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.
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I feel bad giving this story a bad review as it was very well written and extremely important for its time. It is just so hopelessly depressing I couldn't finish it.
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 novel has wonderful prose but, despite its cynicism, a sentimentality and moral flavour that doesn't always ring true to a modern ear. But Eleanor Bron reads it so beautifully and with such wit and feeling that she lends it the lightness it sometimes needs. A classic novel to which the narrator more than does justice.
I love Edith Wharton's writing and how, for her time, she challenged society's perception of women. But time has taken its toll. The study of Lily Bart, sympathetically and yet clinically carried out, fails to resonate with today.
I found them both equal
If you liked Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country then you would probably enjoy this as well. Or even Portrait of a Lady. Because it involves the same time period and the same look at wealthier social customs.
I think she voiced the main character Lily's voice in an inviting and charming way, which is perfect for her character. She makes people love her while she is with them, and her voice draws people in.
Yes, while I did enjoy the tale as a whole I found the main characters motivations for self sabotage ill explained aside from absolute stupidity, and yet the author goes to great lengths to show her as very intelligent so it just baffled
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