At the beginning of the year I embarked on a year of reading Edith Wharton with Tanya from dog eared copy. I’ve been remiss in posting about my progress ever since I reviewed The House of Mirth. Since then I’ve read both The Age of Innocence and Edith Frome in audio. Here are my thoughts:
This novel more so than The House of Mirth captured my heart. Newland Archer is a man whose desire to break from societal norms comes after his engagement to the perfectly lovely and respectable May Wellan. It is only when he comes to see just how harsh society can be through the eyes of May’s cousin the Countess Olenska that he wants more for his life. It is interesting to see how, as his view of the Countess rises, his perspective changes on all who have come before her. Newland’s fate is much different than that of Lily Bart because he was a man and had access to means. That did not make his story any less heartbreaking.
Lorna Raver narrated this 2007 audiobook version. While there was faint background noise, Lorna Raver did not disappoint. She performed The Age of Innocence with a flair that kept me longing for the next moment alone with Newland’s story. Since Diamond Ruby, Ms. Raver has become one of the tried and true narrators who holds a special appeal to these reader’s ears.
I recommend The Age of Innocence and Raver’s narration. In addition to preferring the novel, the movie was so, so much better than The House of Mirth. Daniel Day Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer certainly trump Eric Stoltz and Gillian Anderson no matter how much it pains me to say it.
Had I read Ethan Frome before either The House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence I may have interpreted them more darkly and may even have been disappointed. Just as with The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome loves someone who is unfitting. He is married and Mattie Silver is the castoff orphan cousin of his wife, Zeena. Zeena Frome is very much like Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. Cold, harsh, and with her own agenda, it is not difficult to see how Ethan would come to prefer the younger, livelier, and healthier Mattie. Unlike Rebecca, there isn’t any happily ever after for the Frome household. As the true reach of this knowledge gripped me, I was both horrified and glued to the story. I could not look away from the collision coming up ahead. The lover of Gothic fiction in me latched on to this novella and rejoiced in it.
Scott Brick narrated this audiobook and it had all of the qualities I come to expect in his narration. He was intimate with what he was reading and his tone was measured as to befit the story. Ethan Frome did not unseat In Cold Blood as my favorite Scott Brick listen, but the bar is set extremely high. This audiobook is less than four hours and makes for an excellent way to consume a classic while on your commute.
Have you ever picked an author or a topic to focus your reading year upon? Did it turn out as you’d hope or expected? I have been very happy with my decision to read Edith Wharton for the first time this year. I’m considering choosing Edna O’Brien for 2014. As for the remainder of #Edith2013, I believe that Tanya and I have one more of her novels to read this year. I plan to cap off 2013 with The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields.