The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature, Edith Wharton stands among the finest writers of early 20th-century America. In The Custom of the Country, Wharton’s scathing social commentary is on full display through the beautiful and manipulative Undine Spragg. When Undine convinces her nouveau riche parents to move to New York, she quickly injects herself into high society. But even a well-to-do husband isn’t enough for Undine, whose overwhelming lust for wealth proves to be her undoing.
Public Domain (P)2003 Recorded Books, LLC
Edith Wharton's novel is deliciously enjoyable, especially if you delight in watching detestable characters crush one another and see people behave more brutishly and vulgarly than you could have expected. By "people" I primarily mean the wonderfully named Undine Spragg, a social climber who bulldozes as many people as she can to attain an ever escaping, ever elusive goal of social grandeur and wealth. Wharton's satiric, witty, whip-smart writing fairly sparkles here, and the entire novel has lighter touch, perhaps because about half of it is in the mind of a buffoon, rather than the plodding Archer of Age of Innocence, for example.
But I really want to write about Barbara Caruso here, who should narrate EVERYTHING. She reads with warmth, humor, wit, and imparts an incredible understanding of each of the characters. I wonder about the difficulty of being a reader—she has to play every role, and she does so splendidly. Conflicted characters like Undine, whom one would normally expect to hate, are given depth and conviction. Brava.
Someone who enjoys hearing about the manners and dress of that period of time for the rich and doesn't mind that there isn't a real story to frame it against. It seems more interest in telling the customs of a country like the title says than in telling a story.
No, though I don't think I would be interested in reading or listening to any of Edith Wharton's books.
It wasn't the reader's fault the book didn't come alive. She tried hard but you can't add interest with just the inflections of your voice if the story is so flat.
Boredom and disappointment. I keep waiting for the story to go deeper and some sort of plot to surface which it never did. It came as a relief when it ended. And I was very disappointed that it spent so much time on describing clothes, the way the rich would travel to place to place without opening the characters up so that they would seem real instead of the flat forgettable characters she wrote. Seemed to touch the surface of something that could be interesting and would bounce off in another direction.
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it's right up there with the best but didn't quite satisfy as much as eliot's mill on the floss.
the character undine never ceased to surprise but she got almost everything she wanted
kept an amused smile on my face and i came close to tears with the story of the unwanted child
"Thick and absorbing"
I was looking for another Edith Wharton and listened to all the 'samples' of 'The Custom of the Country' and thought that this one sounded like the best narration.
I often find the scruples of Wharton's characters rather difficult to sympathize with- so it was something of a relief to come across Undine Spragg- who has no scruples at all- she's just a naive, selfish monster battling (rather pathetically) towards a happiness that always lies just beyond her. Certainly she's repulsive but it makes for an interesting character. - and there is plenty of gorgeous period detail along the way.
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