(P)1995 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Of all Edith Wharton's novels, The Custom of the Country is my absolute favorite....Grace Collin's reading of Blackstone's unabridged version is splendid, her voice fruity, elegant and utterly ruthless." (Forbes)
Named a Staff Pick, Selected by the Staff at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of the New York Public Library, November, 2007
Perhaps it was because I had just listened to an amazing rendition of The House of Mirth by Anna Fields, but I could not get through more than 10-15 minutes of this book before I had to shut it off. This book is literally read, not interpreted in any way, thus making it extremely difficult to follow conversation, not to mention narration of setting or insights into characters' motivations. Find a reading by someone else. That's what I plan to do. And from now on, I am listening to the sample of a book if I don't recognize the narrator!
The work is regarded an American classic and given the time of publication (1913) one still has to congratulate the author on her boldness to write about such an extraordinarily unsympathetic female protagonist.
Naturally social patterns have greatly changed since the book was written but Undine's unmorality is still palpable though in a different context. Undine get's older but there is not the slightest moral or intellectual development, that is grueling.
Still the book is well set and written though devoid of any (modern day) twists in the plot; the pace is on the slower side.
The narration is well done, the narration managed to keep track with the numerous characters.
I enjoyed this book as I've enjoyed all Wharton's novels, and it fits pretty well in with her society novels - with the exception of her protagonist, who is far less likable than your Lily Barts or your Nan St. Georges. But there are fatal flaws in all her high society heroines, so I guess Undine's are just a lot worse! You still root for her somehow, ever the victim of circumstance, even if the circumstances are completely her own doing. Wonderful ending and altogether a good book for fans of Wharton.
"Subtly but Extraordinarily Insightful"
I don't know that I had a favourite character - there were lots of characters I felt profound sympathy for, but I don't think there were any really admirable people in the book.
Staid, hesitant, satisfactory.
Something about how far someone could go for what they want.
The main character, Undine Spragg, is completely selfish and ruthlessly sets out to get what she wants (money and social standing) without any concern for anyone else's health or wellbeing. She occasionally exhibits a bit of sentimental concern, but it has no real depth. Her beauty and manipulation do get her what she wants, but then those things don't fulfill her for long and she starts plotting her next selfish moves... However, astonishingly, I spent quite a lot of the book feeling sorry for her. She is simply completely unaware of what is really important in people's lives (trust, caring, etc). I suppose she's a psychopath. I was stunned at her coldness, and yet I pitied her inability to see beyond the narrow confines of her overwhelming and selfish needs. I have never read or listened to anything by Edith Wharton before, but I will definitely do so again.
"I gave up ..."
My least favourite book by Edith Wharton, I found it totally uninteresting and abandoned it within an hour.
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