The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

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But his greeting expressed no more than the satisfaction which every pretty woman expects to see reflected in masculine eyes; and the discovery, if distasteful to her vanity, was reassuring to her nerves.

About Edith Wharton

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America's most famous woman of letters, and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, Edith Wharton was born into one of the last "leisured class" families in New York City, as she put it, in 1862. Educated privately, she was married to Edward Wharton in 1885, and for the next few years they spent their time in the high society of Newport, Rhode Island, then Lenox, Massachusetts, and Europe. It was in Europe that Wharton first met Henry James, who was to have a profound and lasting influence on her life and work. Wharton's first published book was a work of nonfiction in collaboration with Ogden Codman, The Decoration of Houses (1897), but from early on, her marriage had been a source of distress, and she was advised by her doctor to write fiction to relieve her nervous tension. Wharton's first short stories appeared in Scribner's Magazine, and although she published several volumes of fiction around the turn of the century, including The Greater Inclination (1899), The Touchstone (1900), Crucial Instances (1901), The Valley of Decision (1902), Sanctuary (1903), and The Descent of Man and Other Stories (1904), it was not until the publication of the bestselling The House of Mirth in 1905 that she was recognized as one of the most important novelists of her time for her keen social insight and subtle sense of satire. In 1906 Wharton visited Paris, which inspired Madame de Treymes (1907), and made her home there in 1907, finally divorcing her husband in 1912. The years before the outbreak of World War I represent the core of her artistic achievement with the publication of Ethan Frome in 1911, The Reef in 1912, and The Custom of the Country in 1913. During the war she remained in France organizing relief for Belgian refugees, for which she was later awarded the Legion of Honor. She also wrote two novels about the war, The Marne (1918) and A Son at the Front (1923), and although living in France she continued to write about New England and the Newport society she knew so well and described in Summer (1917), the companion to Ethan Frome, and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Old New York (1924), The Mother's Recompense (1925), The Writing of Fiction (1925), The Children (1928), Hudson River Bracketed (1929), and her autobiography, A Backward Glance (1934). She died in France in 1937.
Published May 1, 1993 by Penguin Classics. 274 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, History, Religion & Spirituality, Law & Philosophy, Romance, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The House of Mirth

The New York Times

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A newly revealed letter sheds light on what exactly happens at the end of “The House of Mirth.”

Nov 21 2007 | Read Full Review of The House of Mirth

The Guardian

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Well, Wharton and her books have long been recovered from the attic and the two most famous of them have been filmed with great distinction by Martin Scorsese and Terence Davies, blue-collar Catholics far removed from the patrician, Wasp world of Edith Wharton.

Oct 15 2000 | Read Full Review of The House of Mirth

The Guardian

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The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, read by Eleanor Bron (12hrs unabridged, BBC) Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop No one, not even Henry James, describes ...

May 23 2009 | Read Full Review of The House of Mirth

The Guardian

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Edith Wharton's acutely observed novel poses this question as it follows Lily's tragic path through the country houses, card tables and drawing rooms of New York's beau monde at the turn of the 20th century.

Dec 19 2010 | Read Full Review of The House of Mirth

AV Club

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"A girl must, a man if he chooses," laments turn-of-the-century New York socialite Gillian Anderson in The House Of Mirth, neatly encapsulating the tragic dilemma of being independent-minded in a world governed by stifling social mores.

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of The House of Mirth


To listen to the Slate Audio Book Club on Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, click the arrow on the player below.

May 10 2007 | Read Full Review of The House of Mirth


Davies remains true to Wharton’s careful plotting of her downward spiral: as Lily sees her position slipping away and her chances to marry well wither, she notes with characteristically limited insight, “We resist the great temptations, but it is the little ones that pull us down.” It is a tellin...

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The New York Review of Books

In a letter to a friend, James (referring to himself in the third person) complained “that such fantastic wealth and freedom were not his portion—such incoherence, such a nightmare of perpetually renewable choice and decision, such a luxury of bloated alternatives….” James called her Panhard-Leva...

Apr 26 2007 | Read Full Review of The House of Mirth

Star Pulse

Full Summary >> Cast: Gillian Anderson - (Lily Bart) Eric Stoltz - (Lawrence Selden) Dan Aykroyd - (Gus Trenor) Eleanor Bron - (Mrs. Peniston) Terry Kinney - (George Dorset) This adaptation of Edith Wharton's classic novel about the emptiness and cruelty of turn-of-the-century New York high soc...

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