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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where the heart of the fools is
It is a strange society. Everybody is being watched, every single move, words; they dress code reveals a lot: women with big hats, men with fancy suits and top hats. This is the society they are trapped into. It is very hard to get into it, and easy to be dumped out of. This is the world where Edith Wharton's characters from 'The House of Mirth' inhabit: the early XX...
Published on Nov. 23 2003 by A. T. A. Oliveira

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Fools, The Lily Bart Story
Someone once told me that readers like to read books where he or she can relate to the main character(s). I could not relate to Lily Bart's character. To me, it was written not as a book of leisurely reading,but as a book of lessons. The author, Edith Wharton, was demonstrating the evils of greed and that those who seek wealth are willing to give up their own morals to...
Published on May 3 2001 by Erin McCarty


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For patient, meticulous readers, March 25 2013
By 
S Svendsen "Uni" (Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I was almost ready to stop reading this book when I reached its halfway point. I found little of substance in the trivial and pretentious frivolities represented by Wharton’s collection of turn of the century New York socialites. The heroine, Lily Bart, seemed as shallow as the rest of them. The only glimmer of sensibility was represented by the lawyer Lawrence Selden, a bachelor with a free spirit and more than a modicum of conscience and sensibility. I found Wharton’s erudite vocabulary and quaint turns of phrase annoying and her descriptions excessive with unnecessary details. However, knowing this book was one of Wharton’s most acclaimed, I was determined to finish. It was worth it.

The second half of the book went deeper into the manipulative nature of many of the relationships between Lily and her friends and the insecurities being played out. Lily is like a lamb among the wolves. Her naiveté causes her to stumble more than once, subverting her two objectives in life: being a prime confidant and participant in the activities of upper crust society, and eventually being successful in finding an affluent husband to cement her social position, providing her with the means to indulge her expensive tastes. Having grown up in an upper class environment, Lily continues to make all her judgments based on her prejudiced habituations. Her extraordinary beauty allows her to be worshipped and pampered. Gradually, in the second half of the book, the reader witnesses how Lily’s world falls apart, as she becomes victim to the schemes of an adulterous wife; the sexual innuendo and financial complicity of a married man; and the spiteful spirit of her dying aunt (who has been her guardian since her childhood). These result in her expulsion from her usual circle of friends, her introduction to a penurious existence and her increasing desperation in finding a husband. By the time the end of the book has come to an emotional we have met the real Lily and her profound despair.

On the whole I must admit that The House of Mirth deserves the accolades but it is only for patient, meticulous readers, lovers of the English language. It was first published in 1905, at the beginning of Wharton’s writing career. She was a participant in the American high society, the nouveau riche, that she describes. Her novel provides quite an accurate picture of the idle rich and the plight of women who lacked financial means of support. I did find it rather odd that the subjects of politics, religion, black culture and immigrant influences (especially the Irish and Jewish) were completely absent from the book. The book is therefore a poor representation of describing New York City society for that tumultuous time period. Its narrative exclusively represents a very small slice of life in a complex multifaceted fabric of humanity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where the heart of the fools is, Nov. 23 2003
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
It is a strange society. Everybody is being watched, every single move, words; they dress code reveals a lot: women with big hats, men with fancy suits and top hats. This is the society they are trapped into. It is very hard to get into it, and easy to be dumped out of. This is the world where Edith Wharton's characters from 'The House of Mirth' inhabit: the early XX Century New York. Actually this is the world where Wharton herself lived in.
Lily Bart is a marriageable orphan who is trying to marry a rich man. Her first victim is Percy Gryce, a very rich and insecure man, guided by his mother. When this attempt fails, her friendship with Laurence Selden almost leads to a match, but rumors of her being friends with married man, only brings her ruin and social exclusion. A series of unfortunate events --among them losing money in gambling-- and a very mean 'friend' called Bertha Dorset lead Lily to the ruin.
More than anything, 'The House of Mirth' is a study of the social condition of the New Yorker wealthy women in the early XX century. Rather than being a heroine, Lily is a human being struggling with her problems. She is neither rich nor strong enough to be independent, so that marriage is the only way of keeping a comfortable life, unlikely man. Early in the novel, Lily and Selden are discussing marriages and she says that 'a girl must, a man may if he chooses'. This states clear the difference of men and women, the lack of freedom, and the way people have to live under the social establishment if they want to succeed.
Writing as an insider --and so she was-- Wharton is able to give a faithful and acid view of that society. Inspired from a verse in the Bible, she titled the novel with a wonderful contradiction; there is neither a 'house', nor 'mirth' in the novel. They both are very abstract ideas that we get from the book.
'[Lily Bart was] so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced here, that the links of her bracelet seemed line manacles chaining her to her fate'. I believe the writer felt this same way --maybe that's why she moved to Europe and lived there for many years. Personal connections to the book aside, Edith Wharton has written one of the best American books of the XX Century. Her prose is brilliant, and her story engaging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Fools, The Lily Bart Story, May 3 2001
By 
Erin McCarty (Omaha, Nebraska) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
Someone once told me that readers like to read books where he or she can relate to the main character(s). I could not relate to Lily Bart's character. To me, it was written not as a book of leisurely reading,but as a book of lessons. The author, Edith Wharton, was demonstrating the evils of greed and that those who seek wealth are willing to give up their own morals to get it. The lessons given in the book were my only enjoyment. This is why I gave this literary piece a three. If I had spare time on my hands to read a book, it would not be this one. Thank you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars commendable, March 17 2014
By 
Terry (Mississauga, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: House of Mirth (Kindle Edition)
A Powerful and fascinating work of how opportunity and chance can both empower and inure one in to fatalistic tendencies
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mirth? I think not..., Feb. 25 2004
By 
Adam Gerry (Rochester, NH USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
Review of "The House Of Mirth"
Stephanie Grumbacher
Edith Wharton's classic, "The House of Mirth", while written well, was flawed in several ways. Wharton's over-dramatic tale of a social climbing girl who needed to grow up lacked emotion altogether. Lily Bart, who is considered a heroine in nineteenth century literature, drags on in unhappiness for 310 pages without ever stopping to think logically about her money or use of time, ending up poor and lonely. She is what women of 2004 would look down upon with disgust: fragile and weak. Yet the book pulls the reader in by trying to understand why Bart would do the things she does. The book becomes seemingly unbearable by Bart's actions, but addicting in a way that you want to see if Lily will come to her senses.
What the novel lacks in description it makes up for in its accurate portrayal of high profile society in the 1800's. Socialites like Bertha Dorset, who used their popularity and "rank" to keep her hold on people. Simon Rosedale thought that his money could get him whatever he wanted, including Lily. As for the dynamic in Lawrence Seldon and Bart's relationship, it lacked depth altogether. It seemed Lily only had one love, that being herself. "The House of Mirth", while an interesting look into the past, was overly drawn out and almost painful to read at points.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 3 and 1/2 Stars -- A brutal comedy of manners, Jan. 6 2004
By 
Bill R. Moore (New York, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
The House of Mirth is the book that established Edith Wharton as a major writer. As such, it is not the future Pulitzer Prize-winner's best book, though it does have its strong points. The comedy of manners, particularly around the turn of the 20th century, was effectively monopolized by British literature; this book is one of American literature's first successful books of the type. As such, it is a book distinctly of its time: its setting is certainly not universal; arguably neither is its theme. And yet, the book has been in continual publication for nearly a century for several good reasons. First of all, like her good friend Henry James, Wharton was a master prose stylist. Smart, sophisticated, and witty, her prose is perfectly-suited for a book of this type. Many of the book's features place it squarely in Victorian-era America, in the cradle of New York's upper-class -- in other words, square in the middle of the Gilded Age. The era's infamous social etiquette is on full display here: one that knows little of it will come away from the book knowing much. In the middle of this situation, then, is the book's protagonist: Lily Bart. Wharton uses the story of Bart's rapid downfall to satirize several aspects of New York's turn-of-the-century upper-class society: its selfishness, cruelty, and blindness; its preoccupation with gossip and its disdain for truth; its inhumane treatment of those it believes to be inferior; and more. The book also focuses on the situation that a young lady who was born and bred from the cradle to be rich and taught no skills other than how to woo a rich man into marriage -- a woman, in short, like Lily -- was often forced into at the time. Lily, despite being the most prized beauty of the entire scene, has a seemingly-perverse record of failing to marry rich men whom she has under her thumb. In this, we find Lily to be something of an essentially contradictory character: not a mere gold digger, but hardly a rebel, either. When she is ejected from society's upper echelons, she does not become strong and individualistic: she crumbles. It is in this aspect that the book differs so greatly from present-day culture and ideas about women. This is, by no means, a feminist book: strong-minded women reading this book today, unless they look upon it from a purely-literary viewpoint, will not only despise it, but hate Lily for her failure to stand up for herself. This is an anachronistic reading of the book, of course, but it is precisely the reason why the book's relevance to the contemporary world is questionable at best (this point is illustrated by the largely-unsuccessful recent film adaptation.) Still, the book is both a penetrating comedy of manners and a fascinating period piece. Its exquisite writing style also is quite remarkable, and this is an essential book for prose stylists. This book comes highly-recommended for fans of the works of E.M. Forster and Kate Chopin's The Awakening -- and, of course, of Wharton's other writings. For a truly great work from this author, though, read Ethan Frome.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't hate me, but..., June 26 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
I really disliked this book, and I think I'm one of the only people on Amazon.com who isn't going to give this book praise. Not only did I find Lily Bart an annoying heroine (her only goal during the entire book is to get married, hopefully to a rich person) but I also found Edith Wharton's writing convoluted and overly complex. Wharton could've said some things in a simpler, more direct English but she chooses to write in a highfalutin fashion, using SAT-type words and overly convoluted sentence structures. In my opinion, Wharton comes across as just another early 20th century woman writer who tries way too hard to impress others with her complicated writing. The book, while depicting the social strata of early 20th century New York very well, is just another book by a self-impressed female writer about a very weak female character. Now, I am a female myself, and I frankly have no time for these female authors and their books about wimpy girls. Forget about Wharton. I'd much rather read something by Dickens, Hemingway, or Fitzgerald.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly horrible!!, Jan. 21 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
I found the book the House of Mirth to be totally horrible. I found that learning all about her life, money troubles, sex sacndals, and worries were tiresome and uninteresting. The writer Edith Whaton has had some of the common probalems related to the book and seems to me as a cry for help. This book upset me, as I enjoyed the wonderful beginning with cheerful Selden, but became hauntingly horrible within the next few chapters. The book went on for much to long and showed that Wharton has no self control over how boring her books can become in the long 400 some pages. I belive that if you enjoy a book about a womans horrible life go ahead and read it, but if you don't like books that could just bring you down after a few chapters...find some other book, like Harry Potter!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living Up To Society's Expectations, Oct. 15 2009
By 
Dave_42 "Dave_42" (Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The House of Mirth (Paperback)
"The House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton is her second long novel, and was published on October 14th of 1905. Her first long novel, "The Valley of Decision", was a sweeping historical fiction, which was perhaps a bit too ambitious for her first attempt. This novel suffers none of the flaws of her first effort, and the reader is pulled into the story by its heroine, Lily Bart. She is an interesting character, who is struggling to maintain her position in society. She is flawed, to be sure, but at the same time the reader wants to find out what is going to happen to her.

The story starts with Lily already in difficulty. She is living off of a small inheritance and the sporadic gifts of her strict Aunt Julia. She is also getting older, though still very beautiful and able to attract men, she is always looking for signs of age in the mirror. From the time she was young, she was brought up in affluence, and when her father was ruined financially, it had devastating effect on her mother, and on a then young Lily. She cannot bear the thought of a life without luxury though, and so she is set on marrying only if the man has money. At the same time, those men who do have money do not fill her emotional needs. The man whom she loves, Lawrence Seldon, cannot satisfy her financial needs, and yet she deliberately throws away the opportunities she has to set herself up financially for life.

An interesting aspect of Lily's character is the way she becomes morally stronger each time her position becomes a bit weaker. One suspects the Lily from early in the story would handle the challenges she faces later in the book much differently. She has opportunities to recover her position, but she will not behave in the manner necessary to accomplish it, to her credit. Her relationships with other people also become more real, and less based on superficial subject matter and conversation. This inverse relationship between morality and societal position appears in many of the other characters as well.

I found this to easily be her best novel, short or long, up to this point in her career. Her short fiction had been her stronger work prior to this, but "The House of Mirth" changes that as it is the first long work from Wharton which delivers on the promise that she showed with many of her short fiction works. I am rounding this one up to five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good piece of classical literature, Jan. 20 2004
By 
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
For those individuals who complain about poorly developed characters, this is the book for you. Lily Bart, and most of the other characters in this novel, are well fleshed out. Athough Lily Bart is a classically flawed character, you understand her motivations and those of the other individuals reacting to her. The novel is quite readable and although I am not sure that it should have made the list of the top novels of the 20th century, it is certainly a worthwhile classic to read. It does not end happily; as Anna Quindlen states in the intro, you really can hear a heartbreak at the end of a novel.
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The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition
The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition by Edith Wharton (Mass Market Paperback - Feb. 17 2000)
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