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Edith Wharton's 'The House of Mirth' focuses on the beautiful socialite Lily Barton, who is in her late twenties and, after ten years on the 'marriage market', is still looking for a suitably rich husband. Brought up to be purely decorative, Lily seemingly leads a life of luxury and pleasure, but we soon learn that she actually has only a very small income and lives on the charity of a rich aunt who is becoming increasingly disapproving of Lily's gadabout life. Worried about her gambling debts and desperately trying to keep up with the rich set, Lily sets her sights on the very wealthy, if boring Percy Grace, but her plans to snare Mr Gryce are ruined when she becomes attracted to the dark and handsome Lawrence Selden. Mr Selden, however, despite finding Lily breathtakingly beautiful, is a man of only modest means and being aware of Lily's ambitions to marry well, he tries to avoid taking her too seriously. As Lily and Selden circle around each other, both attracted to one another but neither of them willing to commit themselves, Lily becomes desperately worried about her increasing debts and she foolishly approaches the husband of one of her friends to help her to invest her small amount of capital. When it becomes apparent to Lily that the money she has been receiving is not from the dividends on her own money, Lily finds herself embroiled in a whole series of events that eventually lead to her fall from grace, but to reveal more would spoil the story for those who have yet to read it.

Beautifully written and perceptively observed, Edith Wharton's story of New York society and the lives of the rich and idle, juxtaposed with the lot of the much less wealthy and those who fall by the wayside, makes for a compelling read. Aside from the story's main protagonists, this novel is filled with a whole cast of interesting characters and is it easy to become drawn right into Lily Barton's life and watch her as she travels towards her downfall. Although, as bystanders, we can see the mistakes Lily is making and we may become exasperated with her for her foolhardiness, Lily is not as shallow as she initially seems, she does have scruples and she avoids taking others down with her, and the reader (or this one anyhow) feels for her in her predicament. First published in 1905 and one of Edith Wharton's best novels, this is a poignant and resonant story and one to read, to think about and to then put back in the bookcase to read again later. Recommended.

5 Stars.
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on 30 August 2017
What a treat to read a novel by someone who is a master of the craft. Such a rich vocabulary and vivid interesting descriptive passages.
The plot was somehow believable and at times very tragic. So searching and revealing of the shallowness and greed of a super rich group of people.
Lily poor Lily how I wished she had not made such rash decisions. How she undervalued her own dear self.
Edith Wartons writing brought to mind Antoney Trollop I can't wait to read her oeuvre.
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on 26 August 2017
This book is truly a warning of how life can get out of hand if frivolity comes first. A bitter/sweet love story dabbling in American social climbing with disastrous obvious results.
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on 23 August 2017
Fantastic novel of society and scandal in late 19C America. Lily Bart the troubled heroine experiences fortune and misfortune alike and her responses to each will shape her future as she attempts to stay true while surviving the society snake pit. One of the best written adversaries and an equally nuanced love interest as well as period insight and humour make this one of the best books I've read this year.
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on 21 May 2017
Absorbed from beginning to end, a wonderful read
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on 5 May 2017
Excellent
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on 3 March 2017
ok
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on 21 June 2017
So frustrating and boring, this book lacks a clear plot and the characters are intolerable. Waste of time, much better classics.
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on 8 June 2017
it's ok
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on 7 September 2017
I didnt get to the end because the narration was too fast and I found her delivery annoying.
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