Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Prime Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen with Prime Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars51
4.5 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£1.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

VINE VOICEon 18 March 2005
"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.
0Comment|14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Edith Wharton filled her novels with a feeling of ruin, passion and restriction. People can fall in love, but rarely do things turn out well.

But but few of even her books can evoke the feeling of "Ethan Frome," whick packs plenty of emotion, vibrancy and regrets into a short novella. While the claustrophobic feeling doesn't suit her writing well, she still spins a beautiful, horrifying story of a man facing a life without hope or joy.

It begins nearly a quarter of a century after the events of the novel, with an unnamed narrator watching middle-aged, crippled Ethan Frome drag himself to the post-office. He becomes interested in Frome's tragic past, and hears out his story.

Ethan Frome once hoped to live an urban, educated life, but ended up trapped in a bleak New England town with a hypochondriac wife, Zeena, whom he didn't love. But then his wife's cousin Mattie arrives, a bright young girl who understands Ethan far better than his wife ever tried to. Unsurprisingly, he begins to fall in love with her, but still feels an obligation to his wife.

But then Zeena threatens to send Mattie away and hire a new housekeeper, threatening the one bright spot in Ethan's dour life. Now Ethan must either rebel against the morals and strictures of his small village, or live out his life lonely. But when he and Mattie try for a third option, their affair ends in tragedy.

Wharton was always at her best when she wrote about society's strictures, morals, and love that defies that. But rather than the opulent backdrop of wealthy New York, here the setting is a bleak, snowy New England town, appropriately named Starkfield. It's a good reflection of Ethan Frome's life, and a good illustration of how the poor can be trapped.

Even when she describes a "ruin of a man" in a cold, distant town, Wharton spins beautiful prose ("the night was so transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked gray against the snow") and eloquent symbolism, like the shattered pickle dish. There's only minimal dialogue -- most of what the characters think and feel is kept inside.

Instead she piles on the atmosphere, and increases the tension between the three main characters, as attraction and responsibility pull Ethan in two directions. It all finally climaxes in the disaster hinted at in the first chapter, which is as beautifully written and wistful as it is tragic.

If the book has a flaw, it's the incredibly small cast -- mainly just the main love triangle. Ethan's not a strong or decisive man, but his desperation and loneliness are absolutely heartbreaking, as well as his final fate. Mattie seems more like a symbol of the life he wants that a full-fledged person, and Zeena is annoying and whiny up until the end, when we see a different side of her personality. Not a stereotypical shrew.

"Ethan Frome" is a true tragedy -- as beautifully written as it is, it's still Wharton's description of how a man merely survives instead of living, hopeless and devastated.
0Comment|10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 8 July 2003
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, is perhaps the most tragic novel I have had the pleasure to read. Athlough suprisingly short, Wharton manages to create an intricate and complex plot, extreme depth of character and a sensitive yet shocking sense of reality. Altough as much a 'sign of the times' as 'The Age of Innocence' the central theme of this novel is the contempory relationships between the characters and the prinicipal interest is the often bizare mix of betray and intense loyalty portrayed. When the climax comes at the end of the text, the contained emotions of Ethan and Mattie are allowed release, the consequences manefested in disasterous and shocking results. The novel's conclusion is doused with irony and both emotional and physical desolation. It was certainly not written as a 'feel good' novel, but Wharton's delicate, yet brutal portrayal of the close relationships of the three central characters, I believe makes it a must read.
0Comment|21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 December 2004
Ethan Frome is a farmer in Starkfield, Massachusetts, at the beginning of the 20th century. He is unhappily married to Zenobia (Zeena), a suspicious, hypochondriac, bitter, narrow-minded, ignorant and discontented woman. He is strongly attracted to Zeena's cousin Mattie Silver who shares their household and is entrusted with all the chores which Zeena refuses to do. Ethan's tragic fate begins when Zeena peremptorily decides that they need a "hired girl" which would of course imply Mattie's departure since the Fromes don't have the means to employ two girls.
A novel of great intensity with its slow developing tragedy and characters plunging towards their destiny. The author's masterful economy of language vividly renders the oppressive "silent ache" that permanently hinders communication between Ethan and Zeena. The vision of the three main characters is done in an almost cinematic way as they are trapped indoors in the severe Massachusetts winter. The narrative pattern is original too since the whole plot is told by an unnamed narrator who met the taciturn Ethan many years after the events he is about to tell us. The reader has moments of doubt when the narrator tells a story in all details and long passages of dialogue he could not possibly have known or heard during his meeting with Ethan. But Edith Wharton's extraordinary craft makes the story break away from the contingencies of the frame and it comes to moving life for the reader. A superb novel, one of the finest and most intense narratives in the history of American literature.
11 comment|19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 8 December 1998
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton is one of the most tragic novels I have ever read. Although it was tragic, it left a major impact on me, like most tragic novels do. I never thought I would encounter another book as depressing as Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, but Ethan Frome most certainly was. This novel expresses the power of love and what love will do to one's actions. The actions of the two main characters, Ethan Frome and Mattie Silver may appear shocking and foolish to the reader, but eventually the reader can acknowledge the fact that love makes one desperate; desperate enough to what ever it takes to attain love. This is a story of a simple man who desperately wants true love, but who eventually realizes love is hopeless. Ethan Frome's love for Mattie Silver causes the two to partake in an unthinkable act. I would love to share the ending of this novel, but it's an experience one should do on their own. Read this book and it will leave an impact on you and when you look back at this book you will almost feel the pain and isolation of the two characters. Alfred Kazin once stated, "For love to really be love, it must be forbidden, it must fail, it must carry the doomed lovers down with it." Edith Wharton uses this theme, illicit love to present "a drama of irresistible necessity."
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 March 1999
This novelette by Edith Wharton is cleverly written and packed with effective literary devices to liven up the plot. Not that the scheme needs any livening up though, as at times, it seems like a soap opera. The is romance in the air and the husband and wife have a very stressful marriage. There are three characters who are linked in complex ways and share a variety of relationships within the household. First there is the title male figure, Ethan Frome, who is married to Zenobia(Zeena) Frome. They live on a small, isolated farm in northern New England. After Ethan's mother passes away, he marries Zeena who ironically, falls ill shortly after. The reader, trough careful observation, deciphers that Zeena's sickness is really hypochondia. But she hold the power in the household and the couple takes in Mattie Silver, a distant cousin of Zeena's. The beautiful, wintery imagery surrounds a love story that is out of the ordinary. Ethan gets to know Mattie, and he falls in love with her vivaciousness and gay inner spirit. As the story progresses, the reader notices the heightened contrast between the young, warm-hearted Mattie and the old, crotechty Zeena. Ethan digs himself into deeper moral isolation. Symbolism plays an active role in the story and allows the reader to understand the emotions through tangible objects. For example, a slinky cat and a unique glass pickle dish crop up as tangible reminders of the mental games. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a crippling and surprising ending. It is not what you expect and I really cannot give away what happened Mattie and Zeena.
0Comment|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 11 June 2009
I am completely and utterly in love with Edith Wharton! This is the second of her books that I have read in as many weeks and I don't know what kept me from her for so long.

Looking back through some of the reviews of Ethan Frome there appears to be a love/hate divide going on. I LOVED it! Wharton has the most amazing talent to pull me right into her stories as though I am there right with the characters. Starkfield - brilliant name for such a place; it was just that - freezing, barron, snow-covered, lonely. But this is quite possibly one of the most romantic love-stories I have ever read: it's so real you can almost touch it. It's tangible and it's tragic.

This book, despite the fact that it's only 100 pages long, took me a couple of days to read. I just had to savour every word and re-read passages over again. It's so rare that this happens but I just know it's going to be one I think about often and will re-read again (and again.)
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Edith Wharton was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, in 1921, the first woman to win the award, for her work The Age of Innocence (Wordsworth Classics). Most of her works, and she wrote over 40, including the Pulitzer Prize winner, concern New York society. Ethan Frome is a notable exception, set in rural western Massachusetts, on a farm not all that far from the fictional, and aptly named village of Starkfield. This book was first published in 1911; the novel's time period is unspecified, but must be around the turn of the century (yes, that century, the commencement of the 20th.) The setting, the weather, and the people are bleak and morose. It is a hard-scrabble existence, with financial calamity never far away. As stereotypical New Englanders, the three principal characters are taciturn to a fault: a grunt here, a monosyllabic answer there. There is Ethan Frome, his wife Zeena, and her cousin, Mattie Silver.

This book is a good introduction to Wharton. It is a novella that can be read in one setting. It is a well-structured and finely woven story, with a thread of dramatic suspense that commences on page 2, with a denouement not until the very end. It is a story within a story. At the very beginning one learns that Frome has been injured in a "smash-up" that occurred 24 years earlier. He must be around 50, but looks twice his age. Then the flashback tale is told, from the earlier time, of the events that led to the "smash-up." Frome is still in his 20's; his wife is seven years his elder, and "sickly." They met when Zeena was caring for his sickly mother. Mattie Silver is Zeena's youthful cousin who has come to help on the farm, and assist Zeena. As all good wives can, she can sense the threat from a more youthful and vivacious rival, and commences a plan to remove the "competition." The plot evolves against, and reflects the dire climate, and the direr financial struggle of eking out an existence on the stony land. Wharton presents a sympathetic portrait of Frome's dilemma, as well Mattie Silver aspirations. Zeena comes across less favorably.

Ah, the ending, is both predictable, and then it's not, a real reflection of Wharton's story telling ability, as well as her insights into the human condition, and the need to be, well, needed. This is one of those "school assignment" books, as reflected by the current 36 1-star reviews (ah, I can get the teacher back...!). If the teacher could only assign these 1-starers to, say, pick lettuce in the Imperial Valley of California for a year, and learn something of real life, and then read the book. It could be an effective program of remediation, and even raise Wharton's star score, though she is long beyond caring. I AM glad I dodged this as a school assignment, learned something of life, and can now appreciate Wharton's skill and insights. 5-stars.
0Comment|3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 July 1999
Once again, Wharton returns to the inexhaustible subject of sexual love. This is a gripping and poignant story of an intense, forbidden but overpowering passion set against the murderous cold of a New England winter. Vivid, atmospheric, and full of Wharton's insights into the mysteries of the human heart. (I never give 5 stars, but I give this 4.)
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 11 June 2009
I am completely and utterly in love with Edith Wharton! This is the second of her books that I have read in as many weeks and I don't know what kept me from her for so long.

Looking back through some of the reviews of Ethan Frome there appears to be a love/hate divide going on. I LOVED it! Wharton has the most amazing talent to pull me right into her stories as though I am there right with the characters. Starkfield - brilliant name for such a place; it was just that - freezing, barron, snow-covered, lonely. But this is quite possibly one of the most romantic love-stories I have ever read: it's so real you can almost touch it. It's tangible and it's tragic.

This book, despite the fact that it's only 100 pages long, took me a couple of days to read. I just had to savour every word and re-read passages over again. It's so rare that this happens but I just know it's going to be one I think about often and will re-read again (and again.)
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.