Edith Wharton is my favorite author and has been every since I discovered her as a college student. Unlike many people who see movies based on books they’ve read, I tend to do the opposite, so it was after seeing the film version of The Age of Innocence that I decided to read the novel.
To date, I have read six of her novels, those considered among her most famous: The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, The Custom of the Country, Summer and The Buccaneers. I also read her autobiography and a collection of short stories.
These six novels are a small sampling considering she wrote more than 100 novels, novellas and short stories as well as poetry.
Biography of a Great Author
Wharton was born to George and Lucretia Jones in New York City in 1862, a wealthy, old- money family. Her family traveled for part of her youth, but later spent their time split between New York and Newport, Rhode Island.
According to her New York Times obituary, “Her first novel, written when she [w]as 11, began: ‘Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Brown?’ said Mrs. Tompkins. ‘If only I had known you were going to call I should have tidied up the drawing room.’ The little girl showed it to her mother, whose icy comment was: ‘Drawing rooms are always tidy.’”
Wharton’s earliest publications were under a pen name because it wasn’t considered proper or ladylike for a wealthy woman to write.
She married Edward Wharton in 1885. The marriage ended in divorce in 1913. After her divorce she moved to France, where she remained for the rest of her life.
During World War One, Wharton helped 600 Belgian refugees and established a workhouse for unemployed women. For her efforts she was awarded the French Cross of the Legion of Honor and became a Belgian Chevalier of the Order of Leopold.
She also traveled to the front lines, acting as a journalist writing for a magazine, and raised money for charitable causes.
She died in 1937.
Through her life, she won numerous literary awards including a Pulitzer Prize.
Why I Enjoy Reading Wharton
She exposed the hypocrisy of the high society in which she lived. Wharton felt the standards wealthy girls were raised in during her youth were unimportant and oppressed women, and her work does show society’s double standard. It also examines high society’s preoccupation with avoiding scandal and how its avoidance often caused people unhappiness.
Who is your favorite author and why? Leave a comment below.
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