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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
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Good piece of classical literature, Jan. 20 2004
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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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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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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
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but oh so bleak..., Nov. 21 2003
By 
crazyforgems (Wellesley, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
"The House of Mirth" is a rich, nuanced study of New York upper class at the turn of the century. It is also a portrait of a single, beautiful, no longer so young (29-it is the turn of the century woman) struggling to survive in this society. This book will break your heart.
Lily Bart is nearly penniless, not an unusual condition for the heroine of a novel. However, in her case, she does not exist in the lower classes and is not struggling to make her way to the top. Instead, she has been born at the top and she lives in a world where breeding, beauty and money (preferably of an older vintage) matter the most. Bart possesses the first two attributes and she is using them to gain the third.
Bart's only hope for survival in the world of Old New York society is to make an advantageous marriage and in her case it has to be to someone wealthy. The book details the various compromises she can make--basically, the coarser the person, the higher a price he is willing to pay for her breeding.
Several themes run through this book: money, of course, and the various forms it takes in "society" (e.g., old money, new money, newer money); class (the book has many anti-semitic references to a wealthy individual who is Jewish--and who is willing to pay a high price for Lily initially); integrity (which basically belongs to those of such older families as Lily's); and finally, true love, which comes in the form of Selden, a young, poor but well bred New Yorker, whom Lily loves in spite of herself.
Wharton depicts Lily's downward course in the world. In many ways, Wharton's heroine travels in the opposite direction of characters in books like Dreiser's: a dreiser character might begin in poverty, sacrifice her virtue and integrity, and rise up in the world. In Lily's case, the more she holds on to her integrity, the harder she falls in the world.
I would recommend this book to those who like 19th and early 20th century American and British fiction. IN addition, those individuals who enjoy women's books from all eras should appreciate "The House of Mirth."
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Novel Of A Brittle Society And A Tragic Heroine., June 26 2003
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
Edith Wharton's "The House Of Mirth" is a sad, but brilliant commentary on the closed, repressive society of the rich, upper class, New York nobility, at the dawn of the 20th century. It is also the story of the downfall of one woman, who attempts to live by her own rules, with no sponsor and no money of her own. Her parents are dead and she lives with relatives.
Lily Bart is one of society's most eligible women, at the height of her powers, when the novel opens. Though she has little money, she has family connections, good breeding and the hope of coming into an inheritance. Beautiful and very charming, Lily has been brought up to be an ornament, as were most women of her class at that time. She is a gilded bird with a noble heart, but clearly she is not aware of the restrictions of her cage. Part of Lily's tragedy is that she does have character, spirit, and a conscience. However, she does not know how to align these attributes, with her ornamental avocation, and her ambitions to marry a wealthy man of good birth.
As expected, Lily is popular with both bachelors and married men. Most of the bachelors propose marriage at on time or another. The only man she has real affection for is her dear friend, Lawrence Seldon, a barrister, whose lack of income makes him entirely unsuitable as a husband. Lily had developed a gambling habit to support her lifestyle, and supplement her allowance. An unfortunate losing streak has put her into debt. In her naivete, she forms an unsavory business alliance with a married man. Later, she is unjustly accused of having an affair with him and their business arrangement also come to light.
Her family cuts her off without a penny. Society friends and connections reject their former darling, trying to extricate themselves from any repercussions Lily's indiscreet behavior may have on their reputations. Former friends turn vicious. The irony is that Lily has never committed any of the sins she is accused of. Several of her friends have, and frequently...but their sins are committed with the utmost discretion. Lily's crime is indiscretion. Her beaus disappear, as do her marriage prospects. The hypocrisy of her class becomes more apparent to her, as she searches for a means to survive, with all the familiar doors closed in her face.
Lily seeks employment as a seamstress in the New York City slums, and lives there also, in a humble room with no refinements. Having no formal training and no real ambition, (her ambivalence about work is obvious), she sinks into deep depression and begins to decline. Laudanum helps her to sleep, and she becomes dependent on the drug.
Lily's descent, from society's beautiful darling to a disheveled, desperate woman living in a shabby hotel room, addicted to drugs, is disturbing reading, to say the least. Her decline seems inevitable, especially after we read of her many poor and self-destructive decisions. She seems to sabotage herself. However, Lily Bart is ultimately the victim of a cruel society that sacrifices anyone who does not conform to its expectations.
After reading "House Of Mirth," for the first time several years ago, Lily's character has remained clear in my mind. I think of her from time to time with great poignance and a sense of personal loss.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cold Winter of Marginalized Women, Dec 31 2002
By 
L. Dann "adhdmom" (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
Wharton's darker view of out-of-step women in very different social circumstances is depicted in Ethan Frome and this famous novel, The House Of Mirth. Lurking in the gilded world of Lilly Bart are many twists and turns that torment the incautious souls. Like her counterpart, Mattie in E.F., Lilly is lulled by the power of her own beauty and flames a rebelliousness that ignites a spark to fast-drying opportunities. Though she waivers between eligible men who guaranteed lifelong protection, her passive resistance to the iron-clad social constraints, her failure to respect the rules, placed her at odds with the fates.
The world retaliates against rebellious people. Lilly, unfortunately, had not that iron shield of deep resolve or strength of ideals, to bolster her in her ambivalence. This novel has many of the same elegant settings, grand estates and social affairs of Wharton's other works. In this story however, they exist like the dark sky, site of her falling star. Breathless, classic and mythic.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cold Winter of Marginalized Women, Dec 31 2002
By 
L. Dann "adhdmom" (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
Wharton's darker view of out-of-step women in very different social circumstances is depicted in Ethan Frome and this famous novel, The House Of Mirth. Lurking in the gilded world of Lilly Bart are many twists and turns that torment the incautious souls. Like her counterpart, Mattie in E.F., Lilly is lulled by the power of her own beauty and flames a rebelliousness that ignites a spark to fast-drying opportunities. Though she waivers between eligible men who guaranteed lifelong protection, her passive resistance to the iron-clad social constraints, her failure to respect the rules, placed her at odds with the fates.
The world retaliates against rebellious people. Lilly, unfortunately, had not that iron shield of deep resolve or strength of ideals, to bolster her in her ambivalence. This novel has many of the same elegant settings, grand estates and social affairs of Wharton's other works. In this story however, they exist like the dark sky, site of her falling star. Breathless, classic and mythic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An American Classic, Nov. 21 2002
By 
Adam Shah (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The House of Mirth: 100th Anniversary Edition (Mass Market Paperback)
High school students are often assigned Ethan Frome, and the Age of Innocence gained many readers because of the movie, but this is the Edith Wharton book that everyone should read. In many ways, this is similar to a Jane Austen book in which a member of the upper echelon of society has money problems and needs to marry well in order to stay at the same level of society. Forces and other people are contriving against her, but there seems to be at least one man who would be a good match for reasons of love. The first twist here is that the good match is not financially well off and therefore won't be able to support the heroine as she wants to be supported.
Lily Bart was orphaned many years ago, and her family had been financially ruined before that. However, she is accustomed to beautiful things and wants to continue to live at the top level of society. Unfortunately, her heart and soul long for more than these creature comforts. She yearns for excitement, intellectual and emotional honesty and probably true love, although she is confused about that. As she has gotten towards her late 20s, her prospects are dwindling and the only person who has the resources to support her and is already a part of polite society is Percy Gryce, a singularly boring man.
Lily rebels against Gryce just as she is about to marry him when she has a couple of heartfelt conversations with Lawrence Selden, a person she decides she might love, but who makes clear that he is not rich enough to support her as well as she should be supported.
Her choices other than Gryce are slim. There is Simon Rosedale, who is portrayed as an upwardly mobile person and therefore undesirable. He is also Jewish, which Wharton never overtly says is a problem with him for Lily, but probably figures into Lily's calculus (Wharton mainly talks about his Jewishness in the context of saying that Rosedale is more patient and able to face disappointment than others in his position because of what his people have dealt with over the centuries).
I have to admit that, unlike Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence, it took me a while to get into this book. Perhaps, I picked up this book to read a story of Old New York and manners and was not ready for such an intense character study. But once I got to page 100, the last 250 pages went by in a flash. It is beautiful and eminently interesting. You will be interested in every twist in the story.
A couple of words of caution. If you buy this edition with the Anna Quindlen introduction, DON'T READ THE INTRODUCTION FIRST. It gives away too much in the first page--when I stopped reading it until after I finished--and the rest of the introduction gives away the rest of the plot. Finally, as with Jane Austen books, the actions of the male characters are often either inscrutable or irrational. It may be that men actually acted like this in the early 20th Century (or 19th for Austen). But I think it more likely that Wharton is misconstruing the male characters in ways that male authors almost always do with female characters. But this is a minor flaw, especially since Lily is so central to this book.
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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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