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The Custom of the Country

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

Edith Wharton was a novelist of manners of late 19th Century New York “Society”, who spent much of her life in France. In this novel she tells the story of Undine Sprague, the thrice- (or more) married, upwardly mobile beauty from “Apex City”, transplanted to New York, and finally to France, leaving the dead and wounded in the wake of her “experiments in happiness”.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .And the rest—why shouldn't the rest be sent over to Europe after us? I want to go straight off with you, away from everything—ever so far away, where there'll be nobody but you and me alone!" She had a flash of illumination which made her turn her lips to his.

"Oh, my darling—my darling!" Marvell whispered.

X

Mr. and Mrs. Spragg were both given to such long periods of ruminating apathy that the student of inheritance might have wondered whence Undine derived her overflowing activity. The answer would have been obtained by observing her father's business life. From the moment he set foot in Wall Street Mr. Spragg became another man. Physically the change revealed itself only by the subtlest signs. As he steered his way to his office through the jostling crowd of William Street his relaxed muscles did not grow more taut or his lounging gait less desultory. His shoulders were hollowed by the usual droop, and hi. . . Read More

Community Reviews

So I had totally committed my schedule to having lengthy tea with a brilliant Oxford professor of incredible intelligence, unsurpassed insight, and fabled dry wit. And while I know that my extended afternoon with Dr. George Eliot would have proven to be a fascinating and immensely edifying experienc

Someone once advised Edith Wharton, I think it was Henry James, to be successful in writing you should focus on subjects that you are familiar with and understand. For Wharton, that was New York, and the privileged upper crust society of which she was a part. Aside from Ethan Frome, her most belove

★★★★✰ 4 stars

Step aside, Becky Sharp. Move over, Scarlett O'Hara...make way for Undine Spragg, the most unscrupulous anti-heroine I have ever encountered.

“[S]he could not conceive that any one could tire of her of whom she had not first tired.”

Wharton once again focuses her narrative on a youn

This book is amazing. No one writes like this anymore -- in fact, after I finished this, I had a hard time getting into a more contemporary novel, because the newer book felt so spare and empty compared to Wharton's thoughtful and lovely prose. Certain paragraphs of Custom of the Country made me sto

Edith Wharton has fixed Henry James, whose essential problem is that he's a pain in the ass. He's smart and all, if that's what you're into, but he's never been known to end a sentence and he has this perverse refusal to write the interesting parts of stories. It's weird, right? It's like if the Dea

SPOILERS

Social gold does not always glitter

Edith Wharton did not have a happy life. Nor do her characters. What is happiness anyway, if not merely a part of our lives, something we all pursue, but rarely, if ever, possess in a clean, full form? We are destined to fail. We are imperfect by design. An

Think Edith Wharton only wrote novels about nice people who fall victim to society's uncongenial mores? Then The Custom of the Country may come as a bit of a surprise to you. Far from a dignified, morally superior character, the book's heroine, the beautiful but vulgar Undine Spragg, is a selfish mo

"
On her side
"
Come Again? Pardon? Huh?

March 8, 2017

Open Letter to Baron Fellowes of West Stafford (Lord Julian Fellowes):

After reading the novel
The Custom of the Country
, I read that you attribute to this novel your success with, among other endeavors, the popular series Downton Abbey, and

My new favorite writer is Edith Wharton. I have read four of her wonderful novels this year and I intend to read all of the others in time. She is one of the sharpest observers of mankind that I have ever come across. You could believe that she sat and studied the people around her and then drew the

It was fashionable at one time to send rich American girls who had everything over to Europe in order to acquire a title from an impoverished aristocrat who was none too fussy about his bride so long as she came with a very generous papa. Some of them, like the extremely despicable Lady Rose Astor (view spoiler)[H (hide spoiler)]

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