed he was killed by a pack of dogs, except there were no dogs at Kerfol, the name of the mansion where they lived–at least no LIVE dogs. Pretty creepy, huh?”
Here and Beyond. The collection includes the stories: Miss Mary Pask, The Young Gentlemen, Bewitched, The Seed of the Faith, The Temperate Zone, and Velvet Ear-Pads. Reviews:
- Amazon has the following under Editorial Reviews: Here and Beyond. Wharton’s story collection includes social dramas and character studies set in Brittany, New England, and Morocco as well as ghost stories. It has been judged by Wharton biographer R.W.B. Lewis as the weakest of her story collections. (oops…) On the other hand-a New York Times reviewer at the time opined that “even should [this book] add nothing to her fame, will not detract therefrom; and there is at least one sketch among the half-dozen which is as notable as anything she has done in the short-story field.” (The reference is to “Bewitched,” which the critic felt “has much of the same tragic power which was the commanding feature of ‘Ethan Frome’.”)
The World Over (309 pgs in D. Appleton First Edition) (not available on Project Gutenberg but story “Roman Fever” is available here.). Short story collection includes: “Charm Incorporated,” “Pomegranate Seed,” “Permanent Wave,” “Confession,” “Roman Fever,” “The Looking-Glass,” and “Duration.” Review of “Roman Fever”:
- Book Psmith: “This story is spectacularly good and warrants an immediate reread for the new meaning behind each word that has been revealed by the first reading.”
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (284 pgs in Virago edition) (not available on Project Gutenberg). Short story collection includes: “The Lady’s Maid’s Bell,” “The Eyes,” “Afterward,” “Kerfol,” “The Triumph of Night,” “The DUchess at Prayer,” “Miss Mary Pask,” “Bewitched,” “The Fulness of Life,” “Mr. Jones,” “Pomegranate Seed,” “The Looking Glass,” “A Journey,” “All Souls’,” and “A Bottle of Perrier.” Reviews:
- Educating Petunia: “I find her writing to be so easy to rest in.”
- The Literate Kitten: “I adore Edith Wharton’s writing.”
- JessLJones of LibraryThing says: “Excellent old-fashioned suspense.”
- beckyclayton of LibraryThing says: “This collection won’t keep you up at night shivering in fear, but read it on a dark, winter day when you’re all alone and see if you don’t get a few goosebumps.”
- Chris_V of LibraryThing says: “The prose is as elegant and as polished as ever even as it runs shivers down your spine!”
Today Wharton’s poetry is often collected under a volume of Selected Poetry. D. Blankenship at Amazon summarizes her poetry as follows: “Her earlier works … began with a heavy influence from the Romantic era. As we see the author progress we find her drifting into Symbolism and Modernism, which comprise the major body of her works.” Reviews of Wharton’s poetry:
- “The poems do show a different side of her as a person.” auntiknickers on LibraryThing
- Wharton gives “her observations and reflections with masterpieces of poetic expression.” Midwest Book Review on Amazon
- “Wharton was an extremely emotional writer and used her poetry as a means of expressing her emotion, more so I feel, than many poets of her time.” D. Blankenship at Amazon
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The Decoration of Houses (328 pages). Summary Excerpted from Amazon.com: Edith Wharton’s The Decoration of Houses is an invaluable reference, one of the classic works on interior decoration, and a testament to the enduring style of one of America’s greatest writers. Written in collaboration with celebrated American architect Ogden Codman, Jr., Wharton’s first book is a comprehensive look at the history and character of turn-of-the-century interior design, moving from historical traditions to the distinctive styles of contemporary taste. Reviews:
- “The seminal book by Wharton and Codman on design – their rules still hold in some respects.” LatinoBookGeekon LibraryThing
- The “Decoration of Houses” allows a comparison of styles from antique to modern, with variations for each time period. A. French on Amazon
- It’s just a delightful book, because she and her co-author (an architect) concern themselves with the most beautifully appointed houses of their era and social class. They explain how to achieve effects by harmonious use of both furniture and architecture. Jane Clair on Goodreads
Italian Villas and Their Gardens (about 285 pages). Summary Excerpted from Amazon: Struck by the magnificence of the Italian countryside from the time of her first sojourn there, our ranking novelist and lady of letters of the early 1900s—a renowned connoisseur—joined forces with the foremost illustrator of the time to celebrate a subject that was dear to them both: the incomparable villas and gardens of Italy. Edith Wharton draws on three centuries of knowledge written in four languages and covers some eighty villas and sixty garden architects. She describes the remarkable splendor of the villas for readers who have never seen them, and leads the reader through her discoveries of why the great houses and grounds create an effect of such profound calm and resolution.Their impact is not merely a matter of ancient statues or splashing fountains—impressive as these may be. Rather, the unique harmony stems from the spirit of the architects’ and the designers’ art: that delicate blending of man’s work and the variations of nature to achieve a sense of flawless concord. Reviews:
- “Edith Wharton is a brilliant and fascinating guide; literary and historical references abound. A joy to read and to keep for reference” Rhea Worrell from Amazon
Italian Backgrounds (about 250 pages) (Read it on Google Books). Wharton was often called an Italophile as she loved all things Italian. Italian Backgrounds is a travel diary Wharton wrote which includes nine essays tackling art, culture, character, and history. Reviews:
- Michael Wischmeyer at Amazon: Wharton’s essays achieve a singular balance between scholarly analysis and captivating memoir.
- Another Customer at Amazon: Wharton doesn’t write about the Doges Palace or the Duomo, her milieu is the deeper background of the dedicated traveler.
- The Ravell’d Sleave: I would recommend this book, especially if you have just visited Italy, or are planning to go soon.
A Motor-Flight Through France (about 310 pages) (Read it on Google Books). From Amazon: Freed from the dependency upon the timetables and routes of the railway, the early years of the 20th century were a golden age for motorists. This book describes three of Wharton’s journeys in this era, travelling in a chauffeur-driven Panhard with servants and luggage sent on ahead. The journeys are: a three-week run from Boulogne to Clermont-Ferrand to Paris in May 1906; a circuit of the South-West, the Pyrenees and the Rhone Valley in March-April 1907, accompanied by Henry James; and a short weekend in Picardy in 1907. More information about this book including a full summary and discussion questions can be found here. Reviews:
- Diane Foster at Amazon: Edith Wharton has written two books worthy of being read by everyone, “The Age of Innocence” and “A Motor-Fight Through France.”
- A Customer at Amazon: This was a huge and sadly missed opportunity to describe travel at the dawn of the motoring era: before traffic jams, before towns bordered by terrible bland industrial parks and out of town shopping malls, before ring roads, freeways, and ubiquitous Macdonalds.
- An Anonymous Wharton Review: With no country is Mrs. Wharton more thoroughly familiar than with France, and her brilliant sketches of towns, castles, churches, men, and women, seen in passing, furnish excellent reading and lend to this book a piquancy not usually possest by others of its kind
Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort (about 90 pages) (Read it on Google Books). Edsitement has an interesting lesson plan on the book, and includes this quote from the book: Dazed and slowly moving—men and women with sordid bundles on their backs, shuffling along hesitatingly in their tattered shoes, children dragging at their hands and tired-out babies pressed against their shoulders: the great Army of the Refugees. Their faces are unmistakable and unforgettable…The look in their eyes is part of the look of Paris. How beautifully moving is that!?!
French Ways and Their Meaning (about 60 pages) (Read it on Google Books). This collection, written during WWI, focuses on French culture and was written for American troops heading to France. Reviews:
- A Customer at Amazon: Wharton, in her most engaging and always readable style, discusses First Impressions, and examines issues of Reverence, Taste, Intellectual Honesty, and Continuity, and, in her essay on the New Frenchwoman, reveals perhaps more about herself than her subjects.
In Morocco (travel, about 145 pages) (Free e-book from Girlebooks, Project Gutenberg, Google Books). Wharton traveled in style as a guest of General Hubert Lyautey to Morocco after World War I. She writes of the architecture, culture and history of several cities. One of the first travel guides of Morocco. Reviews: Moroccan Meanderings.
The Writing of Fiction (essays on writing) (128 pgs in Scribner edition) (not available on Project Gutenberg). Wharton provides general comments on the roots of modern fiction, the various approaches to writing a piece of fiction, and the development of form and style. She also devotes entire chapters to the telling of a short story, the construction of a novel, and the importance of character and situation in the novel. Reviews:
- The Compulsive Reader: “For a writer of her caliber to write a book explaining what she learned in her writing life is an incredible asset. “
- Jeff of GoodReads says: “not that many books on writing out there by writers of Wharton’s stature–she’s one of the all-time greats, in my opinion.”
- Alexiscarrollcline of GoodReads says: “This is the book for all writers of fiction.”
A Backward Glance (autobiography) (424 pgs in Scribner edition) (not available on Project Gutenberg). Edith Wharton’s vivid account of both her public and her private life. With richness and delicacy, it describes the sophisticated New York society in which Wharton spent her youth, and chronicles her travels throughout Europe and her literary success as an adult. Beautifully depicted are her friendships with many of the most celebrated artists and writers of her day, including her close friend Henry James. Reviews:
- The Rusty Nail: “This is a book that I want to buy and keep on one of my many bookshelves.”
- Jackie of GoodReads says: “chock full of insights about the books and Wharton’s life without being too confessional.”
- Megan of GoodReads says: “A revealing look into the life of Edith Wharton. “
- Emily of GoodReads says: “Interesting book on Wharton’s life.”
- AnitaDTaylor of LibraryThing says: “a book you shouldn’t miss if literary memoir is your bailiwick.”
For this tour, you could read and review any of Edith Wharton’s novels, novellas, short stories or nonficiton, or combination of a few of them. Although January’s tour come just after the holiday, Wharton wrote lots of shorter works, so that may be just right for you to read during the holiday season. Or, if you’ve read a lot of Wharton already, you could write a general post about the author and her style. Finally, if you’d like to read about Wharton herself, you could read and review a biography. Although we know certain works will be most popular (and that is fine), we are hoping for some variety among the various tour stops.
After sign up closes, we will email you an “assigned” day that Edith Wharton will visit your blog. Of course, if that day doesn’t work for you, we can find something that does, and if something does come up, you can always let us know and we can take you off the schedule. That said, we are hoping for a list of participants who are able to commit to posting about Edith Wharton.
If you decide to sign up, we’d like you to be pretty sure you’ll be able to participate.
Read the information about Wharton above, see what works your library has available, and think about how you might want to host Edith Wharton on your blog.
Once you’ve decided, come back here and sign up to join the tour. Tour sign up closes Saturday, 14 November, 8:00 a.m. CST.
Sign up has closed.