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July Meet-up: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Please join me in July when we read the group's choice!  Hope to see you then!  Carissa

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton- In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton depicts the glittering salons of Gilded Age New York with precision and wit, even as she movingly portrays the obstacles that impeded women's choices at the turn of the century.The beautiful, much-desired Lily Bart has been raised to be one of the perfect wives of the wealthy upper class, but her spark of character and independent drive prevents her from becoming one of the many women who will succeed in those circles. Though her desire for a comfortable life means that she cannot marry for love without money, her resistance to the rules of the social elite endangers her many marriage proposals. As Lily spirals down into debt and dishonor, her story takes on the resonance of classic tragedy. One of Wharton's most bracing and nuanced portraits of the life of women in a hostile, highly ordered world, The House of Mirth exposes the truths about American high society that its denizens most wished to deny.


Edith Wharton [masked])- Wharton was born to George Frederic Jones and Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander in New York City. She had two brothers, Frederic Rhinelander and Henry Edward. The saying "Keeping up with the Joneses" is said to refer to her father's family. She had a lifelong friendship with her Rhinelander niece, landscape architect Beatrix Farrand of Reef Point in Bar Harbor, Maine, and often traveled with Henry James in Europe. Wharton combined her insider's view of America's privileged classes with a brilliant, natural wit to write humorous, incisive novels and short stories of social and psychological insight. She was well acquainted with many of her era's other literary and public figures, including Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1885, at 23 years of age, she married Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, who was 12 years older. From a well-established Boston family, he was a sportsman and gentleman of the same social class and shared her love of travel, although they had little in common intellectually.  From the late 1880s until 1902, he suffered acute depression, and the couple ceased their extensive travel. At that time his depression manifested as a more serious disorder, after which they lived almost exclusively at The Mount, their estate designed by Edith Wharton. In 1908 her husband's mental state was determined to be incurable. She divorced him in 1913.  Around the same time, Edith was overcome with the harsh criticisms leveled by the naturalist writers. Later in 1908 she began an affair with Morton Fullerton, a journalist for The Times, in whom she found an intellectual partner.

Many of Wharton's novels are characterized by a subtle use of dramatic irony. Having grown up in upper-class turn-of-the-century society, Wharton became one of its most astute critics, in such works as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence.  In addition to writing several respected novels, Wharton produced a wealth of short stories and is particularly well regarded for her ghost stories.

Edith Wharton died of a stroke in 1937 at the domaine Le Pavillon Colombe, her 18th-century house on Rue de Montmorency in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt. The street is today called rue Edith Wharton. She is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France.



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  • Katie

    I appreciated the opening salvo of hearing everyone's comments/reactions to the book - it helped highlight some things that I hadn't even noticed when I read it. Thanks to Carissa and Tee for the organizing and quick work with the checks! Looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.

    2 · July 24, 2013

    • Tee

      Yeah, that was a cool thing to do. Thx for leading the way, Katie!

      1 · August 12, 2013

  • Rhonda

    Thanks to all, and especially Carissa, for an enjoyable discussion Tuesday evening. We managed nicely, for such a large group.

    1 · July 24, 2013

  • Curtis

    I'll have to jump onto the bandwagon and thank everyone for their insights and comments . Hearing different interpretations of characters motivations and interactions or of the authors intent always expands my appreciation of a book. This is especially true of a book like The House of Mirth which is a favorite of mine, but oddly is also true true of books that I didn't especially like at first. I'm looking forward to the discussions with this group on the books to come.

    On another note - for all you Jane Austen fans - she's going to replace Darwin on the British 10 pound note:

    1 · July 24, 2013

    • Rhonda

      Great news for Austen fans! While reading HoM, I was lamenting that it had been so long since I'd read any Austen; I'm interested in how their social criticism compares, and my memory is fuzzy.

      1 · July 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I could not agree more with Katie! With my thanks to everyone for getting me to re-visit an engrossing and classy classic (you betcha!), and for ironing the discussion about it so smoothly.

    1 · July 24, 2013

  • Carissa

    Thanks for coming out everyone! We had a huge group which as I mentioned, happens about once a year on average. Thanks everyone for bearing with me and helping the conversation to go so smoothly! If I can prevent turning anyone away, I will always do so!

    1 · July 24, 2013

  • Rhonda

    This is my first time with your group, Carissa. Do most people order food or just drinks? I want to do right by the Spice Monkey folks, since they are hosting us.

    July 22, 2013

    • Carissa

      Hi Rhonda, must of us have a drink and something to eat but don't feel pressured! This is a casual social event but sometimes food and drink make it a little more merry! See you tomorrow!

      1 · July 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi, I'm so happy to be joining the group for the first time.

    Is Spice Monkey walkable from the 19th St. BART?

    July 21, 2013

    • Carissa

      Yes Laura. You can click on the Spice Monkey link at the top of the page and a map of the area will open up. I think 19th street Bart is about a 4-5 block walk.

      July 21, 2013

  • Xandria

    Out of town.

    July 19, 2013

  • EileenBerkun

    The picture Lily imitates in the tableau vivant:
    You can see what the guys mean about her "outline"

    July 13, 2013

    • Rhonda

      whoa! thanks for posting. still would be considered immodestly daring by many today...

      July 18, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    sorry, I didn't realize the it was tues night. I've been scheduled to work.

    July 15, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    going to visit family in wisconsin that week

    June 20, 2013

  • Garrick S.

    I will be in summer school.

    May 29, 2013

  • Lucymarie R.

    Not my cup of tea, I fear.

    May 27, 2013

  • Jeni

    I'll read the book and be with you in spirit but I'm taking a summer class that conflicts :(

    May 26, 2013

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