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The Valley of Decision

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

Odo Valsecca, a promising nobleman, inherits a dukedom at a young age and, over the course of his young life, must quickly learn the politics of royalty as he deals with other nobles, the church, the free-thinking movement, and, of course, his subjects, the peasants. Will he be able to rise to power in time, or will he quickly buckle under the pressures of the Italian court during the seventeenth century?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .s to be admired, were all contrasted in his mind with the vision of that other life which had come to him on the hillside of the Superga. On this mood the Countess Clarice's sarcasms fell without effect. To be pouted at because he had failed to attend the promenade of the Valentino was to Odo but a convenient pretext for excusing himself from the Queen's circle that evening. He had engaged with little ardour to join Alfieri in what he guessed to be a sufficiently commonplace adventure; but as he listened to the Countess's chatter about the last minuet-step, and the relative merits of sanspareil water and oil-of-lilies, of gloves from Blois and Vendome, his impatience hailed any alternative as a release. Meanwhile, however, long hours of servitude intervened. The lady's toilet completed, to the adjusting of the last patch, he must attend her to dinner, where, placed at her side, he was awarded the honour of carving the roast; must sit through two hours of biribi in company. . . Read More

Community Reviews

There are some beautiful descriptions in this book, but the basic premise was unclear to me. This may be because of my ignorance of 18th century Italian and European history. The impression I was left with is that Edith Wharton had a distaste for science, rationalism and the lower classes, and a rel

“The Valley of Decision” is Edith Wharton’s first long novel, being published in 1902 after her two collections of shorter works, “The Greater Inclination” and “Crucial Instances”, and the novella “The Touchstone”. It is an impressive work, and Wharton’s writing is outstanding as usual. The scope an

There are wonderful passages and vivid descriptions, but if this is her first long novel, I'm relieved she moved her settings closer to her own experience. If this were the first novel I read by Wharton, I'd probably never have made it to her greater works, e.g. Age of Innocence. Still worth reading

Who knew that Edith Wharton's first full-length novel is a piece of historical fiction set in 18th century Italy. It's honestly a bit of a slog, although Edith is just as brutal to her main character in this one as she is in her future, better works.

I'll probably post a longer review on my blog. Fo

Wow, well, this went from almost being a DNF to becoming probably my second favorite Wharton novel after The House of Mirth. I was close to putting it down during Book 1, which, sure, brings 18th-century Italy to life, but is frustratingly light on plot. But I told myself I’d power through to Book 2

Kind of painful, set in Italy

Dearest Edith,

I am writing to tell you that I have now read your first full-length novel, and I am thanking the muse Melpomene, that you turned from history to tragedy and found your voice. Oh yes, I know, you already had an elegant style and a way with prose that foreshadowed things to come, but tr

I am in the minority in loving this book from the reviews listed here but this being her first long novel, I thought she did a wonderful job at this historical fiction story. I am also in the minority of not having The Age of Innocence, as a favorite of mine but nonetheless, I gave it 5 stars. In th

The Valley Decision, for much of its text, seems to pit religion against liberty and progress. Odo develops progressive ideas, but, when he attempts to place them in operation, the human condition (including prejudice, inertia, and ignorance) blocks him at every turn. Religion, at least in the form

While I love Wharton, this early novel of hers shows too many bones, too much of the nuts and bolts of writing, to be as enjoyable as her later works when she knew herself, her subjects and her characters more deeply.

Set in Italy, this portrait of the entire life-span of a last feudal ruler, Odo, i

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