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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive!
I cannot agree with some reviewers who clearly feel this biography is too detailed or too long. If you have any interest in the background to the author of books such as the Age of Innocence or the House of Mirth then you would surely want as much information as possible. The factual history of her age and the highly representative fiction she wrote around it are of...
Published 10 months ago by Robert

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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A bloated book
Reading this book rapidly became a chore. The art of biography depends on research and selection. Miss Lee has clearly researched this book very well but seems to have exercised little choice over what to leave out. One is left with a feeling of having read endless lists and been told numerous irrelevancies. With judicious cutting this book would have had far more pace...
Published on 11 Jun 2009 by Tony Heyes


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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A bloated book, 11 Jun 2009
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Tony Heyes (Greater Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Edith Wharton (Hardcover)
Reading this book rapidly became a chore. The art of biography depends on research and selection. Miss Lee has clearly researched this book very well but seems to have exercised little choice over what to leave out. One is left with a feeling of having read endless lists and been told numerous irrelevancies. With judicious cutting this book would have had far more pace and been easier to read. As it is, it is more of a reference book for dipping into than a "good read"; all the information is there but the narrative drive is lost in too many quotations and digressions. Trivial matters are accorded as much weight as the salient points of Edith Wharton's life. The narrative disappears under the weight of information that the author ought to have consigned to footnotes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive!, 1 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Edith Wharton (Paperback)
I cannot agree with some reviewers who clearly feel this biography is too detailed or too long. If you have any interest in the background to the author of books such as the Age of Innocence or the House of Mirth then you would surely want as much information as possible. The factual history of her age and the highly representative fiction she wrote around it are of immense interest in their own right. That she and her husband were rich is beyond doubt. They spent the whole of her annual income of $10,000 (quite apart from their capital) on a three month cruise, not as passengers but hiring their own steam yacht. That income today may equate to several million dollars a year. Another perspective is that a seaman's wage on an atlantic liner was about 60 a year.

Edith Wharton's writing is more subtle than the grand luxury lifestyles of her characters suggest, and contains some bitter satire at her class's expense, which I think can be misunderstood by some audiences. An excellent example is Martin Scorsese's film interpretation of the Age of Innocence. In the film Newland Archer and his boss are seen dining luxuriously, and superficially it looks like some 'My Fair Lady' period glamour film; whereas Edith Wharton's line for the same scene in the book is 'they dined copiously'. A simple inversion of the concept of 'copiously ', usually referring to the act of excretion, but applied to ingestion instead illustrates the rather disgusting conspicuous consumption of her class in this period and her brilliance as a writer.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes great literature, has a feel for the intellectual and the finer things of life and an interest in history. Any guilty feelings about liking the works of someone so rich and privileged may be assuaged by reading about the relief work she did in first world war France, quite apart from the sheer industry she put in to her artistic production. You may not read it all in one sitting but you should feel enriched even if you read it in sections over a long time. A copious read? Yes. But conspicuous consumption? Definitely not.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hugely disappointing, 27 Dec 2012
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hiljean (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Edith Wharton (Paperback)
What a relief to see from other reviews that I was not alone in finding this book too densely filled with facts, both relevant and irrelevant, to be able to finish it. It has taken me 18 months on and off to get as far as page 308 but it is taking up too much space on my bookshelves and has become a chore rather than a pleasure to read.

The only reader I can imagine who would be faintly interested in this "definitive" biography would be someone writing a thesis or dissertation on the works of Edith Wharton. What a shame that such an interesting woman has been so ill served by her biographer for, interesting though her life undoubtedly was, it comes across as one long yawn in this writer's words.

Not recommended for any but the most intellectual and dogged researcher!
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 21 Nov 2008
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Mrs. P. Bennett (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Edith Wharton (Paperback)
My sister & I are keen Wharton fans and having read the review in the Telegraph, I purchased 2 copies.
Well after about a month we both admitted to each other that although this book may be factually accurate, the reading was heavy going. So my copy is now at the charity shop after 2 attempts to get half way through it.
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Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee (Paperback - 3 Jan 2008)
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