Thursday, February 24, 2011

House of Mirth - by Edith Wharton

House of Mirth (UK edition) (Deutsch edition) is one of those “novel of manners” books.  Written in 1905 by Edith Wharton, the novel is set in New York society. It shares something in tone, I think with The Great Gatsby. Both books are, in part, about social climbing.

It is a very well written book, although I did not find the heroine too likable.  But then loving the characters is not always the point.

You can tell right from the first paragraphs that this is a good narrative with well-defined characters, so I will leave you there . . .
Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart.

It was a Monday in early September, and he was returning to his work from a hurried dip into the country; but what was Miss Bart doing in town at that season? If she had appeared to be catching a train, he might have inferred that he had come on her in the act of transition between one and another of the country-houses which disputed her presence after the close of the Newport season; but her desultory air perplexed him. She stood apart from the crowd, letting it drift by her to the platform or the street, and wearing an air of irresolution which might, as he surmised, be the mask of a very definite purpose. It struck him at once that she was waiting for some one, but he hardly knew why the idea arrested him. There was nothing new about Lily Bart, yet he could never see her without a faint movement of interest: it was characteristic of her that she always roused speculation, that her simplest acts seemed the result of far-reaching intentions.

An impulse of curiosity made him turn out of his direct line to the door, and stroll past her. He knew that if she did not wish to be seen she would contrive to elude him; and it amused him to think of putting her skill to the test.
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