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Edith Wharton Paperback – 3 Jan 2008
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"An exhaustive record of the career of a brilliant and prolific writer." (Mary Leland Irish Examiner)
"A superb biography" (Colm Toibin Irish Times)
"Adding impressive depth and nuance to the received portrait of Wharton, Lee's biography excels in its discussions of her writing" (Peter Kemp The Sunday Times)
"Painstaking and elegant... One of this book's great pleasures is Lee's discussion of Wharton's work" (Kasia Boddy Daily Telegraph)
"A feat of exhaustive research...finely tuned to Wharton's creative achievement. This is a glorious biography" (Mark Bostridge Independent on Sunday)
A rich and powerful new life of a great novelist. The first biography by a British woman writer, it overturns the accepted view, displaying her as a tough, erotically brave, startlingly modern writer. Much more than the biography of Wharton for our generation - it is a touchstone in the art of the biographer, a must for everyone who cares about the periodSee all Product description
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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.
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.
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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