Skip to main content

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

Moniquereads 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.

Popular posts from this blog

Read in 2017

January: 1. London: the Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd 2. Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson 3. A Very English Scandal, by John Preston 4. Imagined London, by Anna Quindlen 5. The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy 6. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote February 1. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen 2. The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark 3. Patience, by John Coates 4. Into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Ginzburg 5. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James 6. Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson 7. Vittoria Cottage, by DE Stevenson March: 1. The Exiles Return, by Elizabeth de Waal 2. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen 3. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 4. The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton 5. The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen 6. White Teeth, by Zadie Smith April: 1. The Heat of the Day, by Elizabeth Bowen 2. The Two Mrs. Abbotts, by DE Stevenson 3. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson May: 1. London War Notes, by Mollie Panter-Dow

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy:   2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013 This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice , First Impressions ). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death. To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; A

Review: The Far Cry, by Emma Smith

Pages: 324 Original date of publication: 1949 My edition: 2007 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: It’s been on my TBR pile since I purchased it six months ago How I acquired my copy: from the Persephone shop, September 2009 The Far Cry was inspired by the author’s experiences in India. In 1945, at the age of 21, Emma Smith (who describes herself as “a green young woman” in her preface to this edition) traveled to India with a film production crew as a junior script writer/gopher. While she was there, Smith kept a journal of her experiences and thoughts to detail her “magical Cinderella-like transformation” into a worldlier person. In the preface of the novel, Emma Smith writes brilliantly about what kind of impact her travels to India had upon her, a first-time visitor. What she wrote in her journal went largely into the writing of this novel; and the stronger it is for it, I think, because this is an absolutely stunning book. When Mr. Digby’s ex wife returns from Amer