So, it’s mid-autumn and if you’re done reading the it-novel of the fall of 2010 –Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, natch– how about cracking open the it-novel of the fall of 1905? Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.
It’s set in 1890s New York City society, and follows 29 year-old Lily Bart on her search for a husband while trying to keep her footing in the upper class. Lily has a very bumpy ride. Don’t let the chick lit description scare you. It’s a savage satire, a tragic romance, and a vivid snapshot of turn-of-the-20th-century America. It’s also the subject of our latest episode in our series on American Icons where we ask: why, after 105 years, do readers still identify with Lily Bart?
For Jonathan Franzen The House of Mirth is a book that keeps inspiring him. Earlier this fall he told Kurt he’s still in awe of Wharton and “how modern and how refreshingly unashamedly dark she is.”
Hear Franzen on Wharton here:
Listen to the American Icons feature on The House of Mirth here:
- Michele Siegel