Reviewed by: Steven (Texas) Date: 25 August 2005
Lily Bart is a beautiful young woman with a good family name but declining fortune. As a member of New York's social elite at the dawn of the 20th Century, she moves within a small, exclusive and ruthless social set. To keep her station in life - to even feed herself, for she has no practical skills - Lily must find a husband. But finding an acceptable man with both wealth and a good name is no easy task, especially when Lily's own feelings and moral scruples get in the way. Moreover, time is running out - Lily is nearing 30 - and she finds herself teetering on the balance between financial ruin and social disgrace.
Edith Wharton was a member herself of the New York elite. Her writings have an unmatched sense of place and time. Wharton's beautiful prose is witty and easy to read. The House of Mirth is both a critique of the unbending American aristocracy of the time and a timeless, realistic study of person caught in a complex moral dilemma.
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