THE STORIES OF EDITH WHARTON: Vol. II by Anita--Ed. Brookner


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This second collection of 14 stories--written between 1895 and 1930 and, once again, well chosen by Brookner--reminds us of just how good Wharton was, and how much she made of the seemingly narrow society world she spent her life in. Wharton wrote best about those women--and occasionally men--who, accepting the rules of their chosen world, whether it be New York or Europe, paid the sometimes tremendous price necessary for such compliance. In one of the finest stories here, ""The Lamp and the Psyche,"" a beautiful widow, Delia Corhett, who had been a very good wife to an indifferent husband, marries the seemingly perfect Laurence Corbett, but a visit to her aunt in Boston leads to the discovery that the perfect husband is badly flawed: ""Her ideal of him was shattered. . .and for the passionate worship which she had paid her husband she substituted a tolerant affection which possesses precisely the same advantages."" A young man and woman, well-connected but poor, in another fine piece, ""Les Metteurs en ScÉne,"" make their living by introducing rich Americans to French aristocrats. In love with each other but too destitute to marry, a windfall for the young woman comes too late--the young man has just promised to marry a rich older woman. There are a further three or four almost as fine, though some like ""The Moving Finger"" and ""Expiation"" are more commonplace and heavily plotted. Finally, Wharton's well-known ghost story ""Afterward"" does transcend the genre in its depiction of a wife's fatal ignorance of her husband's questionable business practices. Vintage Wharton to be enjoyed and savored. The author remains immensely readable--and surprisingly relevant.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1990
Publisher: Carroll & Graf