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The House of Mirth | [Edith Wharton]

The House of Mirth

Lily Bart, a beautiful, intelligent, but penniless young woman, lives on the outskirts of New York's high society, craving the luxurious lifestyle of her wealthy contacts. But while Lily possesses the grace, taste, and morality of the ideal turn-of-the-century lady, her delicate innocence threatens her survival in that very world. As she fights to maintain her newfound place among the aristocracy, Lily struggles mightily against what lurks beneath all the glitter and gold - greed, vulgarity, and ruthless competition. In her brilliantly perceptive novel, The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, the peerless, Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of Old New York, provides yet another heartbreaking glimpse into the world of manners, privilege, betrayal, and shocking falls from grace.
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Publisher's Summary

Lily Bart, a beautiful, intelligent, but penniless young woman, lives on the outskirts of New York's high society, craving the luxurious lifestyle of her wealthy contacts. But while Lily possesses the grace, taste, and morality of the ideal turn-of-the-century lady, her delicate innocence threatens her survival in that very world. As she fights to maintain her newfound place among the aristocracy, Lily struggles mightily against what lurks beneath all the glitter and gold - greed, vulgarity, and ruthless competition. In her brilliantly perceptive novel, The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, the peerless, Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of Old New York, provides yet another heartbreaking glimpse into the world of manners, privilege, betrayal, and shocking falls from grace.

For more informative lectures about this work, don't miss A Study Guide to The House of Mirth.

(P)1989 by Recorded Books, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The House of Mirth is uniquely authentic among American novels of manners." (Louis Auchincloss)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (140 )
5 star
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4.2 (62 )
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4.3 (62 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Melanie Portland, OR, United States 05-05-08
    Melanie Portland, OR, United States 05-05-08 Member Since 2007

    I love words that can take me into other worlds.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautiful Tragedy"

    This is a marvelous book of social mores, prejudices and cruelty in turn-of-the century New York, well-deserving of its classic status. The reader, Barbara Caruso does the story and characters full justice. In particular, her rendering of the voice of the protagonist, Lilly Bart, creates a picture Lilly's loveliness and elegance. That said, I would issue a warning to potential listeners. This is a book of unremitting tragedy. If you are going through a difficult time or are worried about the future, it would not be the best audio-book choice. Edith Wharton just does too good a job of creating bleakness.

    27 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna O'Connell, Australia 03-30-10
    Anna O'Connell, Australia 03-30-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pride and prejudice can bring a girl down."

    This was a deeply satisfying audio.
    The story is beautifully written and read....a good reader is so important to the audio experience. In fact I may well have become a little irritated with the depth of detail and repetition had I been reading it for myself; but really these qualities help to underline the inexorability of Lily's fate.
    Having recently read Trollope's perspective on 19th century British "society", it was interesting to get the feel of what was going on in New York at the same time

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 05-29-11
    Alicia Czechowski Baltimore Maryland 05-29-11 Member Since 2008
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    "The misfortune of beauty"

    My favorite Wharton novel.
    Beauty, brains and breeding promise great success for Lily Bart. We are introduced to the heroine when her social triumphs are just beginning to be a thing of the past, and no one is more aware of the clock ticking away than Lily herself.
    Wharton lucidly shows how Lily's expectations and upbringing have prepared her for a kind of life for which, at heart, she has a contempt. Her intelligence and sensitivity make her overly critical of the hypocrisy and vanity of the set in which she aspires to reign.
    Wrong choices, bad luck and false friends erode Lily's last chance at fortune. The reduced circumstances in which her only true friends live is repugnant to Lily who can only imagine life being worth while when passed amid luxury.
    We vividly see the illusory trap that prevents Lily Bart from escaping the denouement.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Washington, DC, United States 02-15-11
    Mary Washington, DC, United States 02-15-11 Member Since 2011
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    "A Good Read!"

    I had never read Edith Wharton. Whether in printed form The House of Mirth would engage someone so deeply today as in Wharton's era I don't know. However, in audible format it was excellent. The author's command of language and psychlogy is remarkable. The reader was excellent and gave the characters "voices of their own"--better in some instances than in others but always "listenable." I very much enjoyed my "read."

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia 04-27-12
    Virginia 04-27-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Absorbing In The Extreme"

    I have started this book and dropped it several times but this time I fell totally in love with the writer and the narrator. This is such a haunting tale. My preference is English literature and that is why I stumbled initially. Now I am going to read all Edith Wharton's work. A great writer. Barbarra Caruso has the most perfect diction and sense of nuance. Her reading does not intrude. I loved every word of this story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheryl Albuquerque, NM, United States 03-15-12
    Cheryl Albuquerque, NM, United States 03-15-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A Classic Read"
    Any additional comments?

    Read this in high school for a book report, listened to it again in my 40's for a much different perspective. Nothing like a good Edith Wharton character study whenever I'm in the mood for Old New York.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cate BRONX, NY, United States 08-01-13
    Cate BRONX, NY, United States 08-01-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Compelling story, great narration."

    The story follows a beautiful young socialite with limited funds who is ambivalent about her marriage prospects (choosing between love and money). The book sets the scene of turn of the century New York society incredibly well and also has great dialogue. Initially, I thought the narrator's voice was too deep to work, but she does an excellent job of voicing the various characters. The overall experience is so enjoyable, I've listened to this book repeatedly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa W Montclair, NJ USA 03-20-13
    Lisa W Montclair, NJ USA 03-20-13 Member Since 2012

    Scientist, photographer, gardener and traveler

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    "A tragic ending"

    What is it about authors from this time period - was life really that tragic? In my opinion, Edith Wharton falls into the same category as Henry James - good plots but the women always get the short end of the stick but the end of the novel. In any event, a very good read that really captured my attention. I really came to sympathize with Lily and so wanted her to have a different fate.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 08-31-12
    Stevon Tempe, AZ, United States 08-31-12 Member Since 2005

    I love books!

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    "turn of the century NYC"

    This story is set in New York City in the early 1900's. During this time, as in all times I suppose, there are the haves and have nots, you either have money or you don't. The protagonist is a young female whose only asset is her beauty, she's bred well but has no money. This is her story. If you like historical novels you'll like this one. This was a first time author for me, Edith Wharton lived in NYC during this time so she was writing from firsthand knowledge..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 07-07-11
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 07-07-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Brilliant writing, but limited subject matter"

    The character of Lily is never developed consistently - and the changes in her moods, which form much of the novel, were often baffling to this male reader. This was not helped by the narrator - who in the long dialogues, does not make it clear which person is speaking. I was often left in the dark about what was going on.

    I was not interested in the habits of the rich either - which must have been of great interest to many of the readers of this novel of manners.

    One thing I did not miss, however, was the obligatory sexuality that now prevails. It was refreshing to hear of intense affairs between men and women without overt sexuality ever being mentioned.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • Iris
    Stroud, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    3/16/09
    Overall
    "A Timeless Classic"

    Dip into the book and below the title, and you find the painted smile of the classic clown whose tragedy is unstoppable.
    I find myself returning to The House of Mirth almost as often as I go back to Pride & Prejudice. Both Wharton and Austen build their characters so well, one grows to know the fictional creations intimately.
    Don't allow the customs or costumes deter as you enter the world of Miss Lily Bart of New York as she graces the fashion and tussles with the mores and challenges of early twentieth century America.



    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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