From New York to Europe, the apartments of the nouveau riche to ancient French estates, Edith Wharton tells the story of Undine Spragg, a girl from a Midwestern town with unquenchable social aspirations. Though Undine is narcissistic, pampered, and incredibly selfish, she is a beguiling heroine whose marital initiation into New York high society from its trade-wealthy fringes is only the beginning of her relentless ambitions.
Wharton weaves an elaborate plot that renders a detailed depiction of upper-class social behavior in the early 20th century. By using a character with inexorable greed in a novel of manners, she demonstrates some of the customs of a modern age and posits a surprising explanation for divorce and the social role of women, which still resonates for the modern audience today.
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This narrator has extraordinary skill at cadence and differentiation between the large cast of characters. It was absolutely cinematic.
Both the beginning and end are startling and are moments where the events in the tale seem to open into a wider critique that touches the here and now.
She beautifully performs all of the genders, ages and classes written without ever letting you notice that she is doing it. He pronunciation is flawless in French and English.
In a world where too much is never enough, Undine Spragg is the hungriest of the hungry.
The book is enthralling. I had never read it, recently read a piece in the New Yorker about it, and had hoped it would be interesting. It was difficult to remove my i-pod, frankly.
- D. Donohue