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Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton

with 6 comments

Wow. I really loved this book, but it was So. Freakin’. Depressing.

Ethan Frome is an unhappy man who hopelessly bears the burden of working his family’s failing farm in early 20th century Starkfield (a fictional New England town). After his father is killed in an accident and his mother withers away toward death from illness, Ethan marries the woman who nursed his mother, and who then succumbs to “sickliness” herself. Like his mother, his wife Zeena becomes as quiet and cold as the dilapidated, wind and snow pummeled house in which they live. The sole spark of joy and inspiration in Ethan’s life is Mattie Silver, Zeena’s younger cousin, who is brought to help around the house. As Mattie and Ethans’ feelings for one another grow, their dread of Zeena’s suspicions grow also, and the tension builds in a painful crescendo.

Each of the three, unable to shake their poverty and/or dependence, is unable to do what might finally secure their happiness. But by the end, just as you’re convinced that you understand what must happen to make this drama complete, that there’s only one possible way to end this story, and you see it unfolding…Wharton surprises you. With something SO MUCH WORSE THAN YOU IMAGINED.

Seriously. It hurts.

Which is not to say Don’t Read It. It’s concise, brisk, engaging, well-constructed, and elegant, in a bleak sort of way. As I said, I really loved it. But have a box of tissues ready, and make sure you leave yourself a nice block of time for a hot bath and decompression upon completing this one.

Written by Emily Jane

April 17, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Novels

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. must admit this is a classic i ve not read ,will do at some point i m sure ,warmest stu


    April 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm

  2. I certainly wish you well with it when and if you decide to pick it up!

    Thank you for commenting ๐Ÿ™‚

    Emily Jane

    April 18, 2010 at 3:16 am

  3. I loved this one too! Despite its totally depressing nature. ๐Ÿ™‚ Wharton is good at doing that for me…I love her books even knowing they won’t end well.


    April 19, 2010 at 4:09 am

    • I’ve got The House of Mirth on my shelves waiting to be read, too…I’m much more intrigued by it now!

      Emily Jane

      April 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

  4. […] Edith Wharton is so great; though I didn’t love The House of Mirth quite as much as I did Ethan Frome, I was once again completely bowled over by her smooth, easy, but detailed style. Another book of […]

  5. […] Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton […]

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