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The Reef

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

George Darrow, Anna Leath’s first love, is finally coming from London to propose to her. However, he drifts to an affair with Sophy Viner, Anna’s daughter’s naïve and young governess. Sophy’s relationship with Darrow and Anna’s family can threaten his success. In this novel, as in many of Wharton’s other well known novels, we see the eternal love triangle. With her sly and lovely writing style, Wharton delivers to us in this wonderful novel a cast of unforgettable characters and many unforgettable scenes which we can vividly imagine. What would Darrow choose: success or love? Would Anna marry him despite his affair with Sophy?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .e me a day or two, and let me try to make you forget all the things that are troubling you. I was a fool not to see that if I'd put it to you in that way you'd have accepted or refused, as you chose; but that at least you wouldn't have mistaken my intentions.—Intentions!" He stood up, walked the length of the room, and turned back to where she still sat motionless, her elbows propped on the dressing-table, her chin on her hands. "What rubbish we talk about intentions! The truth is I hadn't any: I just liked being with you. Perhaps you don't know how extraordinarily one can like being with you...I was depressed and adrift myself; and you made me forget my bothers; and when I found you were going—and going back to dreariness, as I was—I didn't see why we shouldn't have a few hours together first; so I left your letter in my pocket."

He saw her face melt as she listened, and suddenly she unclasped her hands and leaned to him.

"But are. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The Reef was beautifully written, subtle and tense. We have for our story a simple drama between two sets of lovers. But the undercurrents of distrust, passion, secrets, loyalties and lies pull the story along inexorably.

Darrow, on his way to propose to the woman he has been courting, encounters...more

"Morty," Edie said, "if you can do that again, I'll get naked !"

What was EWs lover Morton Fullerton like ? In her
most autobiographical novel he appears as George
Darrow, an aspiring diplomat who has a casual fling
with a young American woman while waiting for the
widowed Anna Leath (EW) to decide if...more

I love Edith Wharton’s New York novels, and I teach Ethan Frome, so I was delighted to recently come across a book of hers I’d never heard of, The Reef. It is neither a New York novel nor a New England one, like Frome and its counterpart Summer, though one of The Reef’s main characters, Sophy Vin...more

This is Wharton’s fifth novel. Published in 1912, it is considered, together with the previous Ethan Frome and the subsequent The Custom of the Country, as partly autobiographical. Not so much in deeds as in spirit. As I know very little about her life, I cannot agree nor disagree with this. Rath...more

Wharton doing what she does so well, exploring the human condition and how the classes interact with one another when the artificial lines collapse. I loved this complex story that asked so many moving, and always pertinent, questions. A gentleman has a brief encounter with a girl who does not ri...more

Young diplomat George Darrow is on his way to meet Anna Leath, an old girlfriend who is now a widow with a young daughter and a grown stepson. When Anna abruptly postpones their rendezvous without explanation, Darrow concludes that she is no longer interested in him. A chance meeting with Sophy V...more

This is supposed to be Wharton's Jamesian book....whatever that means. Probably, it's the convoluted plotting in which all is NOT revealed until the end...and then, we "Dear Readers" are treated to the weirdest ending in years. Anna, major female protagonist, visits the blowsy sister of the woma...more

At the top of the box to write a review is the question "What did you think"? At some point during my reading of any book, phrases start running through my head as to what I do think about what I'm reading. I laughed at myself in this one. The question in school was always "and what do you think...more

”In every nerve and vein she was conscious of that equipoise of bliss which the fearful human heart scarce dares acknowledge. She was not used to strong or full emotions; but she had always known that she should not be afraid of them. She was not afraid now; but she felt a deep inward stillness.”...more

Edith Wharton's The Reef was written in 1912 when she was essentially at her very best as a novelist, and I think her powers are quite evident in this engaging tale. Also, this is a very theatrical story that I personally think would lend itself very well to a stage adaptation. The book could jus...more

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