Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton

When the novel opens, Nick and Susy are newlyweds enjoying a glimpse of the moon from the country home that they've borrowed from a friend for their honeymoon. Nick and Susy aren't typical newlyweds though. They have a deal and figure they'll be married to each other for about a year. At the end of that time (roughly determined as the amount of time in which they, the vastly entertaining but poor couple, can live off of their incredibly wealthy friends), they assume they will divorce and each remarry someone more suitable, by which they mean rich.

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.

11 comments:

  1. I'm a Wharton fan, too, but hadn't heard of this novel. Guess I'l have to add it to my list - thanks for the review!

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  2. I'm glad it was so satisfying for you! I really need to read more Wharton!

    Thanks for joining the Circuit.

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  3. Your review reminded me of the movie Priceless. Though not the same story, in the movie also, the female protagonist strives to live off rich men, while enjoying the company of a poor bartender.

    I enjoyed your review and look forward to reading this book some time.

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  4. I've not heard of this one either ... sounds wonderful!

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  5. I'm not exactly a Wharton fan but you may have turned my head with this (great!) review. Thanks!

    -Connie

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  6. I am a huge Wharton fan, but somehow I've missed this one. Now I definitely want to read it! Thanks for the review!

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  7. I've added this to my reading list, too! Have read Custom of the Country and House of Mirth. I'm hoping you'll at least inspire me to finally get around to The Age of Innocence which I've owned for about 10 years and not read. I also read Ethan Frome but I don't count that as I don't remember it, and it's so oddly different from these other NY Society novels.

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  8. Sounds like a good premise. I read The Touchstone and didn't love it, but I need to give Wharton another chance.

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  9. I heard a lot about it, nice to see this post...


    Term Paper

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  10. I've always enjoyed Wharton (with the exception of Ethan Frome) and this book was no exception. So encouraging to have characters to admire.

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