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The House of Mirth (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 13 Nov 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reprint edition (13 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538102
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.5 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 626,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Gore Vidal There are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as "major," and Edith Wharton is one. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

* First published in 1905, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH portrays the moral, social and economic restraints on a woman who dared to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming the responsibilities. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 July 2007
Format: Paperback
"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" Ecclesiastes 7:4 KJV. Hence begins the story of Lily Bart, raised from birth with no other purpose in life than to be a beautiful ornament to society. Lily is left with little money of her own and must rely on family and friends until she can make an advantageous marriage. Unfortunately, she makes some poor choices in life which diminish her social status, which eventually leads her to attempts to eke out a living among the working class.

Wharton, who grew up in this same environment, pulls no punches. We see both the glamour and richness of late 19th century New York society, along with it's evil underside. Wharton's prose is glorious, but you have to pay attention and not wander or you'll end up back tracking and reading that paragraph again so as not to miss the story, you want to slow down and enjoy it like a fine red wine or a box of chocolate (or both). If you enjoy classic literature with a soap opera melodramatic tone to it (like Hardy's Tess), this should be right up your alley. So many times Lily and Seldon missed their opportunity for happiness! Have the hanky ready for the last chapters, you'll need it.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 July 2002
Format: Paperback
In 'House of Mirth', Wharton's prose, timing and deft touch are all much in evidence. What makes this an especially enjoyable work is its unpredictibility. Whilst 'The Age of Innocence' is perhaps Wharton's most famous novel, 'House of Mirth' is more complex (and less cliched, I feel) - and ultimately more satisfying in terms of plot and characterisation.
The novel follows the events surrounding Lily Bart, a society beauty in 19th century New York, who must marry money in order to secure a life of luxury. Lily's flawed character is marvellously fleshed-out - making her a very real heroine. A number of suitors present themselves, but Lily's inability to marry solely for money, the prejudices of New York Society and ultimately - Lily's tendency to play her cards badly - produces a thoroughly absorbing ending.
The film, by the way, does not do the novel justice.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By kelly_canada@hotmail.com on 9 Sep 2000
Format: Paperback
You won't like Lily Bart when first you meet her in this book....I didn't. She is vain, spoiled, too beautiful and too clever for her own good. She is the product of a society that considered women useful as ornaments only....marry young, marry rich. A product of a time, long gone, when women where groomed from birth to accomplish nothing else. Lilly had learned her lessons well, unfortunately, Lilly has also learned that the glittering society that she inhabits is a sham. One where wealth and reputation mean more than honesty and moral values. The fact that she is aware, is able to see the hyprocricy of her friends and relatives is what redeems her to the reader. It is that which makes her likeable and admirable in the end. Yet, does she employ her awareness, or does she give in to the society values, in order to live the life she craves, of ease and wealth? Lilly is master of her own fate, she will marry, someone rich, since she has no money of her own, but in her own time. Only perhaps Lilly tarrys too long. Seldon is a well off man, not rich, but still part of society....he is not rich enough to marry but he is the secret love of Lilly's heart. It is between the choice of love or money that Lilly is caught, in a society where: "a girl must, a man many if he chooses" we are compelled to read on to see what she will do. Its a book I would recommend for an excellent read with a strong female lead.Thankful that a society like this, where you live off of your looks and your wealth, no longer exists....or does it?
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ms. L. M. Smith on 9 Feb 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Set in 1890's New York, we follow the life of Miss Lily Bart, a dazzling socialite, sharp-witted and beautiful as she whirls amongst the parties and events in the endless social calendar of the fashionable hierarchy. But fortune does not favour Lily; despite her much-admired beauty, she is an impoverished spinster who struggles to keep up with the tremendous expense of living the lifestyle of the exclusive rich set.
Lily's descent into poverty is terribly compelling to witness; scandal follows scandal, as Lily's circle of former acquaintance turns it back on her and leaves only a few caring true friends. Your heart sinks with every step down the social ladder for Lily, and the close of the novel is tragic and moving. Despite her flaws, you are still rooting for Lily to regain her rightful status in genteel society, and this is evidence enough that Edith Wharton was a masterful storyteller. I have yet to see the film of the novel, starring Gillian Anderson as Lily, but if it remains true to the novel, then it must be worth seeing.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Wright on 20 Jan 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was totally overwhelmed by 'The House of Mirth'. Although it was clear that Lily's short sightedness was responsible for her downfall, I find it difficult to pin point exactly why the character evoked such strong feelings of sympathy from me. Her beauty makes her captivating, and she is so naieve and inexperienced, that you cannot help but feel so much sadness when things take an inevitable turn for the worse. The ending was incredibly emotional and so moving, illustrating the point that, at the end of the day, beauty will not secure success or fulfillment. I cannot reccomend this book highly enough - it is beautifully written with a complex yet incredibly loveable female protagonist. In my opinion, this book is underrated. It is certainly worthy of the title "Modern Classic".
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