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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Avid reader, picky about narrators.
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 novel is both a satire of New York society at the turn of the century and a tragedy about one woman's downfall. Wharton's depiction of wealthy society types is scathing. She combines the psychological insight of James and the epigrammatic wit of Wilde. In many ways, it is a shocking as it must have been when first published.
I sampled many versions and chose Eleanor Bron's reading for the quality of her voice. She gives a stunning reading, full of tenderness and pathos and the right bite when called for. Highest recommendation.
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."
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 House of Mirth is my favorite Edith Wharton novel. I read and was enraptured by the book years ago, and I later became a fan of the 2000 film version. I don't see the point of retelling the plot in this kind of review. For those who are interested, I recommend reading (and especially listening to) the book before seeing the movie. I believe the film is generally successful with wonderful visuals, an inspired choice of casting and overall tone that captures the spirit and sensibilities of the novel. But listening to The House of Mirth was a much finer and fulfilling experience. This is a masterful performance by a narrator whose voice is modulate and appropriately cultured to convey the charms and treacheries of high society life in turn-of-the-century New York. Of course, it is a beautifully written book, with elegantly composed passages that stir and swell the story. I was absorbed in the curious turns and vanities of the heroine, Lily Bart, and while I never "like" her, I could not help but worry and wish for a better outcome for her. A great part of my enjoyment of this and other Wharton novels is the era of splendor that shape the stories. I have a fascination for 19th and early 20th century life in America, and I read a lot of non-fiction and historical works about the Gilded Age. Tycoons, industrialists, suffragettes, heiresses, artists, writers, presidents, dynastic families, immigrants, movers and shakers - they are captivating characters who made the era a conglomeration of progress and intended and unintended debasements. The House of Mirth is an exquisite sampling of upper crust society told through the fictional travails of a woman trying to hold her place among the haughty. It is a harrowing quest for a woman with no husband and no money of her own. Ms. Wharton is unsparing in her depiction of Miss Bart as a futilely aimed person. She reigns and falls in a web of characters who do not seek or have redeeming qualities. There are no great heroes, but they are great fun.
Edith Wharton is a surgeon cutting apart and exposing the true insides of the best in society. Her exquisitely drawn descriptions of even minor characters are the reason to read the book -- you might know someone just like them even in today's "modern" times. That said a major draw back for me was the mean use of stereotypical Jew, which shines a light not so pleasant on Ms. Wharton herself.
The story and characters are vintage Wharton. Very entertaining and historically informative. Best to listen over extended time to keep up with story.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
"Money, it's a hit,
Don't give me that do goody good bullsh!t."*
A superb, timeless novel that went to my top 40 (at least) because it was a real kick in the a$$ to NYC upper class society in the early 20th Century. So, why haven't we had these societal mirrors nearly as often or recent as we should?
Take an utter beauty^ of modest means, orphaned at a young age and raised to be a perfect wife of wealth and privilege
put her into the depraved, hostile, covetous and capricious upper class society in Gilded Age New York City,
have her want love + wealth + status while maintaining a streak of independence, her moral compass and a touch of folly,
a timeless classic tragedy arising from innocent Lily Bart's struggle against society and its expectations.
“She felt a stealing sense of fatigue as she walked; the sparkle had died out of her, and the taste of life was stale on her lips. She hardly knew what she had been seeking, or why the failure to find it had so blotted the light from her sky: she was only aware of a vague sense of failure, of an inner isolation deeper than the loneliness about her.”Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
The eponymous verse from the King James Bible**:
"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
Ecclesiastes 7:4, KJV
*Roger Waters, "Money" (1973)
**Her alternative title was "A Moment's Ornament," from one of her favorite poems, "She was a Phantom of Delight," first stanza (1804) "
She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleam'd upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament:....
Wm. Wordsworth, "She was a Phantom of Delight," first stanza (1804)
^"Everything about her was warm and soft and scented; even the stains of her grief became her as raindrops do the beaten rose." Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
Exceeded my expectations. Classic Wharton with perfect narration by Eleanor Bron. I was unable to stop listening, which for me is rare.
"Beautiful and sad"
Yes. I read this book many years ago as I love the writing of Edith Wharton, an intelligent and perceptive author, but I particularly loved this book so was happy for Eleanor Bron to read it to me again and I picked up on things I feel I missed when I read it all that time ago.
When Lawrence Seldon offers Lily a different life than the one she is currently pursuing. I felt this was the turning point in the book.
Her voice is beautifully modulated throughout with a soft American accent that felt right and never jarring.
Yes, it made me feel angry by the unkindness and jealousy of women towards other women and the hypocrisy of the wealthy society that existed at that time. However, how people are so ready to believe the worst of others without being in a position to judge still goes on today.
Because of the way Lily Bart was raised, she knew herself to be a beautiful woman and used that beauty to pursue marriage to a wealthy man, but riches were not enough to replace love. Pride can sometimes preclude us from taking the proper path.
"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.
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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