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Review: The Glimpses of the Moon, by Edith Wharton


Pages: 297
Original date of publication: 1922
My edition: 1994 (Collier Books)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Philadelphia bookshop, August 2012

The Glimpses of the Moon tells the story of Nick and Suzy Lansing, a young couple who married for neither love nor money—or, rather, they married for money but other people’s. Their bet is to spend a year honeymooning in their rich friends’ houses in France, Venice, and elsewhere; and if one or the other should wish to marry someone else who can advance themselves socially, they will be free to do so. What really happens surprises not the reader but Suzy and Nick.

Nick and Suzy are characters who undergo a lot of self-growth. They start out as people who are only concerned with living in the moment; and enjoying life, or their perception of it, as much as they possibly can. They both come to realize that there’s much more to life than what appears on the surface. Their growth is pretty predictable, but it’s interesting to see how they get where they eventually do.

Edith Wharton’s world of upper-crust New York jetsetting (or is that the wrong term considering this is the 1920s) society is an odd one. People in this set of people are pretty laissez-faire about marriage. Divorce is as commonplace as getting one’s teeth cleaned, and it’s de rigueur, apparently, for someone to announce an engagement before the divorce is finalized. Wharton’s novel is a critique not just on these particular characters but also the milieu in which they live. So she tends to reuse the same types of characters over and over; for example, the Hickses are watered-down versions of the Spraggs in The Customs of the Country (both families even come from Apex City), although Coral Hicks isn't quite as socially hungry as Undine is. Even Nick and Suzy are reiterations. The characters, even the main characters, aren't as important as what happens to them to make them change.

One of my favorite things about Wharton’s novels is how she depicts and yet subtly skewers the society of which she writes. There’s a quote from someone, I can’t remember who, who said that comedy is only funny when it’s telling the truth. For that reason, Edith Wharton’s novels are, in a way, comic.

Comments

Unknown said…
I was never a Wharton fan until I read The Age of Innocence. Then I realized how truly talented of a writer she was. I haven't picked up any of her novels since but this seems like it would be an interesting read.

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