"Ethan Frome" is a novel carved from black ice. It is a tragedy unalleviated by humour, with nothing to ease the iron grip of a malign Fate. Superbly written, uncompromisingly tragic, full of striking and memorable winter landscape imagery, with an ending that is unexpected and thought-provoking, it is undeniably great literature. I just felt that the profound sadness of the tale somehow compromised the artistic integrity. Edith Wharton experienced much sorrow in her own life and I think this somewhat narrowed her vision. So be prepared for a novel that will move you, impress you and stay with you, but is not likely to put a smile on your face or a spring in your step!
In the same vein, look for Gillian Anderson's astonishing performance in the film version of Wharton's "The House of Mirth" (a misnomer if ever there was). Not always easy to take, it is tragic acting at its brilliant best.