House of Mirth (Wharton)

The House of Mirth 
Edith Wharton, 1905
~360 pp. (varies by publisher)

A literary sensation when it was first serialized in Scribners magazine in 1905, The House of Mirth quickly established Edith Wharton as the most important American woman of letters in the twentieth century.

The first American novel to provide a devastatingly accurate portrait of New York's aristocracy, it is the story of the beautiful and beguiling Lily Bart and her ill-fated attempt to rise to the heights of a heartless society in which, ultimately, she has no part.

Wharton’s dark view of society, the somber economics of marriage, and the powerlessness of the unwedded woman in the 1870s emerge dramatically in this tragic nove. Faced with an array of wealthy suitors, Lily falls in love with lawyer Lawrence Selden, whose lack of money spoils their chances for happiness together. Dubious business deals and accusations of liaisons with a married man diminish Lily’s social status, and as she makes one bad choice after another, she learns how venal and brutally unforgiving the upper crust of New York can be. (Adapted from Penguin Classics edition and Barnes & Noble versions.)

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