Book Review: The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth- Edith Wharton
About a year ago now, Beth sent me some books, including The House of Mirth, and I've finally got round to reading one of them! Sorry it took so long, Beth! This was one of the first published novels of Wharton's, a three-time winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, released in 1905. It tells the story of Lily Bart, a beautiful socialite who lives an independent, rather hedonistic life of gambling and socialising with men. However, when her fortunes take a turn for the worse, she is forced to find ways to pay off her debts and live a more frugal life. As her friends shun her due to this disgrace, Lily struggles to cope and begins to question the direction her life is taking.
Although I warmed to Lily straight away, due to her sassy nature and stubborn refusal to bow down to the whims of others, I did find it difficult to lose myself within the novel. Much of the writing was dry and repetitious, making it hard for me to connect. It's beautifully written, I admit, but perhaps a bit too flowery with not enough substance to really captivate me.

However, The House of Mirth is an interesting insight into American society of the early 20th century with all its politics regarding stature and wealth, old money vs the nouveau riches and the importance of honour and dignity. The women in the novel are malicious and snide, whereas the men are sleazy and dull. Only Lily shows any hint at being a three-dimensional character, which is indicative of the importance of appearances in this era. 

Ultimately, I found the book difficult to read, more so as Lily's life spiralled out of control. As it progresses, the writing becomes more and more bleak, ending wih a sense of unresolved depression. Although I didn't particularly enjoy it, I do appreciate a novel that doesn't wrap everything up with a neat "...and then they lived happily ever after"! 

1 comment :

  1. I don't like the look of this cover so I probably wouldn't read it. I'm a prick. Come at me. Xx


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