The tragic fall of Lily Bart, a beautiful socialite who loses her footing in the savage social-climbing world of New York high society in the nineteenth century
The House of Mirth follows the tragic fall of Lily Bart, a beautiful socialite who loses her footing in the savage social-climbing world of New York high society in the nineteenth century.
Lily Bart has no fortune, but she possesses everything else she needs to make an excellent marriage: beauty, intelligence, a love of luxury and an elegant skill in negotiating the hidden traps and false friends of New York's high society. But time and again Lily cannot bring herself to make the final decisive move: to abandon her sense of self and a chance of love for the final soulless leap into a mercenary union. Her time is running out, and degradation awaits. Edith Wharton's masterful novel is a tragedy of money, morality and missed opportunity.
‘Edith Wharton's 1905 novel gave literature one of its most complicated tragic heroines’ Independent
“Edith Wharton was a natural story-teller. As plots do in real life, hers flow directly from character. Her prose is so effortlessly elegant that you're rarely aware as they purl by that the sentences are so pretty...I was born after the heavy spade work of female emancipation was done. But 100 years ago, Edith Wharton's drive, independence, wilfulness and autodidactic mastery of the English language were extraordinary, and I bashfully claim her as a kindred spirit”
Lionel Shriver, Guardian
“A cautionary tale of social disaster, told with wit and elan”
“Like Henry James, Wharton has a wonderful gift of revealing the inner life of her characters while also documenting the elegance and hypocrisy of high society...the accumulation of desolation in the final three chapters reduces me to tears”
Jonathan Bate, Sunday Telegraph
“[Edith Wharton was] an ambitious, brilliant and industrious woman who created "her own personal and professional revolution"”
“Edith Wharton's 1905 novel gave literature one of its most complicated tragic heroines”
“The supreme novel of New York in its last great belle époque...Wharton is at her magnificent, merciless best here...The novel witheringly shows the savage side of high society, an impeccably mannered world of bridge and betrayal that simply spits Bart out”
“No one has bettered Edith Wharton on the cash-sex nexus of the respectable, as well as the clashes of propriety and fashion. The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth are probably the best novels by this knowing, compassionate writer”
Independent on Sunday
“In a world of massive tragedy, it may seem strange to find the decline and death of Lily Bart, Edith Wharton's doomed protagonist in The House of Mirth, so sad...what makes one weep for Lily Bart in the end is the way her basic moral rectitude is so cruelly betrayed”
Anthony Beevor, Sunday Telegraph