heaven_ali (heaven_ali) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

#4 The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton (1905)

The House of Mirth tells the story of Lily Bart, aged 29, beautiful, impoverished and in need of a rich husband to safeguard her place in the social elite, and to support her expensive habits - her clothes, her charities and her gambling. Unwilling to marry without both love and money, Lily becomes vulnerable to the kind of gossip and slander which attach to a girl who has been on the marriage market for too long. Wharton charts the course of Lily's life, providing, along the way, a wider picture of a society in transition, a rapidly changing New York where the old certainties of manners, morals and family have disappeared and the individual has become an expendable commodity.

Goodness this is a marvelous novel! I am pretty sure that I read this before over 20 years ago - but I had remembered nothing of it - which now seems incredible. This beautifully written novel about New York society is highly absorbing.
Lily Bart is a flawed and fascinating heroine, living her life among her rich socialite friends, she is herself an impoverished beauty who needs to marry money to survive. The lives of her friends are complex and selfish, scandals abound, and in a world where allegiances change and finding oneself out of favour can spell disaster it is a dangerous one for poor Lily. Lily's friendship with Lawrence Selden is poignant and highly charged, their never quite finding a true of understanding of one another is sad and inevitable. I loved poor Lily Bart, and knew any happy resolution would be too much to hope for - but oh how sad, how sad was the end.
Wharton's recreation of wealthy New York society is brilliant - the indolence, the gowns, the houses and the never ending scandal. I will be reading more Edith Wharton soon.

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