Although they've been living off the largess of their friends for so long, they have differing opinions about what is morally and ethically acceptable and so despite their growing care for each other, they come into conflict over the differences. Pulled apart by misunderstanding, each of them goes off with different friends and tries to slip back into the life led before their marriage. But the time together has changed them both, deepened them as people and made it possible for them to think of a life not led in the superficial, glancing world of the inordinately wealthy. It has allowed them to truly fall in love.
While the plot might sound like many a romance novel, Wharton spends much time on the shallow foibles of the moneyed set shifting around Europe in search of entertainment. Nick and Susy are a lens through which to see some of these excesses. The writing is fantastic, with accurate descriptions, backhanded wit, and astute insights. The tone here is casual and light although Wharton does get in the expected rapier thrusts about the ennui and the callousness so characteristic of the social class she's describing. And in the end, the story is not so much about Nick and Susy's sponging off of others or about the friends who collect and discard relationships like last year's hats, but it's about a pair who, despite the company they keep, grow and learn and understand the importance of love. I've been a fan of Wharton's for a long time and this novel just re-confirmed my feeling.
This review is a part of the Classics Circuit. Check the website for additional Edith Wharton tour stops and to browse through her other book offerings.