by Edith Wharton
Lord knows I’m no Edith Wharton scholar, but after reading her classic novel House of Mirth, I am certainly an admirer. Wharton, herself no stranger to the world of 1905 upper-class society, tells the tragic tale of Lily Bart, a young New Yorker who thrives on beauty and charm … until she doesn’t.
The bulk of the novel is a chronicle of Lily’s thoughts — about wealth, privilege, the lower classes and, in the end, what really matters in life. In other words, there is not a whole lot of conventional “action” in the story. But Lily’s observations are endlessly fascinating and, ultimately, moving.
Today’s readers (especially progressive feminists, I presume) may be horrified by the state of society in early 20th-century New York as depicted in this book. But despite all the progress of the ensuing years, Wharton’s final message is this: Some things never change.
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