Because it's so timely in that it's the story of a downward spiral as one watches the life they took for granted slipping away before their very eyes, only to be replaced by an ever more diminished view of the future, and so it parallels what's going on in the U.S. today as we adjust to a disappearing middle class, possibly forever, unless we act to preserve it.
In addition to its renewed resonance mentioned above (I've read the book in the past but it never resonated then the way it does now) I was very impressed with Wharton's writing, empathy, and understanding of what circumstances must be like for someone that she, being relatively affluent, never had to face or experienced herself. The ending chapters were brilliantly thought out and written, and yet she imagined the scenarios with great empathy. They were nothing she was able to call upon from her own life experience, and yet the depth of what she writes about, and how expertly she writes it, forces the reader to absolutely connect with the experience of the heroine.
Top-notch. She's a great talent as an actress and always has been, even when playing an annoying American in the classic Audrey Hepburn/Albert Finney film Two for the Road, which is the first time she came to my attention decades ago.
The ending was very emotional as I listened to it anew with a completely different perspective now given the times we currently live in. I can't say more without giving away the ending, so I'll simply say I thought it was masterful and genuinely touching and heartfelt, but beyond that it's sticking with me. How differently things might have been if just one thing had been changed along the way time after time.
I was also glad to read this again after watching the Gillian Anderson film version because there's a very important difference in terms of intent at the very end that's better in the writing than it was in the film.
Though not a book filled with religious themes or much about religion at all, the title comes from Ecclesiastes 7:4 and one can keep this in mind while reading the book and see if they agree. Ecclesiastes 7:4 reads:
"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
I also felt this was interesting and something to keep in mind while reading:
"New York at the turn of the century was a time of opulence and frivolity for those who could afford it. But for those who couldn't and yet wanted desperately to keep up with the whirlwind, like Wharton's charming Lily Bart, it was something else altogether: a gilded cage rather than the Gilded Age."
"...The House of Mirth remains so timely and so vital in spite of its crushing end and its unflattering portrait of what life offers up."
I can't imagine anyone enjoying this other than the author herself. Enough with the whining, moping, and so on. This incessant complaining, moping, whining about her loneliness after separation from her husband because of job reasons can be of interest to no one. Do we want to read how she's so bored she spends her mornings wasting her time on Facebook or Skyping with her husband? If she'd stuck to the other parts of the story about foods and travels and so on this would have been an okay read (it's kind of dull and humorless even then), but as it reads now it's just like reading her diary entries and little else.
Written with more life and humor and cut out all the ENDLESS, repetitive personal stuff about her marriage and loneliness and boredom. If she's bored, we're even more bored.
The narrator wasn't the problem here, it was the author (and really the author's editor).
I tried. I really did. But this was just terribly, terribly unengaging. Every time I was interested in the subject of a chapter I found myself getting frustrated with the incessant droning on and on (and on and on) about how miserable the author was.
I'd consider them equal, depending on one's preference. The narrator is mostly quite good.
Reflexions by Richard Olney would be a good companion read to this.
A very good narrator, I just wish men would learn not to attempt women's voices, as Rubinstein does to a small degree when speaking M.F.K. Fisher. I never like this. It always reminds me of Norman Bates speaking as his mother to some degree. To Rubinstein's credit, it's a small degree of annoyance, nothing that matters much as some others do (listen to the narrator of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt released on the same day -- much worse [in that case I decided to forego the audiobook as a result]).
No, but it enriched my understanding, gave a different perspective somewhat, and showed these people such as Julia Child more humanly than their public personas allowed.
It's the first audiobook that makes me want to start all over after I've finished.
A good editor and a few years of psychotherapy for the author.
Anything not remotely associated with Julie Powell.
The repeated swearing, the negativity, jadedness, and cynicism trying to pass for breezy hip and cool, the mis-prononunciation of everything French, and the self-involvement of the author, whom I found most unpleasant to spend time with.
A sense of wasted opportunity.
What a great book this could have been if it weren't for Julie Powell writing it (and if it had a good editor insisting she clean it up with all the unnecessary and annoying and off-putting foul language).
No wonder Julia Child and Judith Jones were so turned off by it.
Yes, people speak like this sometimes in real life, but real life isn't a book, and yes, one can see at times that Powell is trying to be flippant or channel Erma Bombeck and her ilk, but it comes off here as perhaps a bit too true. Frankly, we just don't like the writer, and so we disengage from trusting in her as she spins what could have been a very interesting story.
Worse, one can see through references, allusions, and so on that Powell is obviously intelligent, but what a waste she has to muck it up with all the language. It just gets hard to take, page after page (and listening from Audible, the mispronunciation of everything French hurts the experience as well).
I bought this book the day it hit store shelves, just found it, no review first. It's now eight years later and I'm just finally forcing myself to get through it. I've tried. It's just so off-putting in so many ways.
While I might cook a recipe from Julia Child regularly, I would never invite Julie Powell to any of my dinner parties.
Julia will live on in print, and the film version of Juie & Julia (wisely cleaned up for the masses by Nora Ephron, et al.), long after Julie Powell is just a bad memory, like a bad taste that lingers, long after you think it should be gone.
I'll never know because I never made it past the first chapter -- all five times I tried.
As another reviewer wrote, "The narrator's ability to very deliberately speak each word as if it stood on its own rather than in the flow of a sentence is maddening." That pretty much sums up how I felt. Why would anyone choose to speak like this instead of naturally as one might when in front of another person? Who is it serving? It was very distracting and didn't add to the story at all, only got in the way.
Frustration. I never made it beyond the first chapter. I couldn't relate to anything at all I was hearing.
It might have been the end of the eternity, but it seemed to go on for an eternity. I've had this for over a year or so and tried and tried but just could never get into it at all. It was finally with a very swift decision that I decided to delete it and move on. I can live with not knowing. I just couldn't imagine sitting through this torture for hours on end.
The insights I gained into the decline of France's leadership role in food and wine and some of the reasons for it, most of which I wouldn't have guessed at. It's a great bridge to cross from the idea of France we have as the world leader in food and wine compared to today.
The influence (and later decline in influence) of the Michelin Guide -- mainly because the author covered it a few times too often. :) It was also interesting to get insight into the people behind the names we've come to recognize (Paul Bocuse, et al.).
The narrator was excellent. In fact, I could change the speed to 1.25 or 1.5 and still follow it beautifully -- a first.
The best France we know exists in our minds and is already gone.
I'm glad I read this. The price is an absolute bargain. It's definitely changed my outlook and understanding of a world I thought I knew but had perhaps romanticized.
The build of Craig Claiborne finding his way in life, coming up with a dream, and achieving it. Once he has it, though, the momentum is lost, Claiborne becomes a mostly still functional alcoholic, and it catches up with him. End of story. Not much there. No great payoff or life lessons learned.
Anyone. Honestly, what was the guy thinking? What was his producer thinking? Who were they narrating for, did they think? Thankfully, after the first hour or two the narrator tones it down noticeably from what you hear on the sample, but still, just about anyone would have been better.
Probably not. I don't enjoy spending time with nasty, mean-spirited drunks in life nor in art.
It was interesting to learn about how Claiborne's work, like that of Julia Child, shaped America's interest in better food and ultimately in foodie pursuits. It was also interesting to learn how Pierre Franey fit into the equation. I'd read it just for this aspect, but with the understanding that it's truthful and doesn't have a nice payoff like fiction might.
To his credit the author writes it well and also gives aside notes to clarify things. Well done an appreciated.
I honestly don't get this book. The IDEA of it is one thing, but what we have here is nothing more than an outsider looking in and saying I want to emulate those people so I'll copy what they do -- never realizing that they themselves aren't copying anyone, they're feeding their souls and their own inner natures and priorities.
Page after page we're told to emulate them, not be true to ourselves.
Turns out, I didn't need a book to be like them. I have always sought out new experiences, new foods, used the good china and silver (several sets by now), made cafe au laits in bowls, enjoyed the clink of a tea cup when it meets its saucer, enjoyed exploring the worlds of tea and coffee thoroughly starting in 1986, driven a convertible because it makes me happy (the experience, not what others think of my experience, of which I could absolutely care less).
Who cares about a book telling you the advantages of being like someone you're not. Find what please YOU and be THAT.
Terrible. This is the most pretentious and soulless work I've come across in years -- perhaps ever.
Reader Needs Help
The general overview of the changes in the Napa Valley into the Napa Valley we know today.
It wasn't really necessary in this book since he's narrating, not acting the parts.
No, it was just good backstory and overview to the Napa Valley from sleepy little farming valley to internationally acclaimed wine-producing region, including the players who helped to make it that way.
I've been visiting the Napa Valley regularly since 1983 and am familiar with many of the players in this book and the events being shared here. Unfortunately, the narrator doesn't seem to be from the area, nor familiar with wine, and he constantly mangles the pronunciation of literally almost everything, even nearby towns like Vacaville, famous wines like Petrus, the mansion at Spring Mountain Vineyards (Miravalle, which is pronounced Mihir-uh-vye-ay but that he mangles as Mihr-uh-valle), and so on, even among the famous names that most anyone knows. It's both funny and distracting, but overall the story makes up for it.
John McDonough was the one saving grace of listening through the tedium that is Wicked. His narration is both entertaining and masterful, and far better than the material he was given.
What a terrible, poorly constructed and thought out hodgepodge of notions and little more, all glommed together inartfully, in search of a story, a plot, and of universal and resonant themes that never come.
The book starts out well and is mesmerizing in the beginning chapters when the witch is a baby. After that, it's a complete mess, and not particularly satisfying on any level.
To say it's half-baked would be generous.
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