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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

“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

Wharton‘s first full length novel from 1902 looks at 18th century northern Italy and reform movements in the Age of Enlightenment. Through unanticipated accidents of succession Odo rises from a neglected spiritual boy to educated idealistic wannabe reformer, to a Duke able to implement his reforms (

Kind of painful, set in Italy

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