Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer by Edith Wharton

Summer by Edith Wharton is a book I’d never heard of before I read Ethan Frome but the author said that the two are similar and she even went so far as to call Summer the “hot Ethan.”  The parallels are certainly there, as both novels are set in small New England towns and are firmly established in a season.  If Wharton is guilty of using pathetic fallacy she at least does so to good effect.

This novel has a sense of doom about it but it is lighter or perhaps more lethargic than the other novel. Charity Royall is the ward of Mr. Royall who rescued her from a life of poverty.  One night when he is perhaps a little drunk and lets himself get carried away, he approaches Charity but she flatly declines and this one night of thoughtlessness results in a spiral of events that culminate in the understated tragedy that the reader knows is coming.  I say “understated” because, when compared with Ethan, Charity’s denouement is far from tragic, albeit it is equally far from joyful. 

Once I began reading, I found myself pushed to continue reading and, although I expected a far more devastating conclusion, I was not unsatisfied at the book’s end.  Wharton’s understanding of Charity’s insecurity, the choices she makes as a result, and her need for a place that she can call her own, are all delicately and well handled by an author who is as brilliant as she is intuitive.

Another in my meeting the two challenges:  Books I Should Have Read By Now and The Classic Bribe.

4 comments:

  1. I have an Edith Wharton book waiting on me. I bought it a few weeks ago and I'm looking forward to it. This one looks good too.

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  2. Karen, Which book do you have waiting? I ask because I seem to be loving Wharton lately and want any excuse to read another. "Karen is reading this novel? Then why not do the same?"

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  3. I bought this used a while ago and it's still on my shelf. I love Edith Wharton, and her comment on this being a "hot Ethan" makes me want to read it sooner rather than later and compare.

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  4. Shelley, The two definitely work in relationship with one another, a study in contrasts and comparisons for sure.

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