Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review of House of Mirth

“Since she had been brought up to be ornamental, she could hardly blame herself for failing to serve any practical purpose”

Truth be told, this wasn’t a “random” pick like the majority of my books recently have been. I decided to be a bit keen and get cracking on some early reading for the modules I’m doing in my third (and final, eeek) year at uni. However, for a book that I kind of had to read, I did really enjoy it. Plus, it made me feel as though I’ve learnt something about my own life. Personally, if a book changes my opinions about things or makes me see things in a different light, then it’s a success in my eyes.
Edith Wharton, the author of this insightful novel, wrote it in the style deemed American naturalism. This bildungsroman follows the downwards spiral of Lily Bart’s character from a much-sought after woman to, well, you’ll see if you read the book. Lily Bart is the orphaned niece of rich former socialite Mrs Peniston. Her inestimable beauty allows her to weave her way into the hearts of many of the right people, but sadly also the wrong. On the face of it, this is a book about how tough it is for a girl to remain unmarried in high society for too long, but it appealed to me more as a tragic love story.
Don’t get me wrong, I struggled with the book at times. But that was purely because Lily Bart wasn’t exactly the most likeable character (to put it nicely). That’s kind of the point though isn’t it? She was realistic. Deep down we’re all far from perfect and make some irreconcilable mistakes in our lives. This is what Lily Bart did. She was the victim of circumstance and her upbringing, which drove her to act in the way she did.
I did however find the book a little out of place. Usually twentieth century American novels are distinctive in their content and style in order to define themselves as being not English. House of Mirth however felt to me as though it could have hopped off of the shelves of any English bookstore in the twentieth century.
Overall though, it was an invaluable read.
What did you think?

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