Friday, 3 June 2011
Ethan Frome (Wharton)
Who'd have thought that I'd want to put "Wharton" and "wonderful" in the same blog post? I know the last Wharton book that I wrote about (her collected short stories, Roman Fever), were enjoyable, but Ethan Frome was a complete departure for me from the other Wharton books that I've read. And it's all about the setting I think. Set in a New England town, and featuring Ethan Frome, a farmer, it couldn't really be much further away from the busy world of the New York socialites. It's a slim volume, which is why I picked it up (I thought I might be able to handle a small dose of Wharton), but actually, I would have loved it to be a bit longer.
A rather wonderful love story about Ethan Frome, and his invalid (and rather demanding) wife Zeena. Their marriage was not a love-match, but one of convenience after she nursed his mother through her last illness, which she claims is the reason why she is so poorly now. Although, the reader surmises that perhaps a large part of her illness is caused by her imagination. Zeena's cousin Mattie is sent for to help around the house (although she isn't very helpful - quick to learn, but just as quick to forget how to do things). As the farm is so isolated, she occasionally goes into the town for an evening's entertainment, and Ethan always walks in (at the request of Zeena) to walk Mattie home again. Ethan falls in love with Mattie and seems to see her as representing the happiness that he doesn't have with Zeena. I don't want to say more without revealing spoilers, but I was gripped to the end to find out what would happen with the central characters.
I just thought that it was beautifully written, and I loved it. It was not what I was expecting frm an Edith Wharton at all. Let's hope that more of the remaining Whartons (I think I have 8 to go) are like this.
My copy is the italicised green edition above, and it's also been published with the same picture in the modern green edition, and with a different picture in an original green edition.