House of Mirth (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

House of Mirth (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. Edith Wharton’s dark view of society, the somber economics of marriage, and the powerlessness of the unwedded woman in the 1870s emerge dramatically in the tragic novel The House of Mirth. Faced with an array of wealthy suitors, New York socialite Lily Bart falls in love with lawyer Lawrence Selden, whose lack of money spoils their chances for happiness together. Dubious business deals and accusations of liaisons with a married man diminish Lily’s social status, and as she makes one bad choice after another, she learns how venal and brutally unforgiving the upper crust of New York can be.

One of America’s finest novels of manners, The House of Mirth is a beautifully written and ultimately tragic account of the human capacity for cruelty.

Jeffrey Meyers, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has published forty-three books, including biographies of Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Wilson, Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, and George Orwell.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593081539
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 09/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 22,702
Product dimensions: 7.96(w) x 5.32(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

Born into a prosperous New York family, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote more than 15 novels, including The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and other esteemed books. She was distinguished for her work in the First World War and was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Letters from Yale University. She died in France at the age of 75.

Date of Birth:

January 24, 1862

Date of Death:

August 11, 1937

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France


Educated privately in New York and Europe

Read an Excerpt

From Jeffrey Meyers’s Introduction to The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth, conventional in form but still very readable and perceptive about the social roles of modern women, appeared almost a century ago, in 1905. That year, Japan’s defeat of Russia led to the first Russian Revolution, the formation of workers’ Soviets, and the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin. In 1905 Einstein proposed his First Theory of Relativity and Freud published his Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. There were also new currents of modernism in art, music, and literature. John Singer Sargent painted The Marlborough Family, Henri Rousseau The Hungry Lion, and Henri Matisse La Joie de vivre. Franz Léhar composed The Merry Widow, Claude Debussy La Mer, and Richard Strauss Salome. G. B. Shaw brought out Major Barbara, H. G. Wells Kipps, and E. M. Forster Where Angels Fear to Tread. There was considerable unrest in the United States as well as in Russia, and as the historian John Higham noted, “It was a time of mass strikes, widening social chasms, unstable prices, and a degree of economic hardship unfamiliar in earlier American history.

Edith Wharton was intimately acquainted with the ruling class, with people who had money and property, wealth and power. As Louis Auchincloss observed: “She knew their history and their origins, their prejudices and ideals, the source of their money and how they spent their summers.” She seemed to hate the society she belonged to, and described it with pervasive irony and sharp wit. Her philistine and hypocritical characters are spoiled and selfish, idle and self-indulgent, hedonistic and materialistic; their social hierarchy, through which Lily Bart makes her tragic descent, is as rigid as the Army or the Church. In a society rife with financial scandal and sexual intrigue, anything is allowed as long as the transgressors are wealthy and maintain a respectable façade. The “vulture” Carry Fisher, who’s twice been divorced and receives money from Gus Trenor, has powerful protectors and is invited everywhere. The fierce and vindictive Bertha Dorset has flagrantly indiscreet affairs with Selden and Silverton but, ironically protected by her victim Lily Bart, manages to maintain both her reputation and her marriage.

In her revealing introduction to the 1936 reprint of The House of Mirth, Wharton explained her choice of subject and suggested her major theme: “When I wrote The House of Mirth I held, without knowing it, two trumps in my hand. One was the fact that New York society in the nineties was a field as yet unexploited by an novelist who had grown up in that little hot-house of traditions and conventions; and the other, that as yet these traditions and conventions were unassailed, and tacitly regarded as unassailable.” She admitted that she “wrote about totally insignificant people, and ‘dated’ them by an elaborate stage-setting of manners, furniture and costume.” Such people, she said, “always rest on an underpinning of wasted human possibilities,” and their sadly vulnerable victim was “the tame and blameless Lily Bart.” Ironically listing Lily’s misdemeanors, Wharton described her as “a young girl of their world who rouged, smoked, ran into debt, borrowed money, gambled and—crowning horror!—went home with a bachelor friend to take tea in his flat!”

Wharton’s caustic novel, piercing the secure stockade of convention, alarmed and disturbed the rulers of New York. In a letter of November 11, 1905, a month after the book appeared, Wharton defended her work. She said that the American upper classes lacked the sense of social responsibility, the noblesse oblige still maintained by their aristocratic counterparts in Europe: “I must protest, & emphatically, against the suggestion that I have ‘stripped’ New York society. New York society is still amply clad, & the little corner of its garment that I lifted was meant to show only that little atrophied organ—the group of idle & dull people . . . [whose] sudden possession of money has come without inherited obligations, or any traditional sense of solidarity between the classes.”

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The House of Mirth 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 180 reviews.
crismeily More than 1 year ago
This is one of those classic books I always meant to read, but never got around to actually doing it. I finally got my hands on this weekend, and finished it within a day. The characters are sympathetic, and the plot engaging. I couldn't put it down, but then again I am one of those people who get completed engrossed in a book and have to finish it as soon as possible. Although, I was a tad disappointed. Im an avid Austen fan, and I guess I was expecting a similar turbulent love story, which ultimately will end happily, but Wharton did not deliver such story. The novel is fantastic, and if it was not for the things I put off doing while reading the book, I might have not hated the ending as much. But when a girl puts off studying for midterms, and stays until 3am reading a novel, dang it, it better end happily.
keruichun More than 1 year ago
I can't say enough how much I loved this book. About a no longer "young" woman who needs to marry for money in order to stay within the class she's grown accustomed to - she finds she always sabotages herself. She makes decisions that are bad for the time she's living in and ends up having to suffer the consequences. Reading it from a 21st century perspective, it all seems so unfair - if she were alive today she'd be doing just fine. But in her time, she was trapped and had to choose between the luxury she craved, but with men she didn't even like, or a life of poverty. Both were traps. It makes you appreciate the freedom we now have to live the way we please. But even though she's trapped in a way that I'll never experience, I still identified very much with her character - above all with her increasing inability to be the kind of person she wanted to be. Because in the end, we're all trying to be better people, then life gets in the way. I can't wait to read this one again!
Nazire More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book to read. Edith Wharton is one of the most important female writers in American literature. Her "Age of Innocence" and "The House of Mirth" is an absolutely must read books in the list of anyone. Wharton's style is unique to her which is chided with criticism of her time, New York's socialites and the wealthy, along with the psyche of U.S. at the time. Wharton delivers much in-depth insight to her readers through the language she uses, lively and fresh descriptions and the irony she presents in this novel. The whole novel is a critique of the New York's aristocracy in the Gilded age. Lily Bart is a 29 year old single young woman who is taken care of by her aunt (who is old fashioned, and thinks she has covered every single a young lady at Lily's age might need, both financially and other wise), addicted to gambling and who has ambitious goals of marrying into the wealth and continue to stay within her social class. This is the plight and the tragedy that revolves around Lily, making her one of the most likeable and also frustrating characters in the literature that I know. Lily is probably one of the most human, fallible characters that are represented in a positive light, but due to her plights, tragically ends her life/ There are a lot of details within this book, concretely set rules of social etiquette and vivid details of the characters, settings and rules of the society. However, there are certain vagueness to the novel that at the end is open to interpretation, which makes it readily one of the most arguable novels in American literature. This is the genius of Wharton bringing the certainty and uncertainty in a harmonized light. Lily is an extremely attractive young woman who is pushing the boundaries of her marriageability firstly because of her age, (which even by today's standards is debatable), secondly by her addiction to gambling and later to the scandalous rumors about her non-existent affair with George Dorset. While Lily has had many who has proposed to her, Lily has always been unable to decide and later jeopardize those proposes by acting out of character in hopes of being with someone better. Lily's ambitions and her own self righteous attitude gets the better of her. (She could have easily pulled her out of her financial troubles by marrying any one of her eligible suitors--which makes one critically think about Lily that although she wants to have a wealthy husband who will secure her foothold in the higher elite social class, she also wants to marry for love). With all of this said and done, Lawrence Seldon is an attorney from the middle class who often hangs around the wealthy. Seldon and Lily do love each other, however Lily never takes the leap to be with Seldon due to his inferior social standing. Her inability to let go of her desire to be in the society of the elite-regardless of their cruel, unhappy, polite but back-stabbing, gossiping circle overwhelms her desire to be happy. Lily is stuck in between love and wealth--which being unable to commit to either one brings her tragic death. Lily is such an interesting antagonist, especially considering the time where women writers were barely existent and usually were not taken seriously Wharton offers a critique of not only the New York's finest, however a glimpse of the mindset of a woman who lived in between the turn of the 19th Century. Wharton delivers her characters trough an interpretive and exposing lens that serves the modern.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The House of Mirth is a traditional novel of manners compromising a dramatic plot encircling a fatally flawed character. Lily Bart is a single socialite existing at the turn of the 20th century in upper class New York whose life ambition is to achieve inconceivable heights of social prominence through the security of a lucrative, venerable marriage. To Lily, social standing means everything it is something to be worked for and perfected no matter the cost. This selfish, single-minded desire for material wealth and social glory proves to be a constant struggle for Lily throughout the novel, as her morality comes into question through several trials, which consequently result in grave irrevocable errors. One such internal battle surfaces when Lily encounters the rare opportunity to marry for love, but ultimately banishes the possibility from her mind in favor of a more financially stable union. Another major tribulation concerns Lily¿s inclination to accumulating overwhelming debts, which force her to ask for favors from ¿friends,¿ leaving her vulnerable and free to manipulation. Unfortunately, Lily¿s purely self-interested motivations induce the opposite of the desired effect as they eventually serve to reduce her to a destitute social pariah. Through Lily¿s tragic character it is illustrated that excessive concern for material riches is detrimental to one¿s wellbeing, because it inevitably breeds moral decay and supersedes the more precious facets of life. It is through her poor decisions that Lily begins her downward spiral from her position as an esteemed lady of high society to a figure of public humiliation and defeat, a journey that takes readers along for a thrilling ride and leaves them with an impression of personal loss.
mgoodrich718 More than 1 year ago
The House Of Mirth By Judith Wharton 3 Stars Lily Barton is a 29 year old beautiful woman who is chaparoned by her wealthy aunt. Lily is stuck in the 1890's society, with no where to go, and no fun to be had. At least not if you want to marry well and be taken care of. Deep tradition, rules and double standards surround her. Young women who were unmarried could be taken advantage of and ruined for virtually nothing. No one would ever forget either once that happens. Lily's aunt disowns her prior to her death for one such infraction which may or may not include gambling debts and affairs with married men. Lily tries to survive using her intelligence and wit. She wants to be independent and find a man she can love for love's sake. Fate, and the cruel world are very much against her. Well written and true to the age. Wharton captures what a women such as Lily would have gone through during this time in our society. We've come a long way in some respects and others we haven't.
catherine21 More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a college course. From the first page I was drawn to continue reading. The book is identifiable with all sorts of people. If you're looking for a love story this is not the book for you. Lily Bart is one of the most complex and humanistic character ever written. This book is definitely recommended, even though it is full of heart break.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book, because of its engrossing plot and very intriguing themes. The characterization, particularly that of Lily Bart, is very realistic and extremely well written. Wharton takes a hard look at the traditions and lifestyles of the wealthy upper-class in ways that reveal the hypocrisy and cutthroat behaviors that dominate some circles of that social class. The other very interesting theme is the power of women in society, which has pertinence in today's world. For instance, Wharton addresses issues such as the value put on women by society, the meaning of customs such as marriage, the rules of behavior that women are expected to follow 'and many do not', as well as the power of women over each other, which is perhaps the most interesting concept of all that this book presents. Overall, this book is very well written, has a great ending that leaves the reader thinking, and is also a great social commentary. I would highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Brilliant character development of Ms. Lily Bart. I love how Wharton gives her readers an omnipotent view of the battle between good and evil that precedes each character's words and actions. It just shows how truly discerning and insightful she is. The protagonist's heroic adherence to her morals will really make you question the strenght of your own character. The ending depressed me, but I still think it the appropriate outcome. This book is a real classic!
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As I read this tale of tragedy and the upper classes, I wondered who I most resembled in character: Seldon, who offers his love to Lily Bart, but is too afraid to commit to it, or Rosedale, whose love for Lily could save her but is yet unwanted. I have in mind a friend of sometimes tragic countenance who fits Miss Bart's character so perfectly that it worries me.
dw0rd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Seeing this title as a Playaway audio book at my library finally convinced me to read(?) it. I also downloaded a print(?) version from for "backup." I kept getting frustrated with Lilly but finally realized my vexation was because she wouldn't do things my modern, middle class, socially liberated way. Then I got frustated with Edith Wharton for the "I can see it coming" cop-out ending, then realized it might have been quite stunning for her era, class, and upbringing. She further redeemed herself by making me wonder what the mystery "word" was.Angie: Ethan Fromme, Age of Innocence, and House of Mirth!
edecklund on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Seeing this title as a Playaway audio book at my library finally convinced me to read(?) it. I also downloaded a print(?) version from for "backup." I kept getting frustrated with Lilly but finally realized my vexation was because she wouldn't do things my modern, middle class, socially liberated way. Then I got frustated with Edith Wharton for the "I can see it coming" cop-out ending, then realized it might have been quite stunning for her era, class, and upbringing. She further redeemed herself by making me wonder what the mystery "word" was.Angie: Ethan Fromme, Age of Innocence, and House of Mirth!
turtlesleap on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lily Bart is a vehicle for Wharton's social commentary on an era which, for women, offered very limited choices and an astonishing array of ways to go wrong. Bart falls victim to a series of seemingy trivial choices which, cumulatively, spell her ruin. As the novel begins, she is approaching the crucial age of 30 by which women of her time and society must either be married or be regarded as hopelessly unmarrigeable. She is beautiful, bright, socialy sought after and in a position, despite her age, to make a higly desireable match. Through decisions that are heart-wrenchingly understandable; often even inevitable, she systematicaly forecloses all her options. House of Mirth is eminently readable, with characters which are dimensional and sympathetically drawn and which, even in a world far different from that of Lily Bart, we can empathize.
runaway84 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most depressing books I have ever read. There was no bright moment in sight. Nowhere to 'rest your eyes' so to speak, from deep darkness.Lily Bart is one of the most tragic heroines in literature. There was absolutely no way of a happy ending for her. She was doomed from the start. She wanted a life that never really belonged to her. She couldn't stand the thought of 'lowering' herself to anything less than the upper class, and that led to her downfall. Bart was naive and vein and sometimes just downright stupid. She sacrificed everything instead of taking that one happy opportunity that was right in front of her face.The House of Mirth shows the cruelty of the upper class New York society at the beginning of the 20th century better than any non-fiction book could. Wharton crafted a beautifully tragic story showing that the upper class isn't what it's cracked up be. She tore off the blinds and shows us the vile and ugliness.
technodiabla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the book and found the insights into human nature and societydepicted in a clever way-- especially if you enjoy biting cynicism.The surprising thing was how much my feelings towards Lily changed though thebook. From a disdainful "you derserve it you arrogant Bit&@" to "God, the poorwoman-- she is trying but their are no options..." Watching her change as aresult of her environment was refreshing, though ultimately tragic.
iron_queen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An involving and brutal look at not only American society of the 1870s, but the American tendency to value money and economic position above all else, to the detriment of common human decency. In novels such as this, usually I prefer to read the novel from the point of view of the poor, as that presents a broader view of every strata of society, but the aggressively insulated upper class was, I found, a world unto itself. I would have liked to have more psychological insight into Lily Bart as a character other than her social faux pas, though.
athene1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not bad, some good, powerful moments and discussions on love.
GVLibraryDesMoines on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here's where I'd put my anthology entry.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This turn-of-the-century novel tells the story of Lily Bart, a beautiful woman caught between what her heart wants and she thinks she should want. When Lily is orphaned as a young woman, an aunt provides for her, leaving her cared for, but never wealthy. At age 29, Lily is still hoping to marry well, despite her financial problems. Yet every time she seems close to making a match, something causes her to withdraw a bit from her pursuit. I¿ve read Wharton¿s The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome and with each books I was impressed with the writing and restrained portrayals of the characters, but never more so than with this book. For me, The House of Mirth made me love Wharton, instead of just appreciating her. Wharton finds the most eloquent way to say things, but still manages to keep it simple and not overly-flowery. It¿s not like Dickens, who I do love in a different way, but the man was wordy! She¿s not writing to fit more words in each paragraph, instead it feels like things have been pared down until what¿s left is only what is necessary to tell the compelling story.I read it slowly, savoring each line instead of barreling ahead. I didn¿t want to miss anything and I found myself highlighting so many lines that I connected to. It felt like she had chosen each word so carefully and so in turn I wanted to make sure I gave each word its due as I read it. Lily Bart is a character so caught up in trying to attain what society tells her is the perfect life, that she completely denies her true feelings. She ignores what makes her happy and focuses all of her intelligence and planning into finding a wealthy husband of the right social standing. At a young age, her mother taught her that this was what was important in life and Lily never quite let go of that mindset. Lily has been raised to believe she needs a life of riches to be happy, but when she¿s put in a position where those things might not be available to her anymore she doesn¿t know what to do. She¿s desperate and believes that her only choice is to sacrifice the life she thinks she loves or her happiness. It¿s Madame Bovary without the selfish abandon in decision making.This is the quote that sums it all up for me¿¿¿sometimes I think it¿s because, at heart, she despises the things she¿s trying for. And it¿s the difficulty of deciding that makes her such an interesting study.¿ ¿Mrs. FisherThe scenes between Lily and her friend Seldon are electric. They are sprinkled throughout the book and so each time you stumble upon one it breathes new life into the story, just as it does in Lily¿s own life. Their chemistry radiates off the page. There are so many men who want Lily and yet Seldon is the only one that makes her feel alive. She refuses to acknowledge even to herself, that she feels anything for him. ¿She knew herself by heart too, and was sick of the old story. There were moments when she longed blindly for anything different, anything strange, remote and untried; but the utmost reach of her imagination did not go beyond picturing her usual life in a new setting.¿ The few moments when she is truly happy are tucked away in her memory. She never allows herself to dwell on those moments of joy. Instead she focuses on whatever problem is at hand, financial or social. She believes her problems don¿t exist if she escapes to another setting, so she¿s constantly trying to run away from them. The transition that she goes through from the beginning of the novel to the end is startling. She¿s so carefree and hopefully at the start. Her playful nature begins to drain away as her circumstances become direr. I loved the fact that despite having no idea how to achieve happiness in her life, she¿s not helpless. She plans and schemes, often at her own expense, to solve her problems. She doesn¿t wait around for someone to fix everything. She doesn¿t make excuses for herself or allow herself to wallow in self-pity. She accepts the consequences of her actions, even if they sometimes seem unf
bexaplex on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lily Bart descends through high society, society's fringes, the generally wealthy and finally the working class in a journey that ruins her reputation but leaves her morals intact.When I was younger I loved this book for the scope of its tragedy. In every chapter a new opportunity is presented to Lily that she chooses to pass by. She makes her choices based on her own moral compass, and, Job-like, is punished for each choice. The beginning of the book, and the loss of Percy Gryce, is smoothed over with well-bred manners. By the end of the book Lily is raw and direct and the price she is paying totally clear.What I don't remember is how much you end up hating Lawrence Selden by the end of the book. Lily has his number when she admonishes him at Bellomont for decrying society while enjoying its company. He's too bright to be an obtuse Ashley to Lily's Scarlet, and so he ends up being just plain impotent — realizing too late on every occasion that he's done exactly the wrong thing.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
She usually contrived to avoid being at home during the season of domestic renewal. ... She had so long been accustomed to pass from one country-house to another, till the close of the holidays brought her friends to town, that the unfilled gaps of time confronting her produced a sharp sense of waning popularity. It was as she had said to Selden -- people were tired of her. (p. 149)Such is the plight of Lily Bart, the tragic heroine of The House of Mirth. At twenty-nine, Lily finds herself unmarried and, upon her mother's death, left without visible means of support. She realizes a husband would provide much-needed security, not to mention the income required to maintain her lavish lifestyle. Yet Lily is so self-absorbed, she unknowingly ruins just about every marriage opportunity presented to her. Lily is terribly naive about the effects of her behavior on others. When she slights a potential suitor, she brushes it off as a matter of little consequence. She is both surprised and hurt when the gentleman abruptly leaves the party. Lily is also completely ignorant of financial matters. After losing a large sum of money at bridge, she allows a friend's husband to invest what was left of her money in the stock market. The investments are profitable, but Lily's appetite for luxury still exceeds the available funds. And, to make matters worse, the investor has definite ideas as to how Lily should "repay" him. Lily has only a couple true friends, notably a young man named Lawrence Selden. Selden's love for Lily is obvious to the reader, but not to the characters. Lily treats him more like a big brother, dismissing thoughts of marrying Selden and setting her sights on wealthier prospects.In the second half of the novel Lily's relationship and financial difficulties only get worse, and while Lily has a vague idea that things are not as they should be, she prefers to keep her head in the sand. This made for difficult reading; many times I wanted to take Lily by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Then, about 50 pages from the end there was a juicy bit of foreshadowing. The rest of the book was like watching a horror film with partially-covered eyes. Was Wharton really going to do what I thought she'd do? Well, I won't say any more on that ... I'll just say that the ending was fitting.Edith Wharton is known for her portrayal of New York society at the turn of the 20th century. Much of her work also addresses the rights of women, and in particular the impact of divorce. In House of Mirth, Wharton echoes Virginia Woolf's message that a woman must have "a room of her own and 500 pounds." Lily lacked both, making her extremely vulnerable. And, she had virtually no ability to change her circumstances. Add to that a frivolous attitude, and you have a cautionary tale indeed.
MsNikki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My friend let me this book and I fell in love.The back biting, social climbing and the struggles of a woman before her time just resonated with me.I saw the movie with Gillian Anderson and Eric Stoltz and thought they did it justice.I think everybody should read this book.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title of this book comes from a Bible quote (Ecclesiastes 7:4) "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." Lily Bart, the central character of The House of Mirth, is most definitely a fool. She has been brought up on the fringes of high society and her sole aim in life is to marry someone rich so that she can continue to remain in society. She has a small income of her own. I don't think it is ever explicitly said how much but it is not enough for Lily to live in the style to which she has become accustomed. She lives with her aunt but spends weeks visiting rich friends on their estates outside of New York. Her aunt has often paid her dressmaker's bills and it is supposed that Lily will inherit her aunt's fortune. Nevertheless Lily treats her aunt's home as a waystation and only spends time with her when there are no other invitations. Lily has had suitors but at the age of twenty-nine she is still unmarried and starting to worry she is losing her looks. When she manages to lose the interest of another marriage prospect she thinks she might need to see if she can make more money by speculating in the stock market. She aks the husband of a friend to invest her small capital and is soon being handed substantial cheques from this man. She finally has enough money to spend as she likes but then the man starts importuning her to spend time with him. After an unsettling encounter with him she realizes that he has given her the money in order to persuade her into his bed. Unfortunately, her late night departure from his house was witnessed by the one man who genuinely loves Lily and he pulls back. Lily's reputation suffers further when she is abroad. Then when she returns home she finds that her aunt has died and left her only (!) ten thousand dollars which is the sum of money the friend's husband has given her. Lily tries, at last, to obtain some paid work but is dismal even at that. Her foolishness finally brings her to the lowest echelon of society.I have enjoyed other books by Wharton but this book was not my cup of tea. I found Lily irritating. She could have lived within her means; she could have even found work; but instead she wastes her money and spends her days on frivolous activities. I could see doing that when she was eighteen or twenty-one but to still be carrying on that way when she was twenty-nine strikes me as extremely self-centered. Wharton can do better (or, more correctly, did do better). Ethan Frome by her was one of the most beautifully tragic books I have ever read. My book club chose this book for February 2012. It will be interesting to see what other members think of it.
silva_44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although not as well-written as The Age of Innocence, Wharton does a fabulous job of filling the reader with a sort of admiration for Lily Bart, despite her selfish and self-serving attitude and ambitions. I found myself disgusted by her inability to choose happiness over comfort, but perhaps I simply don't understand enough about what it meant to her circle to achieve a position of importance. The ending was certainly tragic, but lacked the acute irony that resonated at the end of Age of Innocence. Overall, a splendid book.
autumnesf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A woman tries to find a husband in New York Society when the family money she is used to runs out. A good story.
dele2451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and painfully tragic. Edith Wharton is as brilliant as Lily Bart is proud. A definite recommend.