Saturday, 16 January 2016

Summer by Edith Wharton


Described as the 'hot' Ethan Frome, Summer is Edith Wharton revelling in the "euphoric and depressed, confident and abjectly vulnerable" feelings that her real life love affair with Morton Fullerton engendered in her, according to Elizabeth Ammons in her Introduction to my Penguin Classic edition.

Summer features all of Wharton's trademark themes - class consciousness, the double standards that restrict and control the behaviour of women, sexual repression, change and nostalgia all mixed in with her literary snobbishness and Eurocentric cultural superiority. (It's curious how you can love an author but struggle to like them as a person!)

It has been suggested that thanks to the timing of this book (written during WWI) that Summer can also be read as an allegory of Western Imperialism, with Royall representing the crumbling, under threat patriarchal imperialism and the wild folk of the mountains represent 'the other' - the uncivilised, dangerous and mysterious, living outside the normal rules of society.

Although it's hard to know which side she is ultimately on, as small town America comes off as being a stultifying, backward, even embarrassing alternative to the mountains. While big city life is decadent, commercial and soulless.

Maybe we should all just move to Paris, like Wharton did!

An interesting read, with some glorious pastoral descriptions but not one of my favourite Wharton's in the end.

#WhartonReview #XmasinSummer and Womens Classic Literature Challenge

6 comments:

  1. I've only read The Touchstone by her. I bought The House of Mirth at a used book store. I didn't feel like I got to know Wharton's style of writing very well by just the short novella.

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    1. Her longer books give you a much better sense of her capabilities - and House of Mirth is one of the best :-)

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  2. I wanted to read a book by her for long but kept on putting off. Maybe I should, I hear very contradictory opinions about her words.

    read that also

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  3. Wharton captured my heart with 'Age of Innocence'. The movie with Daniel Day Lewis and M. Pfeiffer was magnificent. 'Summer' sounds very Wharton as you mentioned with themes: class consciousness. But sometimes 'pastoral descriptions' does not a great book make! House of Mirth is on my list but I don't think I can squeeze it in for your read-a long. Thanks for this review...and for RT reading list 2016!

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    1. Age of Innocence is my favourite - I'd love to reread it one day. And the movie is fabulous - lush, gorgeous and hits all the right emotional notes.

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  4. I don't read nearly enough Wharton - loved Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, and Ethan Frome but never got beyond those. I'll look out for this :)

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