This new edition includes two chapters: one on Lily Bart and the lethal stereotypes of women on the 19th-century stage, and another on the way Wharton's own sensual awakening led from the frozen austerity of Ethan Frome to the lyricism and tempered happiness of Summer. Everyone who admires Wharton's novels or enjoys the films made from them will want to experience this superb biography.
©1995 Cynthia Griffin Wolff; (P)1997 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Immensely satisfying...reflects a fine understanding of the interior life of a woman writer." (New York Times Book Review)
"Gives us the flesh and blood woman - and a splendidly gallant creature she is." (St. Louis Dispatch)
At the risk of violating Audible guidelines, the review by Linda Lou is so harsh and unforgiving that I want to push back at her just a bit. Quite apart from the criticism of Anna Fields delivery, the book itself, updated from an original version, is one of just a few first rate critical biographies of Edith Wharton, whose life and writing bridged the Victorian and Modern era. Miss Lou must not be familiar with academic writing, much of which is so abstruse and arcane it makes your teeth ache. Professor Wolff has a literate and graceful style and takes on the entire corpus of Wharton writing, placing it in context of the time it was written, differentiating for example between the erotic content in pre and post-Fullerton efforts. Her work on Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome as well as Summer, House of Mirth, and Custom of the Country, is first rate and she may even have presented Hitchcockians with a source for Hitchcock’s famous MacGuffin. Wolff was a Professor of Literature at MIT when this piece came out in the 90s and may be retired by now. She deserves better than the previous review and Audible is to be congratulated for including academic work like this in their offerings. Charles Bland, Niagara Falls New York
I decided to use my time being laid up to get smarter! In 18 months I've listened to over 200 books, mostly history, literature & biography.
I fall exactly between the reviewers, Linda Lou and Charles Bland. I appreciate the erudite weight of a well-researched examination of Edith Wharton's contribution to literature as well as the many sources both personal and literary that made it possible. But that examination can be exhausting and professorial for the typical, casual listener who may not be expecting the kind of reading you would only tackle if you were armed with the red pen of an editor, doing a favor to a doctoral thesis candidate. Be forewarned.
I had no problems with the narration.
It is evident that the author Wolff has a great deal of insight into Wharton, which she brings to bear in this tome. If you are looking for a detailed assessment that frequently borders on tiresome over-analysis of Wharton's life, you will find it here. What I found especially irksome - and misplaced - was the last section titled 'Afterwards,' whereupon Wolff launches yet again into a re-review of Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth. It seemed to rehash much of the same ground as in previous chapters covering same without further illumination, although Wolff appeared to be focusing on certain autobiographical comparisons, and theatrical devices Wharton employed in her writing. I was happy to get to the end!
This book reads like the work of an articulate but gullible graduate student's first draft of a theses. It is filled with self-evident assumptions dressed up as deep analysis. Repeatedly the author makes statements as to what Wharton thought and why she acted that are based only on the author's imaginings based on convenient and popular reductions of psychological theory.
The lack of facts.
I've tried for several months to get through this book. I don't know which is worse, the book itself or the narration. This is indicative of many audiobooks that I've bought which makes me wonder if the manufacturers of this format ever LISTEN to the finished product. I can only assume that this was a good book in hard copy since the author managed to secure a publisher and the book is now in audio format. But the narrator is so smug, "insisting upon herself", believing that she's rather clever in her delivery, that it is really difficult to get past her awful grating voice into the meat of the book. Ann Fields' performance reminds me of cold lumpy mash potatoes without salt! I only bought it because it had been given 4 stars, yet no one bothered to actually write a review which others can read for a heads up. I'm giving it 2 stars and telling future readers why. You still may agree with the non-writing reviewers who like to throw stars around, but at least you can say I spoke my mind. I think I'll just save this book until I'm on lockdown in solitary confinement in a federal prison, with nothing else in life to do, while serving 25-L!
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