Ethan Frome drove in silence ... he seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing unfriendly in his silence. I simply felt that he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight ... but had in it the profound accumulated cold of many Starkfield winters.
As much as I love Edith Wharton's writing is how much I didn't love Ethan Frome the first time I read it. Which is why I felt the need to give it a second chance. It's not a long novel, and there are really only three main characters: Ethan Frome, Zeena, his grim and ailing wife whose "fault-finding was of the silent kind", and Mattie Silver, his wife's younger cousin whose coming to their house to help Zeena out brought "a bit of hopeful life (that) was like the lighting of a fire on a cold hearth" to Ethan's dreary existence. The harsh Massachusetts winter also plays an important role in this tragic tale.
Ethan's life is a series of misfortune, struggle, and bad luck. Even his marriage is a disappointing mistake. Only in Mattie does he glimpse a sympathetic companion and the hope of some future happiness. But Zeena's penchant for "complaints and troubles" makes even that dream impossible. And that leads to tragedy. As I reread this book last week, I felt only sympathy for Ethan Frome. He deserved better than what he got, but life can be hard and unfair. This is such a sad novel, but it's so beautifully written. And while it will never be my favorite, I do like it more than I did. Mostly because of Wharton's artistry and skill--her writing is so stylish and elegant--but also because this second time reading Ethan Frome helped me to appreciate it, and him, a little bit more.
Didn't like it at all, but maybe it deserves a reread. Favorite: The Age of Innocence.ReplyDelete
I didn't like Ethan Frome when I first read it either, but I'm such a fan of Wharton's other novels that I felt I needed to give this one another try. And I'm glad I did. My favorite Wharton: The House of Mirth. (With The Age of Innocence a VERY close second.)Delete
This is the only Edith Wharton book I've read so far and I didn't like it very much, although I thought the writing was beautiful. I do want to try one of her other novels, either The House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence.ReplyDelete
Yeah, don't judge her by this book. It's my least favorite of all of them, even though I appreciated it a little more this time around. But I love both The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence. I love her writing in The Reef as well. And The Children is fun.Delete
I admire you for giving it another chance. I've never read it. Sigh!ReplyDelete
You still have time...if you ever get inspired to give it a try. It's pretty short and wouldn't take you very long.Delete
Though it's not my favorite Wharton, Ethan Frome is definitely a book that benefits from rereading. I didn;t like it much my first time through either. The Custom of the Country is my favorite.ReplyDelete
That's a good one; I like that one, too. :)Delete
You are braver than I! Usually any book I don't like the first time around definitely doesn't get a chance to win my love again. Glad to hear you emerged with a greater appreciation for Ethan.ReplyDelete
I probably wouldn't have attempted this one again except it's short, and it's by Edith Wharton. (If it had been by Hemingway, I probably wouldn't have bothered.) Thanks for stopping by and commenting!Delete
Interesting to see how your views have changed on rereading. I have not yet read Ethan Frome but I would like to. My edition puts it together with another novella, "Summer," which could be a good companion/contrast.ReplyDelete
I like Summer. It's typical Wharton, but I love her writing and her stories!Delete
I have never read this one or anything by Edith Wharton. I do want to try her work, but this one has never really appealed to me for some reason. I think I'll start with something else by her first, and then maybe give this one a try.ReplyDelete
It's always interesting to see how differently we perceive books over time. I didn't like Pride and Prejudice the first time I read it, and now it's one of my favorites, for example.
It's true, some books get better with age. And if you do read Edith Wharton, don't start with Ethan Frome. Read The Age of Innocence, or The House of Mirth, or The Reef, or The Children.Delete