There amongst the glib diversions of the newly rich, she seeks a husband who can not only maintain her in this charmed existence, but can also provide unstinting admiration.
Scandal, however, intervenes. Accused of being the mistress of a wealthy married man, Lily must withdraw from society. She becomes a milliner, but finds life outside the hothouse unendurable.
(P)1989 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
I've listened to this book twice and will listen again after a while. I'd be happy to hear Eleanor Bron read the dictionary aloud: to hear her read Edith Wharton is pure bliss.
The novel portrays the New York upper middle class society in the late 19th century. Wharton writes elegantly, and is an acute psychologist and observer of manners. She's also very witty at times--with what you might call a stiletto wit. The reading is excellent, with subtle difference of voice and accent nicely calibrated to the character speaking.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the book. But it made me wonder why writers like Wharton and Henry James devote themselves to writing about people who don't do anything--a class of idlers, in fact, who are terrified that they might have to work for a living. Perhaps they think that this idleness produces greater subjective sensitivity and depth. But I think their long descriptions and analyses of people's inner depths are rather more refined and sophisticated than is justified by reality. OccasionalIy found myself saying: Bring on a pirate! Let's have a murder! Or at least have someone kicked by a horse.
Absolutely. This is one of the greatest novels by one of our greatest novelists. If you love beautiful writing and a great story, this is for you. Also: The narration by Eleonor Bron, the great, under-appreciated English actress who appeared in the film version of The House of Mirth (as well as the Beatles' movie Help!) is a work of art in itself.
The way social drama/comedy transforms into something much more profound.
Impossible to choose.
No, too long. A book to savor.
I had not expected this to be as good as Wharton's The Age of Innocence. I was wrong.
This book is amazingly well written. There were so many beautiful turns of phrase and amazing metaphors and insights (comparing the wrinkled finery left on the floor after undressing to the unappealing leftovers of a banquet, allusions to the manacle-like nature of women's jewelry, chaining them to a life they may not have chosen). Edith Wharton truly is one of the great writers of the 20th century. I was a Literature major in college and I'm sad I never had a chance to study her works there. The narration was very good, the speaker had a pleasant voice.
The story and characters are vintage Wharton. Very entertaining and historically informative. Best to listen over extended time to keep up with story.
An academic who listens to novels on runs and commutes to campus.
Having now read Ethan Frome and Age of Innocence and listened to The House of Mirth, I can say that Edith Wharton is an unsympathetic author. She expects her characters and readers to look at the world through an objective lens. She places her characters into situations that have extreme consequences, and part of her program, so it seems, is to see how people will respond when tempted. What seems a small decision lingers throughout the narrative, especially for Lilly Bart, whose life descends into degradation as she is forced to compromise who she is for the sake of money. Simple decisions exact a terrible toll on her, and in the end, she succumbs to the hardships of her existence. If you enjoy happy endings or you feel too much for characters, then Edith Wharton might not be the author for your tastes. If you, on the other hand, expect a text to point to larger truths of how society functions--here late 19th/early 20th century--then her books are a fine source of how so much of life depends on the external forces of other people.
This is the first book I've read by Edith Wharton and, trust me, I'll be reading as many as I can from here on out! I found myself constantly upset with the center of the novel, Lily Bart, because of her ego, her reluctance to accept the love being offered to her upon nearly every encounter with a male (though one she was wise to refuse), and her inability (or, rather, lack of effort) to crawl out of the hole she had dug for herself in the final chapters of the book.
But, no matter what the author was expressing, I've seldom seen more beautifully constructed sentences, painting an exquisite picture of the characters' surroundings, moods and behaviors. Not only does she display a wonderful landscape, she also delivers bits of wisdom here and there to keep the reader from falling into Lily's debacle.
"In whatever form a slowly-accumulated past lives in the blood - whether in the concrete image of the old house stored with visual memories, or in the conception of the house not built with hands, but made up of inherited passions and loyalties - it has the same power of broadening and deepening the individual existence, of attaching it by mysterious links of kinship to all the mighty sum of human striving."
Eleanor Bron's performance of the novel is terrific, with discernible accents for specific characters and the ability to fluently express the author's tremendous work. Well done, indeed.
Bohemian Bon Vivant
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 am a big Edith Wharton fan, and I love The House of Mirth. Eleanor Bron's reading is extraordinary, and brought a whole new dimension to this masterpiece. Fair warning: this book is anything by mirthful. It is a very sad, but very thought-provoking exploration of ethics, morality, and personal responsibility,revealed through the life story of Lily Bart and the people in her circle of the New York elite in the early 20th century. I defy anyone to listen through to the end of this book without being moved. Well done!
This is my second Edith Wharton book.
I liked Age of Innocence both as a book and a film.
But I find The House of Mirth more interesting to me.
That's why I chose this audiobook, and the narrator's voice
"The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton"
A beautifully written novel, expertly read by Eleanor Bron. It tells the story of 29 year old Lily Bart, a dazzling socialite in 1890's New York. The big problem for Lily is money, the fact that she has none and the life style she desires needs plenty.The novel follows her fall into poverty and the response of her friends and acquaintances. A fascinating look at late 19 Century American society
A delight to listen to.
At times I found this "hard work". It is well written and had good characterisation and the story is interesting but it is quite "plodding." Glad I have finished it.
Beautifully and sympathetically read by Eleanor Bron, this book is an expert example of vanitas - the futility and emptiness of worldly wealth - and will linger long in my mind. Edith Wharton's intelligent portrayal of the loneliness and waste of a beautiful young woman's life, discarded by the society who had once feted her, is profound in the extreme.
The worst of this was that the 'blurb' on Audible gives away the plot- I knew how Lily ended up before Eleanor Bron even opened her mouth.
Apart from that it was absolutely superb- as one expects from this publisher.
"Wonderful Wharton, Beautifully Read"
This is a favourite book of mine, a modern classic and Eleanor Bron reads it beautifully. Poor stunning Lily Bart. This is such a complex, moving portrait of a beauty, a fine spirit and the fashionable and established society she lives in, raising questions about integrity, worth, status etc in a complulsive story.
If you enjoy it, do listen to The Age of Innocence too, it may be even better.
"Not a bundle of laughs"
Although the title may be deceptive (the central character, Lily Bart, comes to a tragic end), this is a beautifully written book, superbly interpreted by the reader, Eleanor Bron. Edith Wharton is an easier to read version of Henry James, and depicts brilliantly the vanity and hypocrisy of American society at the beginning of the 20th century. Well worth listening to.
Having read and listened to the book The House of Mirth, I can recommend this title for anyone who appreciates the beauty of Edith Wharton's prose. Nothing is lost and the characterisation and accent are totally in keeping with the time period of the story. This book is a classic example of Wharton's style, dramatic irony, telling the tale of Lily Bart, beautiful, witty and sophisticated, who dares to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming the responisbilities. This will lead to her downfall. The book is long but the words are carefully chosen and the change of settings and situations keep the listener totally absorbed.
I came to this book late - following a quiz I thought I'd already read it but had confused it with a Henry James novel. Don't delay! Beautifully read, as well as written. And tragic - it's too easy today to dismiss the significance of moral standards of past ages. How lucky we are today.
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