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The House of Mirth
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About the Author

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was born into a distinguished New York family. She not only lived as part of smart society, but it was one of her principal subjects. She was a prolific writer of novels, short stories and articles. She also produced a volume of poems and an adaptation for the theatre of her novel, The House of Mirth. Ethan Frome, which is considered her greatest tragic story, is, by contrast, about simple New England people.

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Wharton's account of the ill-fated life of Lily Bart receives a perfunctory treatment in this audio program. It is New York in the early 20th century; Lily loves Lawrence Selden, but he sees her as a fortune hunter, with tragic consequences. The author excels at delineating the ways money, romance, and social standing intertwine in the society of the time. Included is a lengthy introduction by Wharton biographer R.W.B. Lewis that sets the work in the context of the writer's life and career. Casual listeners may consider the preface too long and scholarly, and those coming to the novel for the first time may be put off by learning the outcome and by hearing Lewis's uncertainty about whether it is a masterpiece. Anna Fields handles the narration adequately but strains to create masculine voices and makes most of the women too flighty. As a result, the characters seem more trivial than Wharton intended. Not recommended. Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Actress Eleanor Bron played Aunt Julia in the 2000 film adaptation of this Edith Wharton classic, which she brings to life in an enjoyable audio production. At the start, Bron's tones are cool and measured in keeping with heroine Lily Bart's calculated manipulations in arranging her marriage to a fantastically rich-if fantastically dull-bachelor. But Lily's efforts meet with little success, and Bron ably captures the desperate heroine as her suitor rejects her, her debts mount, and her options narrow. As Lily finds herself alone in what used to seem like a glittering world, Bron's rendition of the character's exhausted disappointment is pitch-perfect. This is a compelling audiobook with a memorable performance from Bron. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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