Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, is not a Victorian novel. It was written in 1905. By an American. I continue to be surprised by how quickly Victorian social norms appear to have changed. Wharton's novel focuses on the life and loves of Lily Bart, a New Yorker socialite who has manged to get married yet. She is beautiful. And graceful, with a keen sense of style. And, mostly vacuous with out any real skills or ability to get by own her own. Of course, that is the way she was brought up, so it is unfair to blame her to much. Mostly, though, this struck me us a book for about women and their relationships. This is particularly so in the descriptions of Bart's own awareness of her tactical flirtations.

I enjoyed the story, but I'm not sure it left any deep or lasting impressions. It does offer a great sense of the society of the time, and the changing nature of the era. I see the points that Wharton was trying to make about social mores and the circumscribed roles for women, but think those lessons are better described elsewhere.

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