Monday, 9 May 2011

Roman fever (Wharton)

I picked up Roman Fever because I could not in my tired and exhausted state (do not ever try to move house, plan a wedding and train for a 10km swim all in one month) face ploughing through a whole book; at least while I have not had great experiences with Edith Wharton thus far, this was only short stories. Indeed, it was a gift from a kind lady Heather, and she said that at least being short stories it would be over quicker. In fact, I have to say that whilst it wasn't a book that I would rave about, it was definitely the most enjoyable Wharton that I've read so far, and the short stories were fairly chunky ones (20-30pp in comparison to the 4-6pp in Collette that I read last week) and actually captured my attention somewhat (no mean feat at the moment).

The title story is so clever, and its difficult to explain how without giving the point away. Roman fever is an ailment, a little like pneumonia, caught by lovers when they have been out too late at night, meeting at the coliseum. The story is set around two women, friends and rivals, who are visiting Rome with their daughters, and reminiscing about old times. Someone on librarything has described it as "the perfect short story with a twist" and I would certainly echo that.

Another story is Xingu, which is a funny satire about a women's book club. The ladies are hosting a Lunch with a famous author in attendance, but deeply regret having to invite Mrs. Roby, a lady who actually asked another member for her opinion of a book at a previous meeting! There is then a hilarious scene where Mrs Roby, at the lunch, introduces an invented topic of conversation "Xingu" which no-one is prepared to admit their ignorance on.

Maybe I liked these more than I usually like Wharton's work because although "society" is still important, somehow it is less of a focus than it is in her novels? Not sure.

It's just been published once by Virago, in an original green edition. Apologies for the blurry photo, but needed to grab one from librarything for convenience and this was the only one there! Thank you to Heather for sending me this and convincing me to try it.


  1. Those are my two favorite Wharton short stories! I love the twist at the end of Roman Fever and I think Xingu is hilarious. I first heard it on audio narrated by Christina Pickles and her delivery is just spot-on.

    The Ghost Stories are also good if you like that sort of thing. I know Wharton is not for everyone.

  2. I do like Edith Wharton and I just loved Xingu! It was so funny and clever that I then had to read it aloud to DH, even with my terrible 'American' accent, heavily laced with my own Scottish one! It needed to be shared! I'd love to hear Christina Pickles reading it.

    Penny (Scottish Vegan Homemaker)