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The House of Mirth / The Age of Innocence

The first book on my Summer Reading List, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth was a tad difficult to get into. Once I got adjusted to the characters (specifically the novel's tragic hero, Lily Bart, "the beautiful, much-desired [woman]" from New York City's Gilded Age), it became slightly less difficult to read. Alas, I had to read it (my aforementioned goal of completing Modern Library's Choices list) so I forced myself to keep going. It didn't turn out too bad. Definitely not something I would casually pick up to read; but it was definitely an accomplishment once I finished. A look at high class society; "a revolving body which is apt to be judged according to its place in each man’s heaven; and at present it was turning its illuminated face to Lily," the book highlights the struggle to get married and fit in. This novel can be considered under the genere of the novel of manners. As the wikipedia page describes,  this type of novel "deals with aspects of behavior, language, customs and values characteristic of a particular class of people in a specific historical context...[it] often shows a conflict between individual aspirations or desires and the accepted social codes of behaviour." In the House of Mirth, this can be seen in Lily's desire to be married yet continuously messing up when she gets near to the engagement. This takes a tragic turn which I won't spoil for you, but the ending definitely takes you by surprise. This doesn't leap out to recommend to you, but if you have the chance, it's a worthwhile read. Rating: ★★★
Before my summer reading began, I read a few books that I didn't have the chance to review on here. One of those was another Wharton novel: her Pulitzer-Prize winning The Age of Innocence. I enjoyed this much more than The House of Mirth; the story was engaging and enthralling. Similar to The House of Mirth, it was a novel of manners. It focuses on the story of Newland Archer, who gets engaged to May Welland (a "perfect match"). Yet, Newland is drawn to divorcee Countess Ellen Olenska. Newland is torn, stability versus unknown, comfort versus passion: "He did not want May to have that kind of innocence, the innocence that seals the mind against imagination and the heart against experience!" Undoubtedly deserving of its classic renown, I recommend reading this over The House of Mirth if you had to pick one Wharton novel to read this year. Rating: ★★★★

Tales from 1,001 Nights

Summer Reading 2013