Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Posted December 12, 2013 in Book Review / 0 Comments

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Ethan Frome by Edith WhartonEthan Frome by Edith Wharton
Published by Penguin Classics on September 28th 2006
Genres: Classics, Adult fiction
Pages: 128
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
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four-stars

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena's vivacious cousin enters their household as a "hired girl", Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.
In one of American fiction's finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies. Different in both tone and theme from Wharton's other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and most widely read novel.

Main points

Writing Style
The writing style was very poetic. Not as difficult to read as the other classics. It was a bit…broken, I guess, but that added to the overall charm of the story. The narrator’s POV at the beginning and the end was a bit distracting (I didn’t really care about that part) but fortunately most of the book was 3rd person and I could handle that.
Content
This was an amazing little book. There was such story in less than 200 pages. And the tension was tangible. You could feel for Ethan every time he looked at his wife, hating what happened to them, and every time he looked at Mattie, her cousin, and was filled with happiness. He really did like her. It was so sweet. It had a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel towards the end, but I liked this much better. It was hard for me to put down, honestly. So much suspense. And so romantic.
Characters
Ethan: He seemed nice, and it was understandable that he disliked his wife (who seemed to always be up to something). I’m glad he noticed how cruel he was being, though, when he thought of leaving her. Points for him.
Zeena: She seemed secretly evil. Who knows what she was thinking? Who knows what she noticed? Who knew when she was pretending? We hardly know anything about her, except she’s sick and complains a lot but other than that does not tend to make her opinions known. It’s hard to hate her because we know so little, but it’s near impossible to like her at all. She’s probably holding Ethan back.
Mattie: A nice, romantic sort of girl. Maybe a tad shy (I wished they would just get it into the open sooner!) but so was Ethan, around her.
Ending (spoilers)
I was a little unsure of the ending. It was neither happy or sad, but for me I was happy. All three ended up together and alive, which is more than they could ask for, but they weren’t entirely happy. Still, at least they were together. But I couldn’t help but wonder- would they have been better off if Mattie had married one of her suitors? She would probably have money, but she wouldn’t have Ethan. Would she have moved on? Would he have gotten out of his marriage funk with Zeena and become happy? I personally don’t think so, but it may have been better than them living out their days squabbling all the time.

Good vs. Bad

Good:

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • setting
  • tension
  • romance
  • writing style
  • pacing
Less than perfect:
  • ending
  • POVs

Bottom Line

This book was really beautiful, if a little tragic. It had fantastic emotional suspense and tension. It was a little like Romeo and Juliet, but I liked this better. It was a bit short but interesting. It’s a good quick read and the characters are well-formed. Would I read more by this author? Probably not. Would I recommend this book to others? Definitely.

About Edith Wharton

Edith Newbold Jones was born into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.” The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family’s return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith’s creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, (as well as witty reviews of it) and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly.
To see her full bio, visit her Goodreads page.

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