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on 5 March 2017
This is quite a sad yet touching tale. The ending was almost inevitable. It was hard not to dislike Ethan Frome and the way he treated Mattie. He was old enough to know better but made one bad decision after another, as he was a very weak character. He was in no way good enough for Mattie, who deserved a better and stronger man. Frome was a dullard while Mattie was lively and vivacious. He was spineless and appeared quite 'simple', and certainly deserved his shrewish wife. And she him.

The writing was very good and quite evocative. I really felt like a member of the 'cast' of characters.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 July 2013
I find no problem with using the word "novella" to describe this beautiful and painful tale. In no way does it diminish the force of the book, nor point to anything more than its modest length. It seems to me to be a barren activity to quibble over whether a work is a short story, a novelette, a term probably equally offensive to some sensitive souls, or as I opt for here, a novella. "Heart of Darkness", "The Old Man and the Sea", "The Withered Arm", "Bartleby, the Scrivener".................we can squabble over genres but in so doing say nothing of the quality of the experience embodied in the story.

The relative brevity of "Ethan Frome" is a major source of its power. The compression involved occasioning so many nuances and so much unstated meaning is at the very heart of this claustrophobic piece. In so many subtle ways Edith Wharton ratchets up the tension, without once stepping away from the restraint and delicacy of her characteristic style. So much of great literature, especially prose has as its central concern the struggle between the individual and the forces, social and psychological, that choke possibilities of living to the full. Here, with powerful intensity, all the greater for the quiet tone, Edith Wharton has produced a triumph of economy to express this theme with the most powerful,sensitive feeling.
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on 24 January 2012
Disliking the dreadful term novella, this reviewer prefers to categorize Ethan Frome as a `lengthy short story, for while considerably longer than the average short story it's less complicated structurally than a novel. This neat little edition has a disproportionally long introduction , (twenty pages, The House of Mirth has eleven) , effectually thickening the slender volume to one hundred and seventeen. This has the effect of improving value for money; and in its uncluttered simplicity the beautiful cover mirrors Wharton's exquisite prose style.

Ethan Frome owns a run-down saw mill and scratches a meagre living from timber and what he can grow on his small farm. Tall, gaunt, and old before his years he's crippled, his lameness `checking each step like the jerk of a chain.' The narrator learns at the outset, .....`He's looked that way ever since he had his smash-up; and that's twenty-four years ago.............' No one wants to furnish any details of the accident. Thus Wharton immediately creates an interest, and the reader must wait until the very end to discover its circumstances. These occur in the penultimate chapter, and although the reader is forewarned of the impending tragedy the ending is no less poignant as the story winds up to its apogee. In contrast, and what amounts to an anti-climax, in the final short chapter the scene switches back to the present, with the narrator visiting Ethan in his home; the story ending with the protagonists as they are now, in their ironically changed relationship.

Poverty stricken and trapped in a loveless marriage, Ethan presents an example of the debatable saying that man is a slave to his environment; for his strict morality, lack of money and with no other place to go create a straitjacket from which he cannot escape. The sensitive story, told in flashback, unfolds his unsuccessful search for fulfilment in love, his struggle against the cruel winter weather of the Appalachian highlands and the abject poverty that threatens to crush him. And it abounds with the prose- poetry so characteristic of Edith Wharton. He felt `her lashes beat his cheek like netted butterflies.' Or, sitting by the stove after supper; `..... the faint sharp scent of the geraniums mingled with the odour of Ethan's smoke which began to throw a blue haze about the lamp and to hang its greyish cobwebs in the shadowy corners of the room.'

Some works of literature of a minimalist nature are as mighty as the mightiest. This book is one of them.
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on 22 March 2013
I found Wharton's language quite difficult at the beginning, however once you become accustomed to her style of writing the pace improves. Her observations on women in particular is extremely well drawn and what I especially enjoyed is that her characters are not always sympathetic which livens up the plot, really gets you into the narrative, sometimes she invites you to shout out at the idiocy of the behaviour of one character or another! This is a departure from that of most other writers. Wharton is prolific, but her short stories are well worth a read if you can't face an entire novel.
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on 19 March 2015
Stunning writing, this is a joy to read even if the story is ultimately tragic. The author brings life to the characters and shows how oppressive and hopeless their lives were. Her descriptions of poverty and the terrible frustration of its stultifying limits to growth is beautifully drawn.

The whole book is crafted in exquisite language.
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on 28 May 2009
This is a brilliant short story, perfectly pitched, by one of the USA's best authors. It has a resonance that goes far beyond the main narrative, and some beautiful lyrical passages.

One of the things I like best about it is that there are no black and white answers to the moral questions it poses. Does Ethan's unfriendly wife Zeena deserve the harsh portrayal the story gives her, or should she be pitied? How far is Ethan the victim of circumstances, and how far is he responsible for his own downfall? The book ends without resolving these questions, but the implications of its story will send shivers down your spine.
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on 23 July 2017
Loved it! Real atmosphere, you could really imagine the longing, the cold and the joy
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on 3 October 2014
This is a very well written book that paints a brilliant picture of a very frustrated man. The plight of Ethan Frome draws sympathy as the reader can see the position that he is in. This book is short and easy to read. I would definitely recommend it.
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on 25 July 2014
Brilliant book by a distinguished writer. You can tell, from the very first page, that she thought every word out to fit the story. Beautifully written. Would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a seriously good story.
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on 12 July 2008
I love this book..when it first arrived i was a bit disappointed because it looked so short (hundred and so pages) but it's pure quality and evokes such a amazing atmosphere of repression, confinement, depression and excitement of new love...with the outcome being so unexpected yet so ...powerful you think of it for days after.Amazing highly recommend (unless you want a light, chirpy book then go for something else!)
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