Synopsis:Tragic story of wasted lives, set against a bleak New England background. A poverty-stricken New England farmer, his ailing wife and a youthful housekeeper are drawn relentlessly into a deep-rooted domestic struggle in this hauntingly grim tale of thwarted love. Considered by many to be Wharton’s masterpiece.
Hmm. Wharton’s masterpiece? I didn’t see it. Granted, I’ve only ever read one other novel of Wharton’s (The House of Mirth) and that was years ago, but I absolutely loved it. So much so, I’ve included it in my Classics Club challenge to re-read. Ethan Frome, on the other hand, is a very slight book that took me at least two years, if not more, to read. I started it, put it aside because either it was dull or I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for a bleak New England winter setting. The only reason I picked it up again is because it was short. That is my pre-requisite, these days. It’s amazing how many classic novels, especially early 20th century, fit the requirements. Yea!
Since the description calls the novel a ‘tragic story’ it isn’t much of a spoiler to say things don’t end well for Ethan Frome. I understand the literary merit of tragedies, and who doesn’t like a good cry after investing yourself in characters for hundreds of pages? But for me to feel anything I need to care about the characters or, even better, like at least one of them. I didn’t care for anyone in this novel so their pathetic lives elicited barely a shrug when I finished. Whereas, Lily Bart’s fate in The House of Mirth haunted me.
I might not have enjoyed the book, but I do think Ethan Frome has inspired some pretty cool book covers. I love to look at bleak winter landscapes but apparently don’t enjoy reading about them. Huh.
- Ethan Frome (★★) by Edith Wharton
- Reading level: Ages 11 and up
- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; Unabridged edition (January 1, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486266907
- ISBN-13: 978-0486266909
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.2 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (342 customer reviews)