17 July 2007

12. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Another excellent book.

First, a word about the copy I have. I took it from the book room at school, a virtual used book shop. I am going to be teaching this book next year and so I took a look at the copies we have available. I found a bunch of copies that date back to the 60s. They have the covers that are glued stitching, the ones that if you hold it in your hand long enough your hand gets tacky from the glue leeching out from the humidity of your grip. I like to look through the old copies, checking out the names of the kids who checked them out, looking at the dates, wondering where those kids are now...and the teachers too. I found a copy of Ethan Frome that I am going to keep forever - a few months after my birthday someone with my own last name signed out the book. Bizarre.

So, the tale is about Ethan Frome. His wife is a malingerer who uses her "illnesses" as a weapon against him. She is so sick and needy that she needs a helper around the house. Her family sends Mattie Silver along to tend to her. Ethan and Mattie were made for each other and the mutual attraction between them draws them closer and closer together in that Wharton-glacier like way. Maybe less glaciers than tectonic plates. If you have read Age of Innocence then you know what I mean.

Everyone talks about how sad this book is. I didn't find it half as depressing as AoI. Ethan is no Archer and Mattie Silver is no Ellen. Sure, it's has a sad ending, but it doesn't hold a candle to Victory by Conrad or The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. Them are some sad books.

I won't discuss the ending any furthur in fear of giving away too much.

Ultimately, I recommend it.

No comments: