Set against the frozen waste of a harsh New England winter, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome is a tale of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual tensions, published with an introduction and notes by Elizabeth Ammons in Penguin Classics. Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeenie.
But when Zeenie's vivacious cousin enters their household as a 'hired girl', Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.
In one of American fiction's finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies.
Different in both tone and theme from Wharton's other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and most widely read novel. Edith Wharton (1862-1937), born Edith Newbold Jones, was a member of a distinguished New York family said to be the basis for the idiom 'keeping up with the Joneses'. During her life she published more than forty volumes, including novels, stories, verse, essays, travel books and memoirs; for years she published poetry and short stories in magazines, but the book that made Wharton famous was The House of Mirth (1905), which established her both as a writer of distinction and popular appeal.
In 1920, Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature with her novel The Age of Innocence. If you enjoyed Ethan Frome, you might like Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, also available in Penguin Classics.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 128 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 25/10/2005
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780142437803
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Showing 1 - 5 of 24 reviews.
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Review by writestuff
Edith Wharton is at her narrative best in this novel about a young man who falls in love until fate tragically intervenes. Wharton deftly constructs the story by starting a generation after the climax, then weaves her way back to the beginning to unravel the mystery. In doing so, she creates the tension in the novel which keeps the reader obsessively turning the pages.Mattie Silver, a young beauty, serves as a sharp contrast to Ethan's wife, Zeena - a bitter, sickly woman who is perhaps more aware of Ethan's feelings than he is of his own. It is no wonder that the reader will find herself hoping for happiness between Ethan and Mattie who seem to be soul-mates:'And there were other sensations, less definable but more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy: the cold red of sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on sunlit snow.' - From Ethan Frome, page 297 -Wharton's firm grasp of setting, her understanding of human vulnerability, and her sense of drama all combine to make Ethan Frome a compelling must read.Highly recommended.
Review by gbill
Ethan Frome (1911) is a lean, taut story; I love its focus and as in several of her other books, I find that Wharton knows how to end a book. There are several parallels in the book to Wharton's own life (don't read this if you don't want the end given away):- Wharton's own failing marriage .... Ethan being trapped in his.- Wharton's eventual philosophy of "owning" her own existence ..... Ethan/Mattie's decision to die instead of living unhappily, reflecting a desire to control their own fate.- Wharton's common theme of the individual being trapped by fate in her fiction ..... The failure of the suicide.Quote:On finding someone:"It was during their night walks back to the farm that he felt most intensely the sweetness of this communion. He had always been more sensitive than the people about him to the appeal of natural beauty. His unfinished studies had given form to this sensibility and even in his unhappiest moments field and sky spoke to him with a deep and powerful persuasion. But hitherto the emotion had remained in him as a silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it. He did not even know whether any one else in the world felt as he did, or whether he was the sole victim of this mournful privilege. Then he learned that one other spirit had trembled with the same touch of wonder..."On being trapped by fate:"They turned in at the gate and passed under the shaded knoll where, enclosed in a low fence, the Frome grave-stones slanted at crazy angles through the snow. Ethan looked at them curiously. For years that quiet company had mocked his restlessness, his desire for change and freedom. 'We never got away - how should you?' seemed to be written on every headstone, and whenever he went in or out of his gate he thought with a shiver: 'I shall just go on living here till I join them.' But now all desire for change had vanished, and the sight of the little enclosure gave him a warm sense of continuance and stability."On desire, I love the feeling of this one:"As he raised himself he suddenly felt Mattie close to him among the shadows.'Is this where Ned and Ruth kissed each other?' she whispered breathlessly, and flung her arms about him. Her lips, groping for his, swept over his face, and he held her fast in a rapture of surprise."
Review by ravingraven
I do not recommend this book. If you want to read an Edith Wharton novel, read the Age of Innocence. If you already have read the Age of Innocence and want to read Ethan Frome, read the Age of Innocence again. Ethan Frome was difficult to finish. Although considered a classic, this is a book I would not read again. Honestly, I wish I could forget Ethan Frome.
Review by joririchardson
I chose to read this as the first of Edith Wharton, due to it's small size. I loved her writing style, and plan on reading the rest of her books as well."Ethan Frome" was the romantic, sad story of a man who became caught up in a loveless marriage to a woman who is very sick. Ethan struggles between his contradictory feelings of love and guilt when he begins to develop deep feelings for their servant girl Mattie, who is also his wife's young cousin.This book is beautiful in it's simplicity and precise dialogue, never too drawn out, never including a scene or word that is not necessary and relevant to the story. An intriguing plot and the three well written main characters made me enjoy reading this book very much.Don't read this if you are in the mood for a cozy, warmly romantic story, however.A tragic, heartbreaking story of love and loss.
Review by Ameliaiif
Okay, so once I got over my temper tatrum at my professor's effrontery to make me read for class, I actually liked this book! Now, that's saying something, because usually I grade classics just like I would any other book - none of this: "Ohhh, gee, Author Person! You're book is all kinds of wonderful just because IT'S OLD and lots of people have to write term papers over it!" Nope. The funny thing that I can't get over is that I absolutely HATE books <i>like</i> this one: not a whole lot of action, really indecisive characters, circumstances that are not overcome, etc. And yet <i>Ethan Frome</i> really got to me. I read the whole thing kicking and screaming, saying "No! I WILL NOT like this book! You can't make me!" but it was no use. Here's the scoop (and it's a pretty easy scoop): A poor farmer with an ultra-whiny hypochondriac wife (or at least that's my professor's interpretation) live with the ultra-whiny wife's pretty and vivacious cousin, and the poor downtrodden farmer falls in love with the enchanting cousin (Mattie) but can't seem to escape his circumstances. That's it. And yet, there's so much more. I don't like Ethan, I certainly don't like Zeena...Mattie's really the only character I truly liked...and yet I cared about them all and was rooting for Ethan even though he's such a dadgum loser! Maybe my parents were a little too into the whole "pull yourself up by your bootstraps, kids!!!" growing up but I really felt like circumstances weren't near as bleak as Ethan made them out to be. We talked about that a lot in class today: psychological realism novels are really big into the whole "appearances vs. reality" scenario, and I just found that so intriguing. I hate to admit it, but I found myself wishing Ethan and Mattie would just elope and get it over with, and a pox on that scurvy Zeena! Maybe that's why this book is a classic: it's so incredibly simple, and yet by the time you're finished, you feel emotionally exhausted. This book doesn't make you feel better about yourself or life (unless you thank God you're not operating a sawmill in Starkfield, MA in the winter!) and I'm still not entirely sure what message (if any) Edith Wharton was trying to send, but the story just captivated me. Now granted, this is NOT the type of thing I look for in outside fun-reading, but I'm glad I had the experience. It's like when you're in a bookstore or a library and you pass a classic, you can beam with pride and point and declare, "I READ THAT!" So thank you, Dr. Bruce, and thank you to my mom who is an English teacher/principal who let me use her teaching copy - the one with all the notes and unlined passages. :D - Definitely recommended to Classics Lovers. And if you're a student and you find <i>Ethan Frome</i> on your "Required Reading" syllabus, don't fret, for this is an easy read. It could be a heck of a lot worse. *thinks of T.S. Eliot and shivers*
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